Published on August 25th, 2015 | by Tony Odett2
Pure Hold ‘Em Review
Summary: A disaster- game breaking bugs, lacking features and weak AI combine force to overthrow fun
I will admit to a slightly higher level of interest in poker than your average gamer. I’ve run a weekly game, been to Vegas and Atlantic City for many a poker trip, and a look at my book library will find a number of books on strategy and game theory. I love cards, and the general dearth of poker games on Xbox One left me wanting. Enter Pure Hold ‘Em, a game that noticed the hole in my heart, and used it as an avenue to punch through to the other side, leaving me a bloodied corpse that still had yet to find a quality hold ‘em game on my newest console.
Yes, Pure Hold ‘Em is bad. Its interface is ugly and difficult to use, it lacks in game modes, the online portions are unplayably broken, and even the achievements are bugged. This is the rare effort where I struggle to find a positive feature to hang at least one compliment on- there’s really nothing here to make this a game worth trying out.
If you’ve never played texas hold’em before, Pure Hold ‘Em does have a nice, roughly ten minute tutorial that will guide you through the basics of how the game works and how to bet. Once you leave the tutorial, you have 2,000 credits which you can use as a buy-in for tables and tournaments. I immediately bought in to a 100 credit tournament. About 20 minutes later, the tournament crashed as the first player was eliminated, and I lost my 100 credits. So I bought into a second tournament, and the same thing happened. It was at this point that I stopped playing tournaments for fear of losing all my credits. If you do lose all your credits, you can earn them back at free tables, but it was still an annoying process.
The gameplay is standard Texas hold’em, except more boring. There is nothing to look at, as the only motions you’ll see are chips counting out, and cards moving around. There are no people- everyone is represented by a card. There’s a soundtrack, but it is fairly horrible. I couldn’t turn the music off, either; I could only change the selection of tracks. None of that compares to the selection of cards. Some of the decks are completely unreadable- not knowing what suit your cards are is a bit of a disadvantage. And there’s no changing the cards to the deck of your preference- you’re stuck with whatever random choice you get when you sit down at the table.
The AI performance was very sad. As the online feature were broken (and at times unavailable), I got a great deal of experience beating up the AI. It seemed to play very poorly, overvaluing weak hands and calling all ins with very weak hands for large numbers of chips. I didn’t notice it bluffing very much, either, meaning it had very little chance of ever taking me off guard. Then again, I laid down a pair of 3’s on a board with 5 higher cards on it, and got an achievement for “Laying down a strong hand.” I hate to break it to the developers, but an under pair to the board is not what anyone who knows anything thing about poker would call a strong hand. And, oh, the achievements. They seemed to pop randomly, for things I had never done. Conversely, I did a few things that I should have gotten achievements for, and got nothing.
This game is broken. It doesn’t live up to its promise on any level. The AI is bad, which is sad, because, since the online is broken, playing against other humans isn’t really possible. Perhaps, if the game had been held back until the online was finished and stable, and card/table customization options were available, this game would have some promise. In its current form, however, this hand is one you must simply fold. Perhaps the next one will be better.
Pure Hold ‘Em was reviewed on Xbox One using a copy of the game purchased by the reviewer.