Pinball FX3

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Simulation
Developer: Zen Studios
Release Date: Sept. 26, 2017


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Xbox One Review - 'Pinball FX3' - Williams Pinball Volume 1

by Cody Medellin on Feb. 18, 2019 @ 2:00 a.m. PST

Designed to bring the community together like never before, Pinball FX3 is built around multiplayer match-ups and competitive tournament play.

For years, Zen Studios has used its Pinball FX series as a platform for how to create video game pinball tables. Starting with some original creations that tried to mimic real pinball tables, it then branched out to developing original tables based on licensed properties, giving it the opportunity to go wild by doing fantastic things that aren't possible on a real table while also trying to come close to real table physics. The strategy has worked well, but the misfortunes of The Pinball Arcade's licensing have given the team at Zen the opportunity to do something different: re-create real pinball tables based on the works of Williams. With that challenge, the team starts off with Williams Pinball Volume 1.

Not counting the free table given to everyone, Fish Tales, the pack comes with three well-known tables: The Getaway: High Speed II, Junk Yard, and Medieval Madness. As expected, the tables have been meticulously created to mimic the originals, with cleaned-up artwork all around and cleaner sounds for every flipper hit, bumper bounce, and voice sample. These tables are pretty much exactly as you'd remember them.

With that said, you need to be aware that the tables are the family-friendly versions, so some of the more risqué images in the cabinet art have been altered, and any references to alcohol, mild swearing, smoking, and mild bouts of violence have either been toned down or removed entirely. According to Zen, the reason behind this is to keep the game within its E10 rating, but that doesn't seem to hold much water. There are tables like The Walking Dead and Predator that wouldn't fly with those seeking a more family-friendly rating due to the subject matter. Also, these same three tables were featured intact in The Pinball Arcade, which also had an E10 rating.

Although the pack features only three tables, there are multiple ways to play each one. For starters, the tournament rules are included in this pack, although it's something you'd to pay extra for in The Pinball Arcade. Classic mode lets you play the tables the way they were meant to be, with the original lights and plastic pieces adorning the table and animating the same way they would in real life. The Standard mode adds in Zen's flair for the unrealistic by having more moving pieces on the board, floating points to denote how much each hit scored, and ball trails and color changes. There's also the option to give yourself extra ball save time and other point boosts, so your score can be artificially inflated in the process.

Those are all well and good, but if you're coming off The Pinball Arcade, the physics here will throw you off. That mostly boils down to the ball itself, which seems to weigh more, creating situations where you can't push it as far as expected. This is actually pretty good if you're trying to hit targets mostly in the middle of the table, and while the weight doesn't affect the ball's travels up the board, it means that you'll often see the ball fail to clear a ramp. As a result, if you're used to gaining lots of high scores on The Pinball Arcade, you'll have to temper your expectations here.

The Getaway: High Speed II stands as the oldest table of the trio. Like a good number of Williams tables, the setup has a wide and almost empty bottom portion, while the top half is crowded. There are a few ramps on the sides, and the top half contains a nice loop-and-bumper set that's easier to reach thanks to the third flipper on the upper right side of the table. The main highlight is the upper floor of the table, where an electromagnetic accelerator speeds up the ball to tremendous levels before spitting it back into the playfield, giving you a very fast ball that's absolutely satisfying to hit. Another highlight is that the plunger is replaced with a shifter knob, which means less finesse when launching the ball. It also means that the game asks you to engage in that shifter knob occasionally, mimicking the act of changing gears to go faster and get more points in the process.

The signature piece of the table may be the big electromagnetic accelerator, but for this pack, the real sticking point is how you can score hundreds of millions of points without really trying. It seems as if almost every target is worth at least a million points. Skillshots are around five million points, and loops net you a similar amount. The bonuses at the end of a ball round are pretty high, and when you consider that bonus multipliers are easy to obtain, you end up with astronomically high scores that are actually fairly low for the table. If your pinball prowess needs a good ego boost, this table fits the bill nicely.

If you're looking for the extras that Zen likes to add to its tables, you'll find that this is more restrained than most. The ball turns red upon launching, and it gradually cools down so it returns to a standard silver sheen. Throwing the ball to the collider heats it back up again and starts a small fire trail. Aside from the cop who points a radar gun at your launcher, there's not much else to it compared to the original incarnation.

Junk Yard is the second table in the pack, and it comes with the premise of escaping a junkyard prison by creating a time machine out of odd spare parts. Much like the previous table, this one is a bit top-heavy, with the middle featuring nothing but side bumpers, and all of the ramps are located in the table's upper half. The upper middle is where some of the more interesting table bits are located; a pinball hanging by a chain acts as a wrecking ball, in keeping with the table's theme. It raises and lowers according to the state of the table, but hitting it means that it'll wildly swing at targets in its vicinity to score you more points. Also of interest is the fact that you can trigger a minigame played on the LCD scoreboard, where you need to protect a woman being chased by the guard dog by throwing toast at said animal. It's weird, but it works as a nice reprieve from the standard action.

For the most part, the table is fun but fairly average. The wrecking ball is a nice touch, but it so rarely hits targets that you'll be pleasantly surprised when it occurs. The minigames are a nice touch, as is the collection of tons of items, but compared to the other tables in the pack, there isn't too much that can be considered memorable about it. If you thought that the flourishes in The Getaway were mild, this table tempers them even further. In fact, the only thing you'll see different from the original table is that hitting the toilet ramp produces visible splashes.

Medieval Madness is the youngest table in the pack, but it can be argued that it's also the pack's highlight, as evidenced by the fact that it was a prominent table in last generation's Pinball Hall of Fame, and it's also one of the early tables available for The Pinball Arcade. The playfield in the middle is empty until you activate a troll bonus mode, where two heads pop up that can be hit for bonus points. There are various ramps and pathways that lead around the upper half of the table, while the dragon ramp on the right hides a bevy of bumpers underneath that give you tons of points without much effort. The center castle is the big target, as you'll hit it multiple times to defeat the bosses. There are tons of opportunities to score multiball, so it's very common to get between 3-5 balls at play at any one time.

What stands out to people the most about the table is how it leans in on the sometimes-absurdist humor. As an example, the catapult ammo can include a giant skull and a cat. Villagers riot about the evil lord stealing their chickens, wives, and pinball machine. The various damsels you rescue fit various stereotypes, as do the bosses you defeat, but they're more humorous than harmful, and the jousting announcer borrows some phrases from NBA Jam. The silliness is infectious, and when combined with the solid table design, there's more than enough here to keep you replaying countless times.

As for special flourishes, this table has the most out of the pack. Hit the castle, and dust and debris fly into the air. Completely destroy the castle, and explosions accompany the turrets and flashing lights, while a dragon roars and spews fire. Hit a troll, and stars float around their heads, while a multiball session sets the balls on fire. The only part that can become annoying is that the dragon perched above the table flies around during the start of the multiball session, and that sometimes blocks your view of the flippers.

If you're a pinball fan who has never played these tables before, then Pinball FX3: Williams Pinball Volume 1 provides a good means to rectify that. These are all very good tables with some fun gimmicks and strong design. While the extra flourishes are nice, only a few add more value to the tables. If you were lucky enough to own the games via The Pinball Arcade, there's less of a need to own the tables here since the physics somehow making the ball heavier and tougher to push up some ramps. They remain a good buy in that case, but only if you want to ensure that Zen continues down this path and brings about more tables.

Score: 8.0/10

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