Poker games; although few and far between on consoles have had a storied history. Can Poker Club — the latest release from Ripstone Limited — buck the trend and correctly portray the glamorous world of high risk, high reward poker or will its bluff be called?
Touted as the most immersive poker experience ever created, Poker Club kicks this off with creation of your personal poker superstar avatar. Creation of your persona is a simple affair with a few options on offer for gender, body, facial features and then basic wardrobe. As you gain further experience and level up your avatar, additional cosmetic options are unlocked ranging from accessories and new clothing with which to adorn your virtual counterpart.
Whatever your taste, Poker Club takes on a first person perspective during any local or tournament games where your character takes their seat at the table and you can see the other participants who are either spectating or competing. The individual representations are well designed with a range of animations to suit the circumstances of play but it’s clear everyone is from the same family.
In an eerie “Deliverance” style throwback; ninety percent of player created avatars could easily be considered siblings and even a change in skin colour does little to avoid the fact that the models are limited in type and it’s not unusual to find a table full of default white/black guy with either shades or a different colour t-shirt. Whilst the animations and models are decent Poker Club often simply forgets to render the rest of the room leaving you watching cards float in mid air around the table likely delivering the complete opposite in terms of immersion to what Ripstone expected.
Graphical glitches seem commonplace however and range from a total loss of avatars to a weird bloom effect at the edge of the screen when the camera intersects with certain models. Gameplay continues but it does again ruin the atmosphere as the eyes are drawn to it rather than any activity at the table.
When it’s not glitching, Poker Club also has some challenges with both screen legibility and placement of screen information within the GUI. White on White makes for a poor choice and sometimes makes entire passages of text illegible but worse and considerably more lazy is the placement of on screen button prompts for controls, sometimes they don’t appear and others clearly have massive overlap with other on screen information making it look like quality testing was skipped completely.
When Poker Club renders correctly it’s even more unfortunate that the poker is only “OK”. The basics are there. Dealing, blinds, bets etc. etc. but there’s no feeling in it. Poker Club creates very little tension in the gameplay with only background music in the location you play within and no additional feedback or haptics implemented in any situation where you would need a certain card to complete your hand.
For those that can persevere past this, Poker Club offers a range of different tournament options in addition to the avatar customization and casual play modes. With ten different types of gameplay on offer there is plenty to keep poker aficionados interested including freezeouts, shootouts and bounties.
On the positive side, Poker Club offers cross play from day one with PC players. This means the tables fill up fast and you are never left long with either an empty table or spare seats at tables mid game should one or two players drop from play. Gameplay can be very slow however and it’s never quite fluid, either down to poor netcode or simply lazy opponents who are likely doing something else whilst playing.
Poker Club presents a strong front at first but those who see through the façade quickly realise its bluffing and likely going all in on a pair of twos. Poker Club is available now on Xbox Series X, PS5 and PC