Darts has gone all lah-di-dah these days. Back in the era of Jocky Wilson, Eric Bristow and John Lowe, players used to take their pints up on stage with them and sup while playing. As any pub darts player knows, the odd jar can help your action become more relaxed, accurate and fluid. Until, that is, you become so fluid that you slide off your bar stool and under the table. No such fear with PDC World Championship Darts. This is a game for professionals.
Line up against the best
You won’t see a virtual pint on the stage in this Professional Darts Corporation sponsored game, which lets the player go on tour against some of today’s best.
Phil Taylor, Raymond van Barneveld, James Wade, Mervyn King, these are some of the names you’ll have to push past to top the PDC Order of Merit in the career campaign. You can pick and choose your tournaments along the way – although the more prestigious affairs require you to achieve a higher ranking to qualify.
Keeping it real
Most importantly, Pro Tour manages to capture the feel of throwing a dart. The analogue stick of the Xbox controller is used to mimic the dart throw – you pull it back and then push it forward, with the on-screen dart player’s arm following that action. Move the stick too swiftly, and you’ll snatch the throw, sending the dart off-target. Push the stick off to the side, and the dart will veer laterally. You also need to let go of the bumper button to release the arrow with the correct power.
All of this sounds more difficult than it is – after ten minutes, the process becomes completely intuitive. Just as in real life, a smooth and steady action is the key to accurate throwing. And again, mimicking the real sport, your flow and aim will come and go. You’ll be banging in treble twenties one after the other, then hit a shaky spot where you miss six doubles on the trot. After that, it’s easy to start psyching yourself out and missing more, just as in reality. Pro Tour really does have the authentic feel of a darts match about it.
The game’s presentation does diminish that sense of atmosphere in some respects, though. Certain elements have benefited from the necessary attention to detail, with a range of different venues being provided for matches, and player customisation options such as a choice of various shirts, dart flights and so on. However, the compere’s intros to each match are a bit unimaginative, and the commentary – while quite witty and colourful at first – soon becomes repetitive and bothersome.
Some silly minor glitches are present too – rough edges that the developer should really have smoothed out. When down to a finish, the MC announces the score required, but is still finishing off saying the number by the time the first dart has been thrown. The occasional animation is iffy, with a moving player appearing to slide around the oche, and we also experienced a recurring bug whereby our match stats weren’t displayed at the end of a game.
It’s also worth noting that the authenticity of the campaign’s tournaments extends to full-length games, so you might be playing first to ten legs or more (with no option to shorten this). A close semi or final can take the best part of two hours – a lengthy session. It’s possible to quit and save, but you lose the leg that’s currently underway – even if it hasn’t actually started, which seems a bit unfair. While that might not matter in a one-sided match, it could be crucial in a well-fought scrap.
Multiplayer and party games
Alongside the career mode, Pro Tour offers a good selection of darts party games and an online multiplayer. The party games include the usual suspects such as Round The Clock, Cricket and Killer (our favourite, in which each player is allocated a number and you have to take everyone out, hitman-style). They make a great little bonus package.
The online multiplayer mode features a matchmaking system and full rankings leaderboard. We could generally find an opponent whenever we tried to get a game, although there’s a bit of waiting to be done at off-peak times such as the middle of a weekday.
A spot of persistent lag manifests when watching your opponent’s aiming cursor, but that doesn’t affect the game – you can see where his or her dart goes just fine, and lag doesn’t afflict your own aiming at all. It’s nice to be able to test your mettle against a human opponent, although we found the competition online was pretty stiff.