Call yourself a darter?
Review written by
On a zero to ten scale of darts enthusiasts, you could probably plump me right in the middle. I enjoy watching the sport if I happen to catch it on TV, although I don't seek it out. I also have a dart board, but it's not mounted at the moment and has been gathering dust for a year or so.
PDC stands for "Professional Darts Corporation", a real life darts organization that holds events throughout the UK and the US. PDC World Championship Darts 2008 is a licensed game so all your favorite pro darters are in there; Phil Taylor, Raymond Van Barneveld, and a bunch of other guys who are even less famous.
PDC 2008 main menu.
The interface is straight forward, you use the Wiimote as a pointer, moving a dart-shaped cursor around to make your choices. A number of gameplay modes greet you on the main menu. Exhibition mode lets you play a one-off match. Tournament mode has knock-out tournaments as well as leagues.
In Career mode, you have the chance to create your own player. Customization options are pretty basic though, so unless you happen to look like one of the five preset faces you won't be able to get a great likeness. This mode takes you through a real PDC season with all the events, picking up prize money as you go.
Bringing the sexy back into darts.
As you'd expect, the motion sensing controls of the Wii are used in-game too. You hold the Wiimote like you would a dart and perform a throwing motion. Instead of letting the whole thing go though (hazardous), you hold and release the A button using your thumb. Still, using the wrist strap is definitely advised for this one.
In terms of learning curve, PDC 2008 throws you right in at the deep end. CPU opponents score just as their real life counterparts would, and are unsettlingly adept at checking out (a checkout is where you throw a double at the end to win a game). A computer controlled darter almost never throws a loose dart. There are adjustable difficulty settings, but they only relate to your own throwing mechanism. At 'Amateur' level you get an on-screen meter which shows the trajectory and power of your shot, allowing you to see where you went wrong if you're struggling.
And in all likelihood, struggle you will, at first. If your experience is anything like mine that is. Until you find the correct rhythm, the controls may seem unpredictable and frustrating. A tutorial mode to ease first-time players in would have been welcome, but is absent. As in real darts, shots aimed higher up the board require more effort than those lower down. Realizing this is, in part, the key to doing well. Even when you feel like you've mastered it, the next time you switch the game on you'll probably still need a lengthy warm-up to get back 'in the zone'. It's not easy, but then it makes winning matches all the more exciting. On important dart throws, the remote will begin to rumble a little. This fun feature is to simulate pressure and nerves, but can be turned off if that's your preference.
Graphically, we're talking a mixed bag. The player models are done reasonably well, bearing a good resemblance to the pros themselves. Similarly, the arenas are well lit and colorful. Conversely the crowd is more suited to a funeral than a darts match, the background animations are laughable. Even after throwing a 180 or a victory you'll barely see anyone moving, if you're lucky one guy will be clapping lethargically or waving his arms. The walk-ons at the beginning of a game could have been more vibrant too. Players enter the arenas to generic rock rhythms instead of their chosen song. In all, the atmosphere in PDC 2008 is more stagnant than it ought to be.
And the crowd goes... wild?
In-game commentary is provided by the zany Sid Waddell. Practically a cult figure in darts, he is well known and loved in the UK for his funny catchphrases. The same phrases are repeated often, but they are still quite amusing, if sometimes misplaced. For example, you might throw a 140 and still get berated, just because your third dart missed the treble.
Also worth noting is arm fatigue. Holding the remote aloft like a dart can get tiring, particularly in longer games like those found in Career Mode. There's a short but noticeable pause in between throwing each dart too (probably to let Sid fire off a one-liner), so turns aren't as swift as they might have been. If you need a break though, you can quit out and the leg progress will be saved.
A selection of local multiplayer games is available, with some greats like Around The Clock, Shanghai and Cricket among them. There is no online play to mention, which is a shame since the game's lifespan would benefit from it.
For darts fans PDC 2008 on Wii is an easy recommendation. The motion controls are implemented to a good standard and suit the game great, they do a lot to immerse you in the action, much more than standard pad controls could hope to. The game is challenging, but thankfully still easier than playing real darts. Despite some niggles, this is for the most part a solid, enjoyable experience. Game on.
PDC 2008 is released in Europe tomorrow, February 8th. Many thanks to Oxygen for the review copy (my first ever, this site must be going up in the world!).
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