This review is going to be the same for Pinball FX2 and Pinball Arcade. Why? Because they are the only folks doing decent work in the digital pinball industry right now (Pro-Pinball doesn't count, yet... but even on release it's not a suite, it's just a couple tables). They both have a similar demo system, give one free table, have around 40-50 tables for purchase at the timing of this review, and are complimentary rather than competitive. BOTH are amazing, but have some differences.
Differences in Pinball FX2 vs Pinball Arcade
- The snippet of history relating to every table is awesome. Learning the historical significance, designer history, units sold, etc. is one of my favorite features. It can make "bad" tables amazing when you understand their place in history. Also, playing tables you played in real-life in the past is an incredible blast from the past!
- Performance/lighting is lacking a bit, but there are plans for a DirectX 11 version (which is already on other platforms apparently) that will likely solve both. Performance is my only concern for the future, since right now I far exceed the required specs yet have game-breaking FPS issues in certain circumstances (even though I use no ball reflection or AA).
- The table selection is phenomenal! Some really, really amazingly popular tables are available, as well as some ultra-rare ones that aren't exactly the most complex but are a blast to play when taking into account their historical and idea-based significance. You play time-travel to core parts of gaming history when you play every table.
- The leaderboard system is, unfortunately, awful. It requires a 3rd party account, is only shown when you manually dig through various menus, and just isn't satisfying. The only fixes necessary are UI-related, so I have hopes they'll revisit it at some point.
- "impossible" mechanics since it embraces modern technology and video game-ness. Definitely "pinball 2.0" in that regards, without betraying the core of what pinball is about.
- Fantastic performance and graphics.
- Table selection is pretty great, though I'm personally getting sick of all the Star Wars and Marvel stuff. My favorite tables are the non-themed ones, and I really wish they'd come out with more that aren't references to pop culture. Granted, the themed tables are great, but sometimes I want ones that aren't.
- The leaderboard system is good, but a tad flawed in that a fair amount of it requires friends that play... buuuut this has become a beneficial "feature" for me. Lots of people I've friended to enhance my FX2 experience have become actual friends and are great to chat with. The hardcore pinball community is made up of some really amazing people!
Regarding those that complain about the price of tables:
1) A single pinball table will easily give you hundreds if not thousands (and potentially infinite) hours of play. Every single table out there, even the more simplistic ones, are deceptively complex. Pinball is the ultimate in skill/reflex-based, learn-as-you-go gameplay and even the most skilled players in the world have to learn a table's unique nuances before they can master it.
2) Consider the 90s and the average cost of pinball per play. My memory has most at $0.50, but even at half the cost you're looking at only a few plays per table before the cost of the real-life versions are way more expensive than digital versions... and with pinball, it's pretty much a guarantee you're going to play it dozens (if not hundreds/thousands) of times per session.
3) Because of the mechanical nature of pinball, real-life tables require a *lot* of maintenance. Parts are finite (and rare these days), technicians are human and can thus screw something up (not to mention potential defects in parts), repairs require work orders and time to get a tech out to the site and more time to complete repairs, etc. Digital tables, while not perfect renditions of real world physics/visuals (yet), don't ever require new parts. You pay *once* for infinite plays... no per-play or no per-hour/day cost... just a one time fee that is less than a Starbucks drink.
4) Designing a table that is complex, deep, satisfying, addicting, rewarding, and skill-based takes a lot of time and effort on behalf of the designer. While digital table design has a lot of benefits in that regard (since it is much simpler to experiment and track data), it's still not even remotely as cut-and-paste as the average (and ignorant) gamer thinks. Don't believe me? Design one yourself with the plethora of tools out there that is even remotely as good as existing tables. Is your table complex enough to satisfy skilled players? Does a long run end up flatlining at some point? Is it easily exploitable/breakable? Is it addicting and satisfying the further a player progresses and when they combo properly? Is the art appealing and distracting-yet-somehow-complimentary? Do you have a huge variety of missions and unique 'toys' on the table/dotmatrix? That's to say nothing about sound effects, animation, art quality, etc. My point: it's no easy task to make a good pinball table... to assume that because it's pinball it's just a reskinned version of something else is showing your ignorance of the genre. You may as well say that Tetris is the same as Mario.
My point with this? $3 per table is an insane bargain. You can easily drop $100 on a single table in a single day with real-life tables. Quit being so greedy and cheap (and ignorant to the fact that EVERY table is its own game). Support the devs, learn what pinball is about, and quit being entitled jackasses that are ruining every industry out there with your cheapness *cough*. Don't like the price? Don't buy it... but don't complain. Live within your means and don't demand others sacrifice just so you can magpie games/etc. There's a life lesson there... figure it out yourself.