Updated, But Pricey

HIGH Large number of tables available right away.

LOW Another game adopting a season pass model.

WTF Stupid, sexy, 3D Bride of Pinbot animation.

Editor’s note: Below is the review for the latest installment of Pinball FX. The game (plus over 80 tables) could take up multiple reviews. As such, we have written a separate write-up for the new tables, which will be posted later this week.

Pinball FX is the fourth installment in the popular Zen Studios series. This next-gen installment has been rebuilt from the ground up in the Unreal Engine. As such, Zen has foregone the numerical sequel naming and reissued the name of the original release from 15 years ago.

Much like previous installments, the base game is a free download and comes with one table — Wild West Rampage. Players are able to access all the features and modes for this individual table. While a decent play, most pinball fans will soon want more variety. Thankfully, the console edition launches with over 80 tables to choose from – 3 brand-new, 16 tables previously only available during the Pinball FX Early Access soft launch, and 67 returning tables from previous installments.

Players who have bought these tables in previous versions of Pinball FX will find that for the first time, tables purchased will no longer unlock for free here. Yes, with all of the tables being remade in the Unreal Engine, players will now have to repurchase favorites. While slightly frustrating for longtime fans who have amassed a large collection of digital tables, it’s understandable with a new engine and the associated work that went into re-creating the assets.

This time around, Pinball FX has also adopted a subscription service model. Players can buy monthly ($14.99) or yearly ($99.99) subscriptions that allow them to access almost all of the available tables, as well as gain access to future releases while subscribed. Notable exceptions are Indiana Jones and the Marvel Pinball Collection — these must still be purchased separately.

Players opting to purchase any individual tables can still do so. Many are sold individually ($6-$15 for a single table) and many are part of larger collections. The collections are definitely the better deal, examples being Marvel Pinball (11 tables) and Williams Pinball Collection (9 tables — both $23.99). But regardless of how ones chooses to buy tables, it adds up quickly.

Machine selection still spans a wide variety of options, from completely original tables to recreations of famous (and not so famous) physical tables. Original tables use the basics of pinball, but also include characters and obstacles on the playfield that could not be possible in reality – such as warping pinballs, waterfalls, and enemies that literally grab the silver ball from the playfield.

Those based on real tables are accurate down to each ramp and bumper, with additional side artwork and 3D models that add animation to gameplay events. These can be a huge distraction, making it difficult at times to see the table (The Addams Family) though some are more subtle and don’t get in the way of the field (Bride of Pinbot). Thankfully, these effects can be toggled on or off at any time.

All of the 80-plus tables have multiple modes to choose from including Classic (three balls, get the highest score possible) and Pro (no extra ball, wider lanes, steeper difficulty). Some favorites making a return include One Ball (highest score with a single ball) and Time Mode (5 minutes to score as many points as possible). There are a couple new modes as well, like scoring as many points as possible with a limited distance the ball can travel. My favorite fresh addition has to be the Flips challenge – players try to amass huge scores with a limited amount of flipper flips (usually 200 presses). All of these provide plenty of variety and challenge.

For players craving something even fresher, there’s an Events mode. The Events are run by Zen Studios, with a handful of tables rotated in and out every few days. Players compete with others around the world trying to top the leaderboards. Many events use challenge modes (One Ball, Time, Flips), but there are also Grand Tournaments that follow the standard three ball/high score rules. Players can only participate if they have the right table(s) downloaded, but Events is a welcome addition. This mode kept me playing on a wider variety of tables, especially those I found to be good (but not great.)

An addition that might need some tweaking is the game room collection. Each table has five collectibles earned by reaching new score milestones. The scores vary for each table, but can be accumulated across any of the various modes for that individual machine. Digital trophies can then be displayed on the virtual game room shelves. It’s slightly limited, as collectibles can only be displayed on shelves next to other trophies from the same pinball collection. I earned a few and haven’t used the feature since.

Overall, Pinball FX has come out of the gate with a strong launch. There are dozens of great tables including all-time favorites as well as plenty of new ones, and new modes and events provide even more variety for players. However, the pricing options may frustrate players on a budget, or longtime fans who’ve already bought many of the tables in previous versions. If there were some way to honor those purchases and that player commitment, Pinball FX would go from good to great.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by and published by Zen Studios. It is currently available on XBO/X/S, PS4/5, and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the XBS. Approximately 16 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, playing all the available single-player modes across a wide variety of tables. Zero hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Blood, Violence, and In-Game Purchases. No official description is available. While I can’t claim to have seen all the in-game events and actions, a few that I did witness were gunning down zombies, lightsaber fights, and explosions. However, most were relatively light on the blood and barely noticeable. There are plenty of kid-friendly tables, but parents should probably test out the ones about war and zombies before letting younger players enjoy.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game does not offer subtitles. Many tables have voice announcements like, “hit the left ramp,” or something similar, and these are accompanied by flashing lights on the table. Menu text size cannot be altered and/or resized.

Remappable Controls: Certain functions are remappable. The flipper buttons are designated to any of the four trigger buttons. Any of the face button controls can be swapped between one another and the stick actions can also be switched.

Brian Theisen
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