Every game in the Virtual Pool series has come with a money-back guarantee - you get the purchase price refunded if your real-life billiards skills don't improve after you put the game through its paces. We don't know how many people have asked for their cash back in the past, but one thing's for sure: Interplay's investment in the Virtual Pool series has never been safer than with this latest installment. If your real-life play doesn't show any advances after you spend some time with this outstanding pool simulation, you're left with only two possibilities - you're so good that there's no way you can get better, or you don't have any arms.
Thanks to last year's Virtual Pool Hall - a game that offered very few enhancements over its predecessor, Virtual Pool 2 - there are sure to be some Virtual Pool veterans who'll be wary about picking up Virtual Pool 3. But this time around, Interplay and developer Celeris have really improved the game in several key categories - the most important of which are the vastly improved multiplayer support, as well as a career mode that'll help you get ready to tackle the sharks waiting for you online.
You couldn't ask for a sport more suited for online play than billiards; low ping times aren't a prerequisite for satisfying play, and pool is by itself a social sport. But for some reason, previous Virtual Pool games haven't made online play a high priority. For instance, in the case of Virtual Pool 2, Interplay suggested that owners use the third-party program Kali to find opponents. That's changed with Virtual Pool 3, because Interplay has bundled GameSpy Arcade with the game, and finding a game couldn't be much simpler.
Some players might regret the game's lack of support for direct TCP/IP connections, but the bottom line is that GameSpy Arcade works just fine - save for the fact you can't tell how far into a match two players are unless you join the room and wait as Virtual Pool 3 loads. The game has a couple of other shortcomings in the multiplayer mode, to be sure. The documentation is very thin (the manual refers you to three different sources of info for specifics of online play, all of which are woefully inadequate), and conniving players can inflate their ratings by starting a game and refusing to break. If you choose "quit game," you'll see their ratings go up and yours go down. But with online tournaments already being scheduled and plenty of casual games to join, it's easy to overlook these issues.
The star of the game is famous pool player Jeanette Lee, known as the "Black Widow." Lee has probably done more to grow interest in pool than any other player over the last decade, and the instructional videos in which she's featured give Virtual Pool 3 a much more personal feel than you'd get from a more straightforward pool tutorial. Longtime pool players probably won't pick up a lot from those videos, but beginners are sure to find them useful. In addition, if you order the game directly from the publisher, you'll get a free copy of The Black Widow's Guide To Killer Pool, a sizable paperback book that covers everything from pool fundamentals to match preparation, pool etiquette, and tips on how to develop a winning attitude.