Pinball FX3 Review

Pinball FX2 is already a fantastic platform for Zen Studios’ outstanding selection of virtual pinball tables, so why would anyone want to upgrade? With a huge selection of already fantastic looking tables, why would anyone need a sequel? Well, for one, it’s free to download – that’s a good start, but more importantly, those tables that you’ve already purchased, they can all be moved across for free to Pinball FX3, complete with updated visuals, improved lighting and a host of new game modes to boot. So yeah, not bad at all.

Ok, I say ‘all’, but that’s not precisely true. In actuality, you can download nearly all of your previously purchased tables with exception of Plants vs. Zombies, South Park and a few others due to damnable licensing issues. Really though, other than a small handful of disappointing omissions, the vast majority of previously released tables are easily downloaded the moment you install the game. It’s slick, easy and a great way to get Pinball FX2 fans to make the jump.

The improvement in visual fidelity isn’t massive, but the lighting has been notably upgraded with an array of minor aesthetic flourishes proving welcome additions to a sequel that is more about improved content than it is improved visuals. Still, Zen Studios’ tables (both licensed and non-licensed) have always looked great, and now, well, they look even better. They’re not for purists of course, what with the effects on each table going way beyond what would be possible in the real world, but the physics are still top notch, and besides, who doesn’t love all of those brilliantly conceived moment of fan service. Whether it be Marvel, Star Wars or the Walking Dead, Zen Studios have always done a great job of capturing the spirit and tone of the licence upon which each table is based.

The same is very much true of the new Universal Classics tables. Yes, the core tables are plenty of fun, and even the free Sorcerer’s Lair table can keep you busy for hours on end, but I’d argue that the game really comes to life when you download some of the truly outstanding licensed tables. None of the Universal Classics tables are likely to match some of the most technically impressive tables already available, but as something of a casual pinball fan, but a massive Universal fan, it’s one of those collections that keeps me hooked thanks to their exceptional use of the licenses. Whether it be Jaws, E.T. or (my personal favourite), Back to the Future, these new tables really show off the jump in quality for Pinball FX3. Again, it’s hardly a quantum leap in terms of visuals, but these really are some of the best looking tables Zen Studios have ever created with each making fantastic use of audio recordings and visual cues from the movies.

Whether it be Universal Classics or one of the many tables moved across from Pinball FX2 though, the biggest improvements come in the form of the sense of progression now built into the core experience. Rather than simply getting on a table and trying to move your way up the leaderboards (very slowly in my case), you can now unlock additional abilities and perks as you play the game. These perks invariably help to push you towards higher and higher scores, and while purists may baulk at such additions, there is the option to turn all of these off if you want to play the game in the old school format.

There are also a number of mini-challenges that provide specific parameters which, when combined with the ability to create your own distinct tournaments based on custom rule sets, opens up the game for those looking to make the most of its asynchronous multiplayer options. It’s still pinball of course, but these additional options add a great deal of longevity to a game that was previously a tad one dimensional. Sadly, while the game runs smoothly, the new additions are implemented smartly and the tables look better than ever, the front end remains bafflingly ugly. It’s all easy enough to navigate and technically proficient, but it’s painfully boring to look at and remains defiantly opposed to the games’ array of beautifully crafted tables.

Perplexingly ugly front end aside, Pinball FX3 is a brilliant platform for an outstanding selection of tables. With over 65 tables available at launch, there is a ton to choose from for newcomers, and with the vast majority of older tables making the successful move across, leaves little reason for fans of its predecessor not to make the jump to its subtly but undoubtedly superior successor. Pinball FX3 is great to look at and benefits greatly from a much improved sense of progression – it’s still Pinball FX as you know it, but it’s now better than ever, and if the new Universal Classics tables are anything to go by, fans of the series have plenty to look forward to.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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