It's been a good long while since an officially-licensed Snooker game hit the latest generation of consoles. Snooker 19, out this spring on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, breaks off right on cue.
Snooker 19, developed by Leamington Spa-based studio Lab42, has 128 officially-licensed pros in it, including big hitters Ronnie O'Sullivan, Judd Trump, Mark Selby and Ding Junhui, and older pros who are still knocking about on the pro tour, such as Peter Ebdon, Ken Doherty and Jimmy White. It's also got virtual recreations of The Crucible and Alexandra Palace, among other famous snooker venues.
Gameplay wise, Snooker 19 sees the player line up shots, apply side or spin to the cue ball, set stroke power then use the left stick to pull back before flicking forward at just the right time. Time your shot well and you'll strike the ball cleanly. Time it badly and the cue ball will wobble off course.
I got the chance to play a few frames of Snooker 19 and while I initially found the process of lining up and taking shots fiddly, I soon got used to the controls and was able to quickly build breaks. The idea here is Snooker 19 is an authentic simulation, so, just like in real snooker, it's hard. Shots that should be hard, such as those into the middle pockets from tight angles, are hard in the game. Keeping position is tricky, but if you know how to play snooker to a decent level in real life, you'll at least know how best to approach shots in the game. Of course, you can change the difficulty to add various assists that help, including an on-screen guide that'll tell you where the cue ball will go. This is of course great for those who are up against more experienced opponents. Conversely, if you're a dab hand at snooker in real life and reckon you can take your skill into the video game, playing on the master difficulty removes all of the assists.
Snooker 19 sounds great, with satisfying cue-on-ball, ball-on-ball and ball-potting sounds. The commentary is a little sparse and basic, but it's certainly well-meaning. Graphics wise, the balls move incredibly realistically and they look almost photo-real (I love the ball reflections). The tables look and sound great, too. The player animations are a little janky, but the faces are at least good enough to be instantly recognisable. Snooker 19 isn't a game with a FIFA-style budget, so manage your expectations accordingly, but when you get down to actually playing in the ball-striking view, you can't fault it.
As for modes, you can play snooker based on established rules (you can even play a best-of 35 frames match if you fancy getting properly stuck in), the Six Reds format and even the quickfire Shootout. There's a career mode in which you can play as an established pro for an easier ride, or a rising star for a more challenging experience. There are also online tournaments synced to real-world tournaments, with associated rewards. These rewards are aesthetic items, such as fancy waistcoats, bow-ties and cues.
My impression of Snooker 19 is it's a decent beginning for what will hopefully turn into a series that improves over time. There's not a huge amount to Snooker 19 compared to other sports games around, but if it does well enough I can see future entries making a bigger splash. Meanwhile, Snooker 19 looks like the best snooker video game in a good long while. And that Switch version, if it runs well enough, could be a legit commute killer.