Review: Pure Hold’em (PS4)

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Title: Pure Hold’em
Format: PlayStation Network Download (1.11 GB)
Release Date: August 18, 2015
Publisher: Ripstone Publishing
Developer: VooFoo Studios
Original MSRP: $19.99 (US), €19.99 (EU), £14.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
Pure Hold’em is also available on Xbox One and PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Audio Review:
The audio review (by Glenn) for this game is available on Episode 437 of the podcast at 1:42:41.

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Texas Hold’em has quickly become a very popular game across the world with tournaments being broadcast to millions of viewers on every continent. Yet sadly there has been no good video game version for a long time. The talented folks at VooFoo Studios are set to change that with Pure Hold’em on the PlayStation 4.

Gameplay:
A good game of poker is with real people and not the more predictable computer A.I. which is why I focus on the online section of this review. The offline mode is good and a nice way to learn the game without the pressure of the real players and also a nice way to get some more poker chips.

If you don’t know the rules of Texas Hold’em allow me to quickly explain. The dealer gives each player two cards, known as Hole cards. Five cards are then dealt into the middle of the table in three rounds, known as the Flop, the Turn, and lastly the River. After each of these rounds you can check, raise or fold depending on how good your hand is using any combination of the hole cards and community cards to make the best hand of five cards.

… a helpful indicator of your chances …
It sounds complicated but really isn’t and after a few games it becomes quite easy to understand, the only thing you have to remember is the best hands and the chances of you and the other players having them. You can easily check the Hand Guide in the Help menu or in the Options menu during a game.

When you first begin Pure Hold’em you have an allotment of Poker chips and can play on the free entry Jokers table. Don’t worry about losing all of your chips at this point as you are given some for free so you can continue playing. Newbies even get a little odds meter in the top left corner of the screen, which continually shows their chances of winning; this isn’t a guarantee of success but merely a helpful indicator of your chances.

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Aside from the obvious game of Poker there is also a little game of High/Low that you can partake in from the main menu, it can be a fun little distraction and a nice way to try to get a few extra chips. You get one free go per day, any more and it’s a costly 6,000 chips which isn’t worth it unless you’re after the trophy.

Oh yes, that reminds me, sadly there is no Platinum – madness, I know. To get 100% of the shiny trinkets you’ll need to play for a long time and be very good at the game. Paying real money helps to skip a few days at the tables so you can fund the buy-in to the high stakes tables, but that’s up to you and your wallet.

… no other indications of life …
Visuals:
Each player is represented by a tablet propped up in front of their seat, their PlayStation avatar is shown for all to see but no other indications of life, you don’t see their cards lift when they check their hand, nor do you see them bunch their cards when they swipe the touch pad. This brings me to one of the minor complaints some people have.

There is nothing to tell you of the bunching feature when you swipe the touch pad and some people do it by mistake, then, when they look at their cards they only see one and think the game has glitched. This is a pointless feature as no-one else can see your cards move and brings me to the one complaint I have with the game.

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People don’t like to use their headsets and microphones in most games and Pure Hold’em is no exception, more on that a little later but for now I want to talk about the gift feature. Yes you can give other people presents.

Using your in-game currency you can buy a wide assortment of things for the other players at the table. These range from a cheap and probably smelly fish to a very expensive yacht. When sent, a little pop-up appears in the top-middle of their screen informing them they received a gift from you.

Most people have begun to use this as a way of communication and sometimes tormenting other players. You can spam the gifts, sending an almost never-ending supply of hats, fish, or many other things to them. As the pop-up stays on screen for longer than it takes to send the item, they can press it twenty or so times and then sit back and watch the trolling.

… pick and choose what designs you like and dislike …
As with the other games in the Pure series the look and detail is very realistic, the cloth on the table, the light bouncing off the cards, it all looks very nice. Everyone can see how many chips a player has just by looking round the table, or by checking the tablets if you want a precise figure.

You can change the patterns and designs of the chips, cards, and table. Some look great but others can be difficult to make out when the table is a similar color. Thankfully, you can pick and choose what designs you like and dislike in the options menu.

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Audio:
Some excellent background music plays continually with a large selection of genres, all of which suit the game perfectly, pun intended. Just like the designs, you can pick the genres you like and change them during the game whenever you wish.

Sound effects are nice too with the soft sound of cards shuffling and Poker chips chinking together helping to encapsulate the feel of a real casino poker game. Then we have the annoying sound of an idiot playing some terrible music or talking to other people without any regard for the game they’re only partially participating in.

Only one or two people have actually used their microphones for their intended use, the others appear in the game and annoy everyone. This means a quick scramble to check each tablet for a little mic icon that signals a player is making sounds, and then muting them, peace at last.

… an almost perfect online experience …
Online/Multiplayer:
This is where the game really shines, an almost perfect online experience where you can set up private tournaments and games, or just jump into a random online match that plays amazingly well. Once you realize that you cannot win every hand and it’s never too late to fold, you can do very well slowly building up your chips.

You will still get the crazy players and tense games where everyone goes all-in and one player ends up with an absurd amount of chips. You can always ignore these moments or revel in the excitement and anticipation when the game goes into slow motion. Only the sound of a heart beat can be heard and the color bleeds from everything except the last card as it’s turned.

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The pace of every game is kept nice and steady thanks to a thirty second countdown clock where any player who doesn’t check, call, or raise automatically folds their hand, even if they were in the process of setting a raise amount. This game waits for no one and can be a little annoying if you’re trying to be exact with a high raise offer. At least it doesn’t become boring while you wait for a player who has left the controller to make a cup of tea.

I’ve never had any connection issues personally but have seen one or two little pauses if a player drops out when it’s their turn. Hopping into an open tournament can be dull while you wait for the table to fill up but after a lovely chat with the developers they assured me they are looking into allowing you to play with fewer players, instead of waiting for every space to fill up.

This predominately online game became an obsession for me, and for a time I spent every chance I could jumping into a game and winning a few chips. For better or worse there is no real betting allowed on the PlayStation Network, but fear not, as some of the thrills and excitement of sitting at a real poker table can be found here.

… it really excels when playing online …
Conclusion:
That last paragraph might sound crazy, but when you’ve amassed a sizeable amount of chips over hours, even weeks of play, and then you risk it all on a high stakes all-in pot I guarantee your pulse will be pounding.

If you want a good singleplayer game of Hold’em then this game is okay but it really excels when playing online. Graphics and gameplay are great along with a solid online experience making this game hard to fault.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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