Published on October 30th, 2010 | by Cameron Woolsey
Pinball FX 2 Review
Reviewer’s Note: This Game was Reviewed on the Xbox 360.
For some reason, it feels odd to be reviewing a pinball video game. It’s not that a pinball game is far-fetched or even unexpected (there are farming simulators for God’s sake), but pinball was once the most popular in coin operated arcade machines long before video games ever existed. Yet even in gaming’s early days developers have tried to replicate the look and feel of playing an actual game of pinball. Even though I’m sure some of you will be quick to defend your copy of Crüe Ball, so far developers have failed to grasp the essence of an authentic pinball table. However, this hasn’t stopped Zen Studios whose last game, Pinball FX, ended up being a pretty decent pinball game. With their newest release, Pinball FX 2, has Zen finally mastered the art of realistic pinball in video game form?
[SPOILER]: Yes. Well, close enough.
I hope I don’t downplay this review early but, Pinball FX 2 holds no surprises. It is a pinball video game, nothing more. Of course, don’t think that smacking balls with paddles is all you’re going to end up doing. Pinball FX 2 has upped the ante on the previous game by providing more features and upgrades than you can hit a plunger with (ouch, bad pinball joke. I should keep those to a minimum).
Pinball FX 2 looks nearly identical to the previous game except for two key components: graphics and physics. Along with a graphics upgrade, which provides richer colors and better special effects, Zen Studios has created a completely new physics engine. Among the hardest things to replicate when making a pinball game is the physics for the ball. As a person who has owned a pinball machine before, I have a pretty decent idea about how the ball should behave on the table. I have played several pinball games in the past where the movement of the ball can be noticeably unrealistic even to people who never play pinball. The ball physics for PFX 2 are actually quite impressive. While they aren’t perfect, thus far, this is the best physics engine for any pinball game I’ve played. The ball has noticeable weight and reacts convincingly when being hit by the pads or bouncing off the bumpers.
Along with the technical upgrades, Pinball FX 2 hosts a surprisingly robust amount of multiplayer options. The game is always pitting you against others, showing top scores in the leader boards plus your score versus your friends. As you play a table that one of your friends has played, it will show your score compared to theirs and as you gain points it will follow the shrinking gap until you surpass it. After the game is done, you will watch your avatar being crowned the pinball king while your friend’s avatar sobs in shame—it is a strangely satisfying experience. New to the series is a split screen mode where you and another player face off to achieve the top score first. If you don’t have someone to play with then you can simply hop into online matchmaking and go against other players or even entire an online tournament and fight for the top score.
The game comes packaged with four tables. Each of these tables is completely unique and offer different goals to achieve. For example, Secrets of the Deep has an ocean theme with images and models of sea animals and cool aquatic colors. There is also a submarine mini-game you can “raise” the sunken vessel and gain massive points after carefully aiming three balls up a special ramp.
Pinball FX 2 is also completely backwards compatible that means that if you bought the first game and any of the tables released after you can bring those tables to the new game. Doing this will allow those tables to take advantage of all the new upgrades meaning better looking boards, improved physics, and new achievements for each board giving the game a grand total of 39 achievements and 650 possible Gamerscore points. This means that if you went out and bought every table released after Pinball FX, you will get to play them completely upgraded in the sequel, ultimately bringing the time-destroying number of playable tables to 13. Not a bad deal, eh?
Possibly one of the best things about Pinball FX 2 is that you can go to the Marketplace and download it right now for “free.” That is, you can download it and play a trial of every table available from the four new ones to all the tables previously released. If you like what you experience, you can buy the “Core” version of the game for 800 MS Points ($10). Every table afterward will cost 200 points each (or $2.50). Yes, a little pricey for a single table. Especially when considering that the older tables don’t include the interactivity of the four new ones. But I dare you to play a trial of the Street Fighter II table and not immediately want to buy it. Just listen to that rock remake of the theme and try to force yourself not to drop the points for it. You won’t be able to because it’s just that kind of awesome.
Although Pinball FX 2 doesn’t recreate the look and feel of actual pinball, it gets closer than any other pinball video game before it. With great graphics, nice audio, and an impressive amount of extras, features, and multiplayer options, Pinball FX 2 will keep you happy and occupy your time for quite a while. If you’re looking for the best pinball video game on the market, look no further than Pinball FX 2.
+ Best pinball experience in game form
+ A ton of multiplayer options
+ Free to download and every table can be tried
– Table prices are too steep