There are a slew of free Pool games available out there. If you want to derive solid enjoyment plus the satisfaction of an undertaking well-performed, then you'll of course want a game that has realistic 3D graphics, intuitive easy-to-use controls, and conformance to and enforcement of the rules of the sport. You may also want to try your hand against a computer opponent, which is a feature that some titles offer.
Eventually, if your zeal reaches a certain plateau, you might want to play the sport over the Internet and challenge complete strangers …perhaps participate in a tournament or even join a cyberspace pool league. Be wary though, because many cyberspace pool halls offer the game product for free, then ask you to wager with real money in their online games. That is illegal for minors, and it is prohibited in a number of jurisdictions, including nine states in the USA. Some sites offer a choice of playing stakes: real money or play money.
One thing you need to ask yourself is “How much aiming assistance do I want from the computer”? Clearly, the computer can theoretically tell you exactly where an object ball is going to travel, well before it is struck. Some PC games kibitz you graphically in real time while you're adjusting your aim at the cue ball. You'll need to decide if you're comfortable with such presaged insights.
And let's not overlook ambiance either. I refer to the little aesthetic touches that enrich the scene, including decor, music, rendered animations of people and audible commentary of ongoing contests.
Below, we attempt to discover the crème de la crème of 3D computer Pool and Billiards games.
Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide
8BallClub is an exceptionally refined application connected to what appears to be a safe and reasonable online gaming site. With 8BallClub you can play Snooker, 8-Ball, 9-Ball and Rotation Pool. Note that you will be required to choose a username and password and provide an email address before anything else happens. If that's acceptable, then go ahead. Before challenging online opponents, you can select "Practice" and indulge to your heart's content, in regular two-player mode. There is, however, a 60-second time limit imposed for taking each shot – a perfectly reasonable constraint.
This Pool game has probably the best graphics and the most intuitive controls of any. It is stellar in its scope and imagination. But be aware that once you leave the practice table and seek out community opponents, the site allows wagering with real money. So you'll be wise and choose the Fun Money mode, which is the default. You'll be able to compete for ratings, play in tournaments, and one day perhaps see your chosen pseudonym posted on their Hall of Fame. There are various promotions offered and come-ons for their other sports, so watch your step.
Actual gameplay is controlled with just your mouse. Left-click to aim, right-click to shoot. It's great how intuitive they've made the mechanics and I don't fully understand it. When you hold the mouse's right button it signifies that your aiming is completed and locked in. You then pull the mouse toward you and lightly shove it forward. Unlike many other Pool games, there is no gauge shown beforehand, revealing the impetus that your stroke will impart. That statistic is displayed right after the shot is made. Mainly, you simply perceive from the resulting motions what the strength of your stroke was. It's uncanny really but with ever-so-little practice, the knack of making the shot you intend becomes a breeze.
You'll also have the ability to apply off-center English and/or incline the cue for massé shots. You can move around the table and see things from any angle. You can choose the standard first-person view from behind the cue stick or opt for an overhead view. Better yet, you can elect to keep a semitransparent miniature display of the overhead view on screen while using the primary one. The controls and options are exceptionally well conceived and implemented. There is also a small unobtrusive “Aim Assist” display in the lower right, showing precisely and to full scale just how the cue ball will impact the object ball. This game is just like being there, or maybe better.
Pool Rebel For Windows is a small download and well worth it. It is a commercial product developed originally for mobile devices, such as PocketPCs and Smartphones; yet its developer, Nikos Konstas, has graciously seen fit to contribute a totally free version of the game he adapted for Windows 2000, XP and Vista. Pool Rebel For Windows runs in a resizable window up to about 965 pixels wide, which makes the game table at most 650 pixels wide. An overhead view is the only view afforded. Those are its limitations. But Pool Rebel has so many features and options, it's almost dizzying. It offers five different sports, 8-Ball, 8-Ball under UK rules, 9-Ball, 14.1 Continuous and One Pocket. It affords play between two human adversaries as well as man against machine, with settable skill levels. There are thirteen possible color choices for the table cloth. My personal favorite is Camel. You can play a single game at a time or play a "best of" series, up to 21 games.
One truly remarkable feature of Pool Rebel is the ability to play against an online opponent without deference to any gaming web site. It is strictly peer-to-peer technology! You simply look for and accept a pending challenge among other worldwide users who've put forth one, or make your own choices for the game and its parameters and wait for a taker. And speaking of parameters, Pool Rebel offers selectable aim assistance: None, Minimal, Default or Full. If you select Full, then you can make sensational 3-bank shots nearly every time.
The game's controls are straightforward enough, using the mouse to aim the cue stick and augmenting with up/down arrow keys for even finer control. The user chooses the strength of his shot beforehand from a sliding scale, and may select point-of-impact if desired for applying English, as well as cue incline for massé shots. Then just click the big Shoot button. The Menu is gained at any time by clicking on the three cue balls shown in the lower right corner. From there, an interrupted game can be Saved for later reloading. Moreover, a history of each shot is maintained and you can elect to forsake the current state and instead resume play from some earlier point. Why, I'm not sure. Pool Rebel For Windows is a fabulous feature-packed product, unrestricted and completely free.
Carom 3D is a game that is sure to engross, entertain and amuse. It is associated with an ostensibly safe and sane online gaming site, but the software can be used without an Internet connection at all. You won't even need to register a username or give your email address – just choose Practice mode and you'll be right in the swim with a couple of real fine animated tootsies.
Yes, this delightful game is loaded with ambiance. You get a choice of 5 richly-appointed table venues, one of which is outdoors at the beach. You'll see and occasionally hear the two cartoon ladies reacting excitedly to the shots you and your opponent make. It's hilarious! Lighthearted background music is also provided. The game mechanics are perfectly sound as well. Four different sports are offered, 8-Ball, Card Ball, 3-Ball and 4-Ball, while the program diligently enforces the rules. With such extravagance and scope, the download file is naturally enormous, 61.2 megabytes. Aiming isn't hard because the software shows you with dotted lines – while you are modifying your aim – what the resultant trajectories of both cue ball and object ball will be. Be advised to hold down the Shift key to attain finer control over aiming. To shoot, hold the Ctrl key while shoving the mouse forward. At first, that operation seems a bit intimidating and it will require some practice, but you'll get the hang of it quickly enough and the software will help you master it. There is a time limit imposed for taking each shot.
Try this game out for fun, even if you have to wait overnight for the download. As for the associated online goings-on, this reviewer has not explored them deeply, and leaves it to individual users to pursue that avenue if and when their hearts so move them.
BillardGL is a brilliantly crafted open-sourced freeware game that affords play of either 8-Ball or 9-Ball. The 3D graphics are second-to-none and the physics appear flawless.
Unfortunately, this game as yet has no sound effects at all, and those are sorely missed. The user interface is simple and the controls straightforward. As you assess your next shot, you can view the table layout from any perspective you want, roaming and zooming and peering. Then you proceed to "Aim" mode in which your perspective, naturally, is from behind the cue ball. From there you can again zoom in and out, or see from any varying height, as you move the mouse left and right to adjust your aim. That's all there is to aiming in this game, as the software offers no projection lines or view insets or kibitzing of any kind.
In that regard, the gameplay in BillardGL is most like the real life experience. As yet there are no provisions for applying English or making massé (inclined cue stick) shots. Those may come in a future release (along with sound, I hope). Once your aim is fixed, you shoot by holding the space bar for a time and then releasing it. The longer you hold, the greater will be the impetus of your shot. As your guide, the software displays a gauge off to the side, showing the ever-building force. Once the shot is made, BillardGL will quickly pan out with its virtual camera to show the resulting motions. But in case you still missed something, the software thoughtfully allows you to replay the event from a new perspective. For example, pressing F2 changes to the overhead view, then press R (for replay) to see again what had just taken place.
Of course the software is monitoring the gameplay and overseeing adherence to the rules of the sport, reporting scratches and fouls and awarding ball-in-hand to the opponent when appropriate and of course, declaring the eventual winner.
Play89 is a game that is pure simplicity to operate and so has a very gentle learning curve. It offers the games of 8-Ball, 9-Ball and Snooker. It is linked to a trusted online gaming site where you can supposedly compete for real money or just for fun. Internet connection is required, but you can login simply "as a guest" if you prefer not to divulge anything personal up front. Fortunately, the interface affords you a Training room where you and a friend can compete to your hearts' content. No apparent time limitations are imposed for shots or for overall usage. The game's interface is a bit limited, as only a top-down view of the table is ever shown. The motions of the billiard balls appear to conform properly to physics, but you might notice an ever-so-slight variance upon first break of the triangular cluster in 8-Ball. That is most likely just due to CPU timing lags, and the remaining play is legitimately true to form. The software of course sees to your adherence to the rules of each sport. There is some soft-spoken narration every so often, which you can optionally switch off.
It's the ease of control that makes this game such a joy and yes, you can even apply English; though there is no provision for massé shots. You simply left-click and wield the mouse to aim roughly, then tap the left or right arrow key to refine that aim. As you aim, the software kibitzes by showing with a very short line the deflection that the object ball will experience. So it merely points, but does not reveal the entire path. You depress and hold the right mouse button to lock in your aim and execute your shot, pulling the cue stick back and then releasing the mouse button. The further you pull back, the greater will be the impetus of your blow; the precise amount being shown graphically in a side gauge, so you can assess just when to release.
It's a nifty foolproof operation. The easy controls and uncomplicated single-view layout makes this gaming experience move along at a zesty pace. You can't help but enjoy it.
FooBilliard is an open-source free program that was designed for use under the Linux operating system, but has been ported with some questionable success to Windows. The Linux version continues in active development to this day, but the Windows version was pronounced a finish product in 2007 and then essentially abandoned. (Care to adopt that project, anyone?)
The game boasts some very keen 3D graphics and true-to-life physics. It can faithfully play and enforce rules of 4 different games, 8-Ball, 9-Ball, Snooker and Carambole (a really strange European sport). What's truly unique is that either or both of the two adversaries can be the computer, an 'AI', that is “artificial intelligence”. You can even specify at what skill level your AI opponent is to play. Another choice you can elect is to play against a remote opponent over the Internet or LAN. In fact, you have a plethora of different options to elect if you can just figure out how.
The game is a bit of a geek-like creation and so normally relies on passing parameters via a command line. But wait ...there is an actual Menu and you can invoke it by hitting the Esc key! There you can navigate into a veritable labyrinth of settings. But strangely, once they are all set how you want them, you must quit the game. Yes, sadly, the selected options do not take effect until the next time the program is launched. Alternately, you can try fiddling with the configuration text document named “.foobilliardrc” which resides in the “Application Data” folder within the current user's sub-folder, within the “Documents and Settings” folder on your main hard drive (C:). Or, you could struggle to specify a command line for FooBilliard from the Start Menu “Run” function, or in the “Target” field of the Properties box in a shortcut to the executable. Arghh! No ...just use the provided in-game menu and quit and relaunch the fool thing. And be advised that some of the key settings are under a heading, “Restart Game”. That's weird.
The F1 function key toggles on-screen Help and let me tell you, they made another real blunder there by using some bizarre font that makes B's look like 3's. Everything can be sort of glitch-ridden and cumbersome and confusing but eventually, ultimately, you will have a very fine 3D game of Pool underway, keen and wonderful and awesome. Yes, this one is surely worth a try.
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Pool Rebel For Windows