If you’ve ever seen video poker games at casinos or bars, then you’ve already been tainted because your standards will be too high to enjoy Hard Rock Casino. I’m not sure who the target audience of this game is but I can’t think of anyone addicted enough to gambling who would want to play this game instead of just hopping into a car headed to Reno. I could see Hard Rock Casino as a prize in some cheap slot machine in an actual casino, but I can’t picture anyone who would actually want to buy it.
The problems begin at the character selection screen. I know the PS2 is last-gen and all, but the character models were so ugly blocky they looked like amateur skins someone made for The Sims (the first one). There are only a limited number of body types for women: big hipped, big boobed, both, or fat. There’s also an option to change head types, but I’m a bit confused why changing a head type will change the overall skin tone of my character. The same thing happens when I tried to change leg (skirts/pants) type. I wish there were more choices in the type of outfits my character could wear, since the character selection screen was the best part of the game. The only outfits my character could change into were either slutty, a little slutty, full breasted slutty, or midriff-bearing slutty.
After I created my character I was treated to a story sequence. Instead of springing for a full motion video, the story is shown through a series of slideshows with comic-book like graphics. At least there’s voice acting. Oh no wait, it’s awful, so that’s not really a plus. The least they could have done was replace "Player:" in the text bubbles with the name I gave my character. From what I could gather from the story, the main character goes to the casino, checks in, and must accomplish a checklist of tasks such as, "Play the progressive slots" and, "Bet on a winning horse" in order to advance to the next round. Eventually, other casinos will be unlocked, which the player can go to.
I would think that Hard Rock would want to make the game like a virtual tour of the casino. Well, I guess it is a tour. A tour where you can’t freely walk anywhere and are limited to visiting the same 4 sections of the casino over and over again. There’s a section for betting on sports, a table games section, a poker section, a section with video gambling games, and a whole section where you play slots to win some car. Excited? Me too. What’s even more exciting is that during the whole time in the casino, you get to listen to bad music. Just like when you’re in a real casino! If they skimped on the music, they must be saving their budget for sound effects right? That’s what I thought, but I was disappointed to hear that there was no ball bouncing sound on the roulette wheel.
As for the actual games, I’ve seen better graphics on meat-space video-poker machines at dive bars. The controls vary depending on what you’re playing, which makes things hard to get used to. Placing bets for cards requires you to press one of the four directions of the d-pad which correspond to the amount you’d like to bet. Playing slots require you to move from button to button on the screen until you see a choice that corresponds to what you want to do. This would be easy if you could actually see what it was that you selected, but in many instances, it was hard to see which button I had selected. Card games like blackjack are a little easier to understand, with the d-pad mapped to actions "hit" or "double." I would have enjoyed card games a little more if NPCs would stop the annoying banter every time I made an action. Betting on sports like horse racing was at least laughable. After choosing which horse and what kind of wager I wanted to make, I was treated to a rendered video of a horse race. I’ve seen better looking race tracks in the SNES days. I don’t know what kind of horses they have at Hard Rock, but real horses don’t float around like that.
The only good thing I can say about this game is, at least you’re not throwing your money away at a real casino.
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