When the first 'World Championship Poker' video game debuted in 2004, it brought poker to game stations such as the PlayStation, XBox and GameCube for the first time. It also demonstrated the problems in translating the world of poker to such game terminals. It lacked a serious artificial intelligence (AI) and didn't accurately demonstrate the skill that is inherent in poker with the computer players playing pretty much any two cards. Crave Entertainment has significantly improved the series with the release of "World Championship Poker 2 Featuring Howard Lederer."
"WCP2 With Howard Lederer" (from Crave Entertainment and available for $19.99) is one of the spate of games that has come out in the past six months. Along with "World Series of Poker" and "World Poker Tour" and the upcoming "Stacked", all of the titles offer differing aspects that make for an interesting choice if you want to play poker on your game system. "WCP2" has come up with one that sets it apart from the other games, however.
"WCP2" offers many of the poker games that you can play in the casinos. No-Limit and Limit Hold 'Em are, of course, the most popular options, but there are also Omaha (both Hi and Hi/Lo), Seven Card (same), Pineapple and Crazy Pineapple and several other draw derivations from Razz (Ace to Five and Deuce to Seven) to Triple Draw. If someone is set to do so, this wide variation of games could lend to several long playing sessions alone.
There are two different options as far as play in "WCP2". There is, of course, a single game mode in which you can set up a single game tournament against the pros that are a part of the game. Along with the aforementioned Lederer, fellow poker champions Paul Darden, Annie Duke, Clonie Gowen, Greg Raymer, Amir Vahedi and Robert Williamson III and tournament director Matt Savage lend their likenesses and voices to the game. What I found to be the most entertaining part of the game was the career mode of play, however.
In the career mode, you start out like many newcomers to the poker world do: by having little to nothing except your bankroll. You're living in your parents' basement (which also serves as a base of operations) as you attempt to add to your bankroll and perhaps make your surroundings better as well. If you aren't doing well, a pawn shop is also available to get loans and sell your stuff. While these additions are a nice touch, there are actually some points that make this very challenging.
In most of the other poker games out there, they specifically concentrate on No-Limit Hold 'Em in their career modes. With "WCP2", you can be faced with different game challenges as you traipse around the poker world (and it is an actual world; your playing arenas can extend to the farthest reaches of the globe). Omaha Hold 'Em is featured prominently in the early going of the career mode and Seven Card also is part of the challenge. It becomes a very good test, actually, of overall poker skills on your game system.
There is also another unique touch to "WCP2" that, at the same time, was very good and potentially a drawback of the game. Whether players like it or not, this aspect of "WCP2" does set it apart from the other games on the market today. While other games allow you to play pretty much any hand with no drawbacks (except the fact you're playing hands that have little chance of winning), "WCP2" has introduced what is a "game within the game" type of setup. With this mode, if you make a move with a less than optimum hand, you'll be sent straight into the "mini-tell bluff game" which requires you to manipulate the joystick of the controller. By holding a cursor in a particular zone, you will either display a false tell, a real tell or a complete poker face while making your stab at the pot.
I personally found the "bluff game" to be a pretty good challenge and very worthy of being in the game. Some might look at it as a waste, but that is potentially because it is a very difficult part of "WCP2" to master. As you go through the game in career mode, however, you can earn poker points that allow you to make this an easier skill to use and it adds very well to the game. Without this facet to the game, there wouldn't be a modicum of skill that poker requires. Overall, I believe it makes you play poker rather than just play cards and attempt to hit.
While it will never replace playing poker live or online, the games that are available for the different game systems do allow you to play the game (as with the others, "WCP2" offers a multiplayer online mode available for those with the proper setups) and practice without the sting of losing your own cash. While it lacks the star power poker tour name of some of the others that are out there, "World Championship Poker 2 With Howard Lederer" is a definite improvement over the original and may indicate that better things are to come in the poker arena from Crave Entertainment.
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