Pure Hold’Em Review

Score 75Being a poker fan, I feel confident in recommending this newest entry.  It’s fast-paced, visually dynamic, and offers a great atmosphere in a reserved casino.  The game however does feature some bizarre choices, such as playing against small electronic screens instead of people.  The options are also lacking, at least until they allow you to buy different sets of cards.  The game also has a pay-to-play element, that makes this feel less simulation, and more like a real casino.  The game also has no voice-chat, or even chat, making the table feel void of personality.  If you’re in need of some hands though, this will fit the bill- even if you feel lonely playing it.
WHAT WE LIKED
º The game is visually stunning, providing a great mood.
º Music and sound effects are light enough to not get grating.
º It’s quickly gets you to the action, from menu to table.
WHAT WE DISLIKED
º You play against propped up tablets instead of people.
º CPU has no strategy, playing just like one another; poorly.
º Seriously, no voice chat!?
The menus are slick and clean, allowing you to make to the tables with haste!

Writing a review about a poker game may be a harder task than I originally imagined.  You see, I love poker- I like to think I’m pretty good at it too.  I’m sure most of my friends would disagree, considering they usually end up winning in heads up, but they always agree that my bets are always the best choice in a given situation.  Probably because they walk away with my money.

So when it came to pass that I was handed this game, and asked to review it, I was excited.  I can get my poker fix, without my friends taking my money or dignity!
But, as I said before, reviewing a poker game is actually kinda hard.  If you’re reading this review, most likely, you’re already a huge Texas Hold’Em fan, and you know that these games aren’t really different in the big details, but rather in the small ones.  I can imagine your primary concern being lag dropping you out of pocket aces.  I can happily say, from what I played, I didn’t see many problems with the core online gameplay.  The game runs smoothly, and I never experienced any dropouts.
The biggest fault Pure Hold’Em has, as any poker game does, is it doesn’t feel any different.  It’s sadly the same game you’ve been playing for years.  That’s at no fault to VooFoo Studios, that’s simply because you have a very simple game, that has set rules, and can’t be changed up or ‘innovated’.  So, my review really has to come down to the smallest of details.
The table has several different color velvet that it jumps between, and just three decks.  Not really the most diverse set of options I’ve ever seen, but it provides enough to make you feel like there’s some change to the table each time you sit down.  You can of course buy more options, but at this time there are none.  You can choose to lock in options, so if you’d prefer to have the traditional style of cards each time, you can.  I chose to do this, because there’s some that are ‘modern’, and are really hard to read on the fly.
Damn you Blanche.  She’s not just a stock photo; she’s a chip eating shark.

Something I really disliked was the fact that your opponents are electronic tablets sitting on a table.  There’s no human models, no shadowy figures throwing chips- it’s a mini facebook profile, with generic stock images as your opponents.  Even worst, there’s no way to change your image, so any online opponents you meet display a generic cutout image.  I should be able to make a profile, and use an image to represent my icy play style.  Sadly, this is absent, leaving no shred of character in your seat.

There’s also no in-room chat.  I know some don’t want that, and would rather play the numbers game, but I do enjoy talking with random people while playing poker.  The game is void of interactivity with your fellow players.  I’m dying for the day when I can stare someone down through webcam, and you can pick up on someone’s tells.  Aren’t we all sitting at the same table; shouldn’t we be able to at least talk to one another?  
Another problem I had was with the offline AI.  They don’t know how to bluff, nor how to hide their hands.  The minute they hit a three of a kind, they bet the house, that’s when they’re not calling your all-in with a 2-7 off-suit.  They all play as if they have the utmost confidence, and like they’ve never played poker before; in other words, they’re the equivalent of playstation-era security guards.  It’s a shame too, because poker is such a strategic game, and developers haven’t yet created a poker game where I felt like the cpu players know what they’re doing.
The music is quiet enough that it does feel like a secluded casino, and the warm glow of unused slot machines surround the table.  It does provide a nice ambiance, and Pure Hold’Em has set up a great mood with dim overhead lights, calming music and light sound effects.  When the game wants to build tension, the camera pans into a slow motion reveal of the river, as the card slowly flips over.  The overall experience is greatly increased through the game’s execution of tone.
The graphics are nice, and the camera floats around the table smoothly, keeping the flow going continuously as the hands are played out.  The chips are stacked quickly, and there’s nothing that really slows down the action.  For a such a beautiful game, it plays like one of those fast paced online options, but with a stunning presentation.
Menus are simple and elegant, consisting of a small selection of options.  You can hop onto an open table, or jump into a tournament with ease.  There’s a couple of different tables, ranging from Jokers Tables, where there is no buyin, to Masters Tables that requires a million dollars.  The tournaments are easy to sign up for, so if you’re hoping to win some heads up, that’s the place to go.
They never saw it coming.

Finally, the in-game purchases, or as I’d like to call it, “pay to sit at the big boys table.”  Want to actually play with people who won’t try bluffing every hand, than pull out your wallet again and pay for the privilege.  I can understand playing with money on the line can add some excitement, but we’re not playing online poker- this is a video game.  The reward should be getting to the Masters table, and picking up little perks along the way (maybe some customization of the absent avatars).  Alas, it’s not a big deal- maybe people just like buying people at their table a pair of sunglasses or a fish with real money.  Seriously, are we still doing the whole, “gift” system in these games?  Can’t we have something more useful- like voice chat!?

In closing, it’s poker.  Do you like poker, and you’re tired of your previous version?  Well, this one isn’t bad.  It’s a little overpriced, especially since there’s nothing particularly better about it; but there’s nothing that really breaks the experience either.  It functions, and despite my disappointment that these beautiful visuals aren’t backed up with some interacting bodies, it should fulfill your digital chip stacking needs.
·      Publisher – Ripstone
·      Developer – VooFoo Studios
·      Genre – Simulation, Sports, Strategy
·      Release Date – August 20, 2015
·      Version Reviewed – PC
·      PEGI Rating – 12
·      Multiplayer – Online
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