Darts is a rather unusual sport because it’s one of the very few that doesn’t require the participants to be physical athletes at a professional level. In fact Darts players still prize themselves on being down to earth regular folk who like to drink, smoke and generally not be particularly fit or healthy. The main reason for this is the culture that has seen Darts from its English conception as a lazy mans tennis up to the modern worldwide sport it we know today. A typical darts player was introduced to it at their local pub or bar whilst they were out drinking and having fun with their friends, it’s not one of those sports that pushy parents who desire to have a successful child or follow in their footsteps force their children to play. If you’ve ever seen Darts (especially English darts) on TV then you’ll no doubt have seen that these professional players are the most unsportsmanlike looking people you’ve ever seen; often overweight, tattooed and very hairy. This however doesn’t mean they’re not skilful at their game and should be an inspiration for any normal working grunts like you and me that if you practice at something enough; you will get good at it.
I have played darts a few times so I was quite interested to see how a fully fledged Darts simulation would fare on Wii when PDC World Championship 2009 landed on my doormat from Oxygen Games; let’s see if it hits the bullseye or goes bust in my review of PDC Darts 2009 for Wii. Although I didn’t play last year’s version I am pleased to hear that this latest edition of PDC World Championship Darts has been revamped and improved over the previous version. Generally unless a Wii game has been developed by Nintendo then there is always room for improvement and it sounds like the developers (Rebellion Studios) are doing a good job. This year new additions include improved commentary by Sid Waddell, left handed players and well produced TV coverage style Replays, Camera Angles and Fly By’s.
Phil Taylor has put his face to the front cover and with his pedigree he either thinks the game is good or needs some cash, fingers crossed it’s the former. 18 real world players including Phil just mentioned and other greats such as Raymond van Barneveld, Ronnie Baxter and Andy Hamilton are all here recreated in polygons for your pleasure. You can also create your own player using the cleverly named Player Creator but to be honest with you, it’s pretty poor. Along with real players the game features official tournaments and sponsorship branding for that authenticity. It doesn’t matter these big brands have found another way to pollute our minds but it sure looks like it does on TV.
As you’d expect from a seasoned video game player like myself I totally skipped the practice mode and dived right into the career mode where I was soundly beaten by the CPU players because my darts were going all over the shot. So after that drubbing I thought I should look into the practice room and see what was wrong with my technique, turns out that I’m not good enough to play without the CPU assisting my shots (I know, I couldn’t believe it either). Anyway long story short after switching to maximum assist I went back into the career mode and fared much better. Actually it wasn’t long before I was beating the CPU myself with constant 140’s and 180’s which suggested to me that I should lower the assist setting to MID instead, this as it turns out is the best compromise between and insanely difficult method and one that’s too easy. To throw the dart you hold the Wii Remote as you would a dart and depending on your comfort preference you can either use A or B as your release button. The left hand of the screen shows the dartboard whilst the right your character. Simply move the cursor over the dartboard with your Wii Remote IR pointer and hold A or B to lock, then you prepare your shot speed and swerve (by moving back, forward, left and right) then powering up by moving quickly towards your TV and letting go of the button, if you got everything right then the dart should be exactly where you aimed. If you didn’t then it will have gone astray. I must admit it feels very dart like and it has reminded me that I don’t own a dart board anymore. The Career mode is for just one player but features 7 different tournaments, 4 of which you’ll unlock as you progress through the ranks over the Dart Season. The good news is you can play for up to 20 seasons so you should easily manage to play through them all before you have to start over. CPU players are just the right difficulty too, they seem to hit a fair mix of perfect shots, normal shots and total duffers just as you would expect a real human to do. This is nice because games where CPU opponents play either too well or too badly are frustrating.
Gamers with friends will be pleased to read that there are some nice multiplayer modes for up to 8 players. You can create your own mini leagues and tournaments which is really fun. There are also some popular real life dart mini games such as Clock and Cricket to play but I found them a little dull. Darts is a fun and straightforward game and is perfect as it is; I found these little games took most of the classic fun out of the game. Maybe with more than two players some of them may work better than others, I don’t have any friends to invite over and play so you’ll have to let me know.
Presentationally it’s difficult to fault PDC 2009 for Wii. The atmosphere is perfect from the looks to the sound. The player models are very realistic; and nicely animated with everything looking like it does if you tuned into BBC 2 on a Wednesday afternoon to watch the coverage. The commentary is funny and pretty accurate for most of the time too. There are some negatives however; I would advise you to ignore the horrid looking crowd who cheer you on as you play because they look very stiff and appear to have been created using Microsoft Paint. Also the commentary is a tad sexist with mentions of ‘girlie’ throws and the like – even when playing as a custom female character Sid still referrers to the woman as a man, either he wasn’t asked to record some female specific material or hasn’t been introduced to the birds and the bees yet.
Although I previously stated the create player option is very naff and doesn’t give you much choice I did still prefer to put myself in the game rather than choose one of the pre built stars, this way I could choose how I wanted my throwing style to be as well as the weight of my dart. Oh and I of course made a rather good looking player model which sadly lacked my sexy facial fur because of the lack of facial hair support in the game.
Overall I did enjoy PDC World Championship Darts for Wii and was surprised at its closeness to the real thing. If your wife/husband/parents won’t let you buy a real board then this is the next best thing and scores 8 out of 10. I can’t wait til next year and see if Wii Motion Plus and online play are implemented.
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