Reviewed: September 25, 2006
Released: August 31, 2006
Crave Entertainment has released its third game for the World Championship Poker series. World Championship Poker: Featuring Howard Lederer "All-In", as the title implies, features world renowned poker professional Howard Lederer along with a slew of other card sharks. Annie Duke, Robert Williamson III, Erin Ness, Marcel Luske, and Thomas Bihl are just a few of the famous poker players that you will go up against.
World Championship Poker: Featuring Howard Lederer All In has the following features:
If you havenít played poker before, you can start venture into the world of luck and skill by starting in the tutorial. It will walk you through the various types of poker styles, explaining the rules of each. There are fourteen different styles you can learn: Holdíem, Omaha, Omaha 8, 7 Card Stud, 7 Card Stud 8, Razz Ace to 5, Razz 2 to 7, Pineapple, Crazy Pineapple, 5 Card Draw, Lowball Ace to 5, Lowball Ace to 5 Triple, Lowball 2 to 7, and Lowball 2 to 7 Triple. You can also learn some pointers by the reading the tips on the load screens. Once you feel comfortable with the various styles, you can create your own character or just start up a small game through Quickplay.
Quickplay allows you to set up your own game. Choose the type, limits, blinds, number of players, location, time limit, and even the characters. You can also decide whether you want it to be a cash game or a tournament. Many of you will likely want to start a career with your character, though, and build up his or her stats.
Once youíve made your own character, you can start Career mode, go online, or play in the Scenario mode. In Career mode, you can travel around the world playing in an assortment of tournaments and cash games. Youíll win trophies and money, earn stat points, and build up your reputation. Once you get enough money, youíll want to start furnishing your place and decking it out with expensive things. Then youíll be ready to start hosting your own games. Running low on cash? You can head over to the pawn shop and sell some of your trophies or even loan money.
The games available to you change each week. One game translates into a week. So basically, after each game, those that were available no longer are, and some new ones open up to you. Become an established player and youíll even earn skill points. You can use these skills points to improve your abilities to read people or bluff. You can even increase your luck, which can prove to be a valuable asset in hands with a huge pot.
You may not have to worry about altering your bluffing ability if youíre good at the Mini Games. They only last around five seconds or so, and are really not very difficult to get used to. If your timing is correct, youíll pull off a successful bluff or put on your poker face. If youíre off, though, youíll give away your weak (or strong) hand through a tell. If the games are going by too slowly for you, you can always go into the options and turn on or change the Turbo setting. The game will go much more quickly, but you will also miss out on things, such as the Mini Games and random one-liners that players drop, hinting at the strength of their hand.
You could also test out the Scenario mode. There are three Scenario Circuits, each with three scenarios. Each scenario has different conditions or handicaps placed on you. Some start you off short-stacked, where some will have you start as the chip leader and you canít lose the lead. Completing each of these scenarios will earn you a special item that canít be earned any other way.
The artificial intelligence in WCP: All-In has been touched up, but the AI scripts still donít mimic people perfectly. The scripts are pretty much preset, so once you figure out the characterís betting and playing style, it becomes easier to predict what they will do. The bad thing about the AI is that it does not seem to be making logical bets at times. Some of the bets or calls that a computer opponent makes seem to follow really weak rules. For example, a pair is a pair to the computer, regardless of whether it is a pair of 2ís or a pair of aces. If you tire of the computer or feel like the AI is not advanced enough, you could try the online mode and play against other people.
The menus and load screens contain really simplistic graphics that are guided by a caricature style. Some of the color schemes that you can choose for the menus are plain awful. Thatís not to say a color like puke green is awful, but many schemes contain colors that either just donít go together or the combination puts a strain on your eyes.
Aside from that, the rest of the game is not as bad. You can render your character to fit your tastes, though the options arenít as vast as some other games out now. The rooms that you play in have a decent amount of detail, but not so much that it takes your attention away from the game. Some rooms even have some cool theme, like a black-light that has glow-in-the-dark chips.
There really isnít much to do in the graphics department with a poker game. They could add more action to players, such as the common chip shuffling among other chip tricks. Maybe even visual clues, like watching a playerís eyes or scratching someoneís head, could be added to the surprise jolts you see from players every now and then.
The soundtrack contains possibly some of the most boring music Iíve heard in a video game. Most of the music is basically just a mixture of ambient noises. You might want to put on a cd or something if you want some actual music to hear while youíre playing.
I never really understood the need for an enthusiastic announcer for poker tournaments. It isnít wrestling. I know heís trying to get the audience more into the game, but for poker, the announcer should mostly just be there to let you know whatís going on. If anyone is going to stir up any excitement, it would be a player, but that doesnít happen here. The voices, however, do play an important role. If you listen carefully, many of the side comments will cue you in on whether to call, raise, or fold. So although the sounds in the game arenít very exciting, they still at least serve a purpose.
This really isnít a game that you just pick up, play for a half hour, and then turn it back off. Jumping into tournaments or cash games will take time out of your day. For tournaments with 100-plus entrants, you wonít want to quit once you get within the top fifty. So this game will provide you with many hours of gameplay.
To perfect your player and build a huge bankroll, youíll need to dedicate weeks to playing. There are plenty of items to earn from the Career and Scenario modes. Fortunately, every poker game is a new experience. You could join a tournament one day and be drawn out on and bust early, and then you could play in the same tournament the next day and win it all.
Also adding to the value is the fact that you can take your personalized characters and go online against people. If you feel like the computer is becoming too easy to read and bluff, test your skills against real people. One thing about poker thatís different than many other games: losing makes you want to play more. Seemingly invincible bosses or incredibly complex puzzles could be a game factor that causes you to stop playing. Losing all of your money in against an opponent just makes you want to keep gambling so you can win it back. Then once you win that back, you want to keep winning more and more. The hours could go on indefinitely.
World Championship Poker: Featuring Howard Lederer All-In can be bought for a mere stack of $19.99. Although this may not be able to bully the former titles, it still holds the best hand out of the three. If youíre into poker, whether it be Texas style or 7-card stud, the many varieties of poker will help you get your fix. It wonít satisfy your craze to actually gamble real money, though.
Many poker players will never know what it feels like to go heads up against the real Lederer, but WCP: All-In will get you as close as you could get.