When I first heard about Full House Poker I was incredibly intrigued. Developed by Microsoft Game Studios, this poker title was designed to replace the ultra-innovative 1 vs. 100 as a massively multiplayer prime-time experience. Not only that, but it’s a Texas Hold ’Em game! Being a die-hard Hold ’Em fan and a strong supporter of 1 vs. 100, this game represents the best of two worlds for me.
After popping on the game, I was immediately struck be a couple of oddities. The first strange thing about this game is the complete lack of commentary while playing. In lieu of commentary, there’s quite a bit of text and just some jazzy tunes in the background. While I don’t like it when poker games repeat the same couple phrases over and over, something is better than nothing. It seems really strange that the designers focused on graphical representations of the game rather than auditory.
Another major oddity is the minimalistic HUD. I understand that the developers were emphasizing the Avatars and settings in this game; however, focusing on Avatars and props meant that actual information is sacrificed. Despite the ability to move the camera around, I found it frustrating to see the chips that were in play, the actions of the other players, and my position at the table. The developers seem far more interested in being cute and less interested in the actual game being played here.
The final oddity in Full House Poker is the lack of a real currency. Instead of having players bet actual dollars, this game has players just playing with chips. While I recognize that not all games use dollars, I would have appreciated the option to switch between cash and chips.
On the positive side of things, this game moves incredibly quickly. Not so quickly that you’ll lose track of what is happening, but fast enough that it doesn’t take hours to play through a tournament. Everything is fittingly streamlined and works better than almost any other console poker title out there.
I enjoy the Avatar features for what they are. They truly have personalities and provide quite a bit to laugh at. Plus, the various settings, table skins, and other items at least make each match appear different. I appreciate the variety but the sacrifices made for this fun stuff might not be worth it for those of us that take our poker seriously.
The biggest selling point of this game is supposed to be the Texas Heat mode. This mode is the MMO option that has players from around the globe competing against one another at the same time. I haven’t completely figured out how it works; however, with time I’m sure I’ll pick it up.
One note about Texas Heat; while playing this past weekend the game was frozen for all players at my table. I couldn’t take credit for my winnings and I couldn’t place a bet during my turn. I hope this isn’t indicative of problems with the service.
For now, despite some of my problems with the game, I still recommend this title. I really like the possibility that thousands of players can play Texas Hold ‘Em at the same time. This software makes it possible and I really want to see the game continue to spread, especially on consoles.