With the PlayStation 4 just a little over a month old, early adopters are looking for great games to play. Unfortunately, at the moment there is a dearth of titles available. The big franchises are present and accounted for, but what if you’re someone who doesn’t particularly care for shooting people through iron sights? You likely already have the amazing Resogun, so what else could you play on your shiny new PS4? The Pinball Arcade isn’t a bad choice, just be aware that you’ll have to wade through a few minor issues to enjoy it.
What Is It?
The Pinball Arcade is, as one might guess, a collection of Pinball tables for the PS4. To sum it up that simply is giving it short shrift. It isn’t just a collection of tables, rather it’s a collection of some of the best tables ever made. Many of these tables are very difficult to find these days, so for a lot of people the only way they will get to play them will be through a collection like this.
This is the latest release in a continuing multiplatform rollout. As of now it is available on ten different platforms. Chances are that if you want to play near-perfect representations of classic pinball tables, you probably already have a console, computer, or mobile device that The Pinball Arcade will play on.
That ubiquity is a big plus, but if you’ve already spent a lot of money buying table packs on one platform, there isn’t much reason to make the jump to the PS4 version. The game does offer a discount on the Season 1 Table Bundles for PS3 and Vita owners, so at least if you do want to make the jump it won’t be as costly as having to buy the entire bundle again. The only two advantages the PS4 version has at this point are its new lighting engine and a few gameplay tweaks and bug fixes. While you’ll need a PS4 to experience the former, the latter will be rolled out to the other versions in a patch early next year.
Why Should I Care?
That lighting technology really is something. A pinball table is full of distinct light sources. They highlight different parts of the table, flash when you hit a certain goal, or completely illuminate the table surface. They also cast reflections on the shiny plastic and metal parts of the table. This is the first version of any pinball compilation I’ve played that has managed to really get this right. Other versions of the game did a decent job of recreating table lighting, but it always felt sterile. The incandescent glow of the lamps and the way light plays off objects has never felt quite right. That is, until now. I would not have believed that lighting could make such a big difference, but it really does. For a future update, maybe FarSight might consider simulating LED light replacements, which give tables a very different look. With the tech they have now, they can certainly do it.
Unfortunately in this version there is one thing that spoils the effect. The PS4 version of the game is let down by absolutely atrocious audio quality. Everything in the game sounds tinny. I know these old tables weren’t working with CD quality audio, but even the menu music exhibits this problem. FarSight have acknowledged the issue and are working on a patch to sort it out, but I have to wonder how they didn’t catch this before release? It really is that bad.
What Makes It Worth My Time & Money?
One thing that The Pinball Arcade has always done well is table physics. Dating all the way back to their Pinball Hall of Fame collections, accurate ball physics has always been important to FarSight. Over the years they have constantly kept honing their physics system. This latest version of The Pinball Arcade has the best physics yet. I’ve seen the ball get stuck, which isn’t a great thing to have happen, but it does happen on a real table at times, and I appreciate that it can happen here. I’ve also seen the ball bounce off the Stopper, reacting exactly as it would on a real table. The physics system gets out of your way, so you don’t have to think about how its quirks will make the ball react. Instead you can focus on setting up your shots and being confident that the ball will do what it should do.
With that in mind, controlling the game can be a bit of uncomfortable. The flippers are mapper to the L1 & R1 buttons. I would have preferred to use the L2 and R2 triggers, as they’re much more comfortable to use over a long play session.
Finally, there’s the game’s camera angles. It’s not hard to get a good view of what’s going on. There’s several angles and heights to choose from. That would work great for most people, but I found that the modes that scrolled the playfield were not as useful as the ones that showed you the entire table. How about a third option? Why not have a camera mode that kept your flippers in view at all times, and scrolled the rest of the table in a split view. I haven’t seen this method used since Pin-Bot and High Speed on the NES. It would be a nice addition should it find its way back into The Pinball Arcade.
Despite the minor rough edges that the PS4 version has, it is still the best looking and playing version of The Pinball Arcade to date. The visuals do add a better sense of immersion and authenticity, but they don’t change the game so much that the other versions seem obsolete. If you’re coming in fresh, this is the version to start with. Otherwise you’ll have to decide for yourself whether having improved visuals is worth the upgrade cost to you.