Another year, another video game adaption of the PDC World Darts Championship from publisher Oxygen Interactive. Although this is only the third entry in the series with the first game releasing in late-2006 and the 2008 sequel receiving average critical acclaim, new developer Rebellion hopes to break this cycle by introducing an all-new control scheme that ensures accuracy in every dart throw.
As the game’s title suggests, PDC 2009 allows the player to compete in the PDC World Darts Championship as well as six other tournaments, ranging from the first, the US Open, to the penultimate one - the German Darts Championship. The darts game within these tournaments asks two competing players to get the highest score out of their three darts, with each subsequent score decreasing the counter that starts at 501. The winner is the player who gets their score to zero first, but getting to zero must be through hitting a double or the bull’s eye. For example, if your counter read fourteen then to win on your current throw only a double seven can be hit.
Obviously the key to producing a fun and realistic darts game lies in how the Wii remote’s motion control and IR pointer are utilised, and in terms of control the game doesn’t disappoint too much. As you would probably expect, when throwing a dart PDC 2009 asks the player to hold the Wii remote between index finger and thumb. Firstly, the sector that you want your dart to land in is selected via the Wii remote’s pointer. This can be a little fiddly, especially when trying to pinpoint the exact part of the board you want to hit, and takes some getting used to. Once in position, the A button is held in with the Wii remote moved backwards a certain distance to measure power. After this the A button is released with the Wii remote thrust forwards, mimicking exactly the method of throwing a dart in real life. As with several familiar Wii control schemes in other games that ask the player to pretend that the Wii remote is an actual object, it works fairly well but isn’t polished to perfection.
For newcomers to the series, the ability to choose a control assist has been added, however it’s not necessary that you use one; we would recommend that you do though until you get to grips with the controls. You can decide to have a max control assist which is aimed towards beginners and makes things easier, or one that gives slightly less help for those more experienced at the game.
Credit must be given to the developer for including such a multitude of game modes, all of which are available from the start of the game. True to many sports titles, PDC 2009 has the typical Exhibition game type, which allows one or two players to play a quick game of darts, and a Career mode. The latter starts off with the choice of a player for use in the duration of the tournament – either one included in the game or player-made. Luckily there is a decent-sized roster this year to choose from: you’re permitted to choose anyone from top players such as Phil “The Power” Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld to other, slightly less known performers. Following this you can participate in any of the six aforementioned tournaments and finally the World Championship itself.
Also included in the game is the ability to create a customer character. Unfortunately, this is just a novelty and nothing to get excited about. To say its limited would actually be a bit of an understatement – those hoping to recreate the classic darts stereotype of ‘heavy-drinker-with-optional-beer-belly’ will be sorely disappointed, as the customisation options leave much to be desired. Although typical facial types and clothes choices can be made, individual attributes can’t really be tweaked which is a big disappointment. It’s usually fun to be able to create your own player in sports games, but when you have only seven admittedly awful looking hairstyles to choose from you could be questioning the point in even including such a mode.
Aside from these modes, there is a game type that allows you to create a custom tournament or league where many rules can be tweaked until you’re happy with the end product. This allows the existing tournaments in the Career mode to be customised heavily which is a nice feature. In addition to this, yet another two modes are available: the first, entitled Party Games, contains variations of the typical 501 game and other dart games such as Around The Clock, while the second simply allows you to practice throwing some darts with no pressure or opponent.
Overall, PDC 2009 is a pretty average looking game. Sure, it’s definitely the most realistic darts title due to the player roster and authenticity of the tournaments, but it all looks extremely generic and the character models are pretty weak, especially in the player select screen and not so much during matches.
In terms of audio we were slightly more impressed. Although the menus have no music tracks, the commentary provided is very entertaining and gives each dart game some much needed atmosphere and personality. The ability to tweak various audio settings is appreciated too, giving a healthy level of customisation to matches.
All in all, PDC World Championship Darts 2009 is a decent sequel but one that could have done with a lot more polish, especially in terms of control and presentation. While the developer 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 MotionPlus accessory to really heighten the accuracy of dart throws, but until then for fans of darts there’s still enjoyment to be had here.