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PS2 Review - 'Chessmaster'

by Hank on July 11, 2003 @ 12:44 a.m. PDT

Chessmaster brings a grandmaster-strength engine, the strongest ever in a console product, to the PS2. With opponents of every skill level from beginner to grandmaster, anyone can find a challenge that matches their abilities, or inspiration to become a master. Chessmaster for PS2 also has a library of tools to elevate your game, including the complete tutorial content from Josh Waitzkin and renowned chess coach Bruce Pandolfini as found in the Chessmaster 9000 PC product.

Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: UbiSoft
Developer: UbiSoft
Release Date: May 28, 2003

Buy 'CHESSMASTER': Game Boy Advance | PC | PlayStation 2

You are on a battlefield where your objective is to dethrone the king. Using all of your powers, you must strategically plan and place your fellow comrades to trap and eliminate the opposing threat. This is the game of chess, and nothing can imitate chess like the Chessmaster series, and Ubisoft finally brings it to the PS2 console.

Once you pop this in, you will see such an impressive opening sequence as the chess pieces march by, looking like they are ready for battle. Adding to the ambience is the military-themed background music playing during this time. After the opening is finished, you then start the game with the player list.

The first task in store for you is to create your character or load a saved character. This is where you enter your name using the tedious controller. The reason I say this is because there is no fast scroll option to help you scroll through the letters. So if you're unlucky enough to have a Z in your name, it will take you forever to get to that letter. After you have finished inputting your name and age, you are then asked if you are a club level player with an official rating. If you are, it asks you to enter your official rating, and if not you will be given three options: I am new to chess, played chess before and want to regain form, and play regularly but do not have an official rating. After you have set up your account, you are ready for battle.

There are 10 different modes of play: quick game, setup position, rated game, puzzle of the day, online, championships, pandolfini chess school, famous games, player stats, and chess battlefield. In quick game, the game automatically sets you up with a random computer opponent to play. In setup position, you can practice against other opponents in certain situations, which is akin to replaying a famous game and seeing if there were any possibility to change the outcome. The heart of the single player game lies within the rated games. If you have ever played Yahoo! chess or any type of Yahoo! game, it is almost identical. You gain points based on winning or drawing, and points are deducted when you lose. The more wins you garner, the more points you will receive, thereby giving you a higher rating. The higher you are rated, the more players will want to play against you, since you will prove to be more of a challenge and more gloating rights if the lower-rated person wins. The other part of the single player game is the championship battle, where you play in tournaments. I will go into more depth about the different tournaments in a bit. The one mode that makes this game stand out is the fact that you can play online. So go and test your skills against the real world. The last few modes are meant for the player’s entertainment, and I will also get to those in a bit.

There are five different tournament classes available for championship mode. These classes would be apprentices, which covers the levels of 0-1200 and has five available tournaments and five hidden ones. The next level would be initiation for players 1000-1800 with the same amount of available and hidden. For players of level 1600-2200, you can play in the adept class with five tournaments and five hidden. Finally, for the godly players, we have the master’s class, where you play against fellow opponents with levels of 2200 or higher. The last tournament available would be the style tournament, which is for all ratings and has seven available and 14 hidden. Within each one of these modes, there are different styles of play going on, from the easiest of that level to the higher level players. For you chess fans, this just means a lot of games you can play, giving the player a lot of replay value. If this isn’t enough for you grab your USB network adapter or Sony network adapter and pop online versus other players, I don't know what will.

However, if this is your first time playing chess, or you would like to study up on famous chess battles, you can go to the other modes of play, like puzzle of the day, pandolfini chess school, and famous games. In the puzzle of the day mode, the AI has it so that there is only one move to get out of checkmate and other intense situations. You must figure this out, improving your skills. It’s sometimes hard to notice because of the distance away from the board. If you really want difficult puzzles, go into pandolfini’s chess school, which contains some crazy quizzes or drills that will help improve your game tenfold. The hardest drill I had to do was probably the mate with king and pawn, which took my friend and I over an hour to figure it out. Within the chess school, there are tutorials, drills as mentioned before, Larry Evans’ endgame quiz, and a rating exam. If you don’t want to be playing or improving your knowledge of chess, you can always go into famous games mode, which allows the player to go through any of the famous games from 1619 to the present, with a total of 825 matches. Even the famous Deep Blue and Deep Thought matches are available to see. While in chess school or famous games, the chess board gets changed from 3D to 2D. In 2D, however, it's a lot easier to manage and observe what’s going on, definitely a plus.

The last mode available would be the chess battlefield, which is where you have knight pieces and battle it out. The pieces are difficult to distinguish, but if you know the positioning for the pieces, you can pick this up easily. When the opposing enemy takes a piece, it shows a short cut-scene with the piece killing off its enemy. It’s nice to see, but I prefer the standard chess pieces since it’s easier for me to know what piece is what.

The graphics in the game are fairly nice, and the chess sets are detailed enough to be eye-pleasing. If you do not like the chess set, there are a few sets you may select, from the classic type sets all the way to a Halloween one. You also can change the camera angles going all around the board, which helps to distinguish the chess pieces. The only item it lacks is a zoom in function. With all of the camera angles, an extra zoom function would have made this game almost perfect.

The sound in the game is simple and very fitting, mainly consisting of classical background music, which is one of the first things that comes to mind when one thinks of chess. Also, the voice describing the moves makes the game feel very realistic.

Overall, the game was great, with its only the flaw being the lack of a zooming feature. For all of you chess fans out there, I would say that it's worth picking up. With a retail price of $19.99 and sponsorship from the Official U.S. Chess Championships, you can’t go wrong. Whether you’re playing a single player game, two players, or even online, this game has great replay value


Score : 9/10

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