You can almost feel the baize beneath your fingertips in the new pool game coming to PlayStation Network.
Hustle Kings, coming to PlayStation Network later in 2009, is a pool game in which you earn Hustle King credits for potting balls, performing trick shots and beating computer-controlled opponents. You can then take those credits online and bet them against other players in winner-takes-all matches. It will include a variety of game types, such as eight ball and nine ball.
Visually, it looks incredible, with realistic reflections on the balls and a sumptuous bar background. And it isn't just for show - the game's physics are also incredibly lifelike, allowing for the full range of spin, swerve and jump shots that any decent American pool players needs in their arsenal.
"If you download the E3 trailer from PlayStation Store, you'll see how cool and sophisticated the physics are," says Hustle Kings Senior Producer, Phil Gaskell. "You'll see the cue ball chipping up over other balls, extreme spin and, if you look closely, you'll even spot the cue ball leaving the table and rolling along the rail."
"We're rather bullishly calling it the king of pool games because it looks so beautiful. I'm an avid gamer and it's certainly the best looking cue sports game I've ever seen. It helps of course that it's running on PlayStation 3, and while I don't want to bore you with terms like spherical harmonic lighting, I can safely say you'll want to download it to show your friends how awesome a game can look on PS3."
Hustle Kings' control scheme is simple and effective, with the left stick aiming the shot, the right stick dictating where on the cue ball you want to strike and the L2 and R2 buttons controlling power. To take the shot, you have to stop a moving meter - much like the ones found in many golf games - at the right moment. The more difficult the shot and the more spin and power you're playing with, the more difficult the meter is to stop.
This will help promote fast, exciting multiplayer, which, Gaskell explains, will be comprehensively supported when the game hits PlayStation Store later in 2009. "You'll be able to play offline singles matches and we're including Killer, which is an eight-player round-robin game that I play all the time with my friends in real life. Online, we're including Hustle Rooms for up to 64 players to compete one-on-one and try and hustle each other out of their hard earned credits.
"There are lots of items for players to win and buy with their Hustle King credits, such as Golden cues and diamond encrusted chalk holders. We're talking to the PlayStation Community Team about how we can create a custom version of the game they can use to host special tournaments, and give away real-world prizes. We also have big plans for PlayStation Home."
Even at this relatively early stage in its development, Hustle Kings looks beautiful and plays intuitively. Anyone who knows how to play pool will be able to pick it up and pot balls with ease, thanks to the aiming guides that tell you which direction the cue ball and object ball will travel in, although taking on a computer-controlled opponent on insane difficulty or ruling the online leaderboards will be a stern test for anyone.
It's shaping up to be the king of pool games.