Review: Pinball FX3 – The Must Have Digital Pinball Platform

Pinball wizards rejoice as Zen Studios have unleashed new and upgraded balls of steel with their latest pinball platform, aptly named Pinball FX3. This new platform has had a much welcomed redesign along with a host of new features. These will change the way you play these pinball masterpieces. This new pinball platform is also accompanied with three new tables that make up the Universal Classics Pinball pack, bringing the table count for Pinball FX3 to a whopping sixty-eight tables. Here we bring you our review of Zen Studios Pinball FX3 platform, for our Universal Classics Pinball DLC head over here.

It is amazing to think that Pinball FX2 was initially released way back in 2010 and has been going strong for seven years. I have always been a fan of Pinball both real world tables as well Zen Studios digital tables. I have accumulated all tables available for this platform which stands at over seventy tables. Seven years is a long time in gaming and on that note Zen Studios have decided to overhaul the pinball FX platform and boy have they outdone themselves. With a stylish new U.I along with game changing new features and modes this has set a new benchmark for digital pinball. The U.I is a breeze to navigate with all the need to know news and tabs all in one screen. Zen Studios has also integrated a levelling up system for you with you gaining XP for just playing the game, doing certain objectives as well as taking part in tournaments etc. As you level up you will unlock banners as well as other in-game rewards.

Solo play has also seen a much needed update bringing six new modes which not only challenge you but will change your approach to playing pinball. When you jump into single player you will see a challenge mode which presents you with three challenges. The one-ball challenge requires you to meet scoring milestones with just one-ball. The five-minute challenge task you to get as high a score as possible within five minutes. Survival Challenge has to be a favourite for me as you need to hit score milestones within thirty seconds to keep playing. These modes are super fun and also have online leaderboards. There is a total of fifteen stars to be obtained on each of these three modes.

You will also see a Table Mastery tab which you fill up with Table Mastery points. You earn points by completing objectives. So for example nailing a skillshot will earn the player a star for that table. What I like about this is that you will be learning and improving you pinball skills by taking on these objectives. Maxing out your tables mastery requires you earning all the stars in challenge mode as well as levelling up upgrades and earning the given table’s achievement. You can no use table upgrades, which will allow you to boost your table scores. These upgrades come in the form of wizard powers and passive upgrades. Activating these upgrades will allow you to receive a benefit during gameplay, such as a score bonus for a period of time, or go to slow motion and slow the game down for a period of time.

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The Wizard Powers will require you to reach a certain number of stars in challenge mode for the given table and require user interaction to trigger. The three wizard powers are Slow Motion, Score Boost and Rewind. The duration of an active Wizard Power also depends on the time the player keeps the button pressed down The Passive Upgrades automatically affect the game and can be levelled up to maximum level ten. There are six in total which include things like Bumper Score Bonus, Multi-ball Score Bonus to Ball Save Time Bonus. Pinball purists do not have to worry as you don’t have to use the new wizard powers and upgrades as you still have the option of classic single player mode. Although I have to admit I am loving the way the upgrades have been implemented and it will bring new challenges to getting the top spot on leaderboards.

In Pinball FX2 when it was released for the Xbox One it lacked any real multiplayer options for pinball fans. We lost the real time multiplayer that we seen on the Xbox 360, but Pinball FX3 brings us some of the best multiplayer experiences to grace digital pinball. The two new multiplayer options that players can get stuck in to is Tournament and Multiplayer-Matchups. We now have the ability to create their own custom tournaments, using all the different and new ways presented in Pinball FX3. You can even restrict the use of upgrades to specific ones or you can even just do things old skool. You can also set the length of the tournament form anywhere between one day to thirty days. What’s more is that Zen Studios will be hosting their own official tournaments with real world prizes.

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Multiplayer-Matchups is for those that are fond of pinball leagues, as that is the type of structure this mode takes, just think Rocket League or Micro Machines World Series. Here you are presented with four randomly selected tables to play as well as the choice of three opponents based on your skill level. Every week you have an opportunity to show off and move up the leagues. Being among the top players each week will allow you to advance to the next level. Tables have a time limit and achieving the first score milestone will give you unlimited balls saves, with a second bonus at the next score milestone. After the game you are awarded league points which you need to be among the top twenty percent to progress to the next league.

When it comes to the graphics in Pinball FX3 I am more than impressed with what Zen Studios has accomplished. I will go all out and say Zen Studios have achieved visual mastery. The amount of table detail has increased as well as the awesome new lighting effects and shadows, all giving the tables so much more depth. The balls of steel has now got real-time reflection which if you have good eyes you will notice as the ball travels the table. It’s not just the new tables that benefit from the new looks, all the tables that you can import from Pinball FX2 benefit as well. For those new pinball players jumping on the Pinball FX bandwagon for first time, the sorceress layer table which is free showcases the overhaul of the graphics superbly. From the detail of the on table models to the augmented pop-ups like whisper you really won’t believe you are getting this for free.

The Good Things

  • Pinball FX3 sets the new bench mark for a digital pinball platform.
  • New multiplayer modes are great and the ability to create tournaments is very welcomed.
  • New modes are a game changer and brings you new challenges.
  • The updated graphics and physics give tables much more depth and immersion.

And The Bad

  • No real-time multiplayer that was in Pinball FX2 on the Xbox 360, but Tournaments and Multiplayer-Match-up compensates for this.

My Verdict…

    Pinball FX3 is certainly the best digital pinball platform to date and Zen Studios has really outdone themselves. From presentation to more advanced graphics pinball has never looked better in digital form. Tournaments, custom tournaments and Multiplayer-Matchup brings a new level of multiplayer to the pinball mix. I am really digging the new table upgrades and wizard powers bring a new way to play, but purists fear not as you can still play old skool style. You can import almost all tables from Pinball FX2 which take advantage of the upgraded graphics. Moving on to Pinball FX3 really is the way to go, I cant recommend this enough. The six tables that wont make the import are South Park Pinball 2-table pack, Street Fighter Pinball, Plants vs. Zombies Pinball, Ninja Gaiden Pinball and Ms. Splosion Man Pinball.

Zen Studios continue to do what they do best.

About no1phil

PR Manager & Editor for XLC Gaming Network. I have been gaming since the ZX Spectrum days growing up through many generations of consoles. A bit of a jack of all trades when it comes to gaming genres. When I'm not either being shot at, dancing, scoring for the other team or racing I am trying to become a guitar God with Rocksmith 2014.