PDC World Championship DartsESRB:
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Developer: Mere Mortals
Publisher: Oxygen Interactive
Premiere League Darts has been pulling in new fans, so there's no better time than now for Oxygen Games to release its latest sports sim to represent the real world series. Aptly titled PDC World Championship Darts the game comes to the Wii in an effort to take advantage of the Wii specific controller. Sure, it isn't the flashiest of sports games to hit consoles, but this Wii version does at least offer semi-realistic real dart throwing gameplay.
Those accustomed to the kind of production values seen in high profile sports games like any of the NHL titles, Madden, or FIFA Soccer will be in for a slight shock when PDC World Championship Darts loads up. The menu designs are pretty plain-jane in nature and player models look rather lifeless. This is especially disappointing given the lack of anything else significant on the screen. Mind you each character has been recreated in 3D form and for the most part they look like their real life counterparts. The Wii does a pretty good job of displaying the 480 lines of resolution that the picture offers, but those spoiled by high definition will, like me, long for cleaner visuals. The games locales are faithfully represented and do make for some interesting chatter, but to be honest they all tend do look like each other. I did like that the crowds were animated quite well, with lots of clapping and cheering going on. I also enjoyed the boxer-like intros of the players as it is quite humorous to see dart players enter in this manner. Overall the game ran at a consistent framerate with little or issues that I saw during my time with the game
The game’s audio portion is actually quite well done. There is very little in terms of music to speak of, but whatever is there is more than adequate for the job. The game’s voice acting is the star here though. The commentary provided is very entertaining and gives each dart match some much needed atmosphere and personality which does an excellent job of building up atmosphere and tension. The commentary is provided by Sid Waddell with referee audio from Russ Bray and Bruce Spendley. Sid is funny at times with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of bizarre lines to accompany the flying darts. They don’t always seem to fit the action though, and as with all sports games the more you play the more repetitive and annoying the commentary becomes, but it definitely adds to the feel and it provided a few chuckles the first time round. The ability to tweak various audio settings is appreciated too, giving a healthy level of customization to matches.
I must admit I’ve never played any type of dart game on any kind of home or arcade video game system. So not really knowing what to expect I stepped into PDC with a fairly open mind. I say fairly because this type of game doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun to me. Granted the sport (if you can call it that) must illicit tons of fans across the seas, but sports in this neck of the woods consist of body contact and intense action. I’m sure that the game of darts does get intense at times, but not on the level we may be accustomed too. This is my own opinion and it is open to interpretation.
In PDC World Championship Darts you use the Wii Remote to aim and then mimic the throw action. To start the throw you hold down the A button and then move the dart (Wii Remote) as if you were playing in real life, releasing A at the point you'd actually release the dart. The throwing action feels almost disconnected to what happens though, with your throw happening noticeably before the virtual player throws the dart in the game. The control is definitely a herky-jerky affair with a fairly steep learning curve. A couple of hours in and I still have some difficulty in my aiming. Thankfully there are other control schemes to use. The easiest is similar to the PS2 scheme, here you aim using the Wii Remote, but use the Nunchuck’s analog stick to effectively mimic your player's throw. Pull it back to start the motion and then push forwards to throw. It is very simple, but takes a surprising amount of skill to get right.
What makes throwing tricky is how the strength of the throw depends on where you aim. When played on the easiest difficulty you are given an on-screen dart, which indicates the strength needed to throw the dart within the on-screen marker. This zone changes as you move the aiming reticule around the board, so on the harder difficulty setting, where there is no on-screen help, you have to know the ins and outs of your throwing action. To add further difficulty, your forward stroke (throwing motions) needs to be smooth and straight, no matter which control scheme you use. A skewed motion will cause your dart to veer off target, which will be extremely costly if you're going for the all important double to win a leg. By no means is PDC World Championship Darts in the same league of complexity as some sports games I have played, but it will certainly take time to master for most. One thing I liked was how I could change the Wii Remotes sensitivity to try and tailor the game to my throw style. Once again the feature is tough to master, but it is a useful tool once you have figured it out.
The core game mode involves you taking your custom created player (the character creation tool isn't the game's highlight) through his career playing in tournaments for prize money as well as for ranking position. It's not the flashiest of productions, but gives you something to strive towards. Other game modes include a plethora of fun mini-games with just about every alternative pub darts game included, from Round the Clock to Cricket.
The game also hosts seven real-world tournaments and the relative locations they occur in. Adding to the realism is the appearance of 16 of the games greats. The big names are all represented, there is Phil Taylor, Raymond van Barneveld, James Wade, Peter Manley, Wayne Mardle, Dennis Priestley, and more as the list goes on and on. The more famous the player the more accurate his in game model and stars like Dutchman Barney are completely recognisable.
All in all, PDC World Championship Darts is a decent dart game but one that could have done with a lot more polish, especially in terms of control and presentation. While the developers should be commended for the authenticity of the various tournaments and licensed player roster, a few unfortunate omissions have been made such as the absence of online multiplayer which actually comes as a surprise when considering the large number of modes in the game. Here’s hoping that the next entry in the PDC series employs the upcoming Wii Motion Plus accessory to really heighten the accuracy of dart throws, but until then for fans of darts there’s still enjoyment to be had here.