That’s a Birdie!
The Hot Shots Golf series has always been about ease of gameplay, wacky characters, and surprisingly good courses. It’s a great game for youngsters and adults that are looking for a golf title that is easily accessible, yet still full of interesting and challenging content. Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds for the PlayStation 3 doesn’t disappoint. In fact, the sharp presentation, unlockable goodies, and fantastic online component has turned the franchise from good to great in one fell swoop!
Gameplay pairs a solid single-player career that’s full of unlockables with an outstanding online multiplayer that allows players to play in small groups or in massive 50-player tournaments. The unlockable content in the single-player mode includes not only equipment, characters, and outfits, but also allows you to open up shot shaping and spin control. As a result, the first two hours of play may seem overly simplistic to serious video game golfers, but as you advance your way through the title the unlockables truly feel rewarding.
The online play is so good and so accessible it’s almost scary. There are eight well-designed lobbies you can enter and with which you can interact. You’ll create an avatar (which can be upgraded with unlockable lobby outfits) and chat with friends, slide down railings, play with animals, hop on some sushi, join tournaments, and enter game rooms. The lobbies are very attractive and generally a nice place to hook up with other golfers. Once inside of a game, you’ll be happy to know that there is no turn waiting. All the members of your group will play simultaneously. It doesn’t get confusing though because all of the other golfers are transparent or completely blocked from view. This feature keeps pacing lightning fast and fun for everyone. If you up the ante a bit and join one of the tournaments that start every fifteen minutes, you’ll be in for a real treat. Tournament support can accommodate up to 50 players and should be a good test for all.
Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds is very true to its heritage, but there is a new swing mechanic for you to enjoy. The Advanced Shot system does away with the traditional power meter in favor of a more fluid method based on the timing of your swing. The new scheme is very similar to the standard meter; however it is a bit more challenging to hit brilliant shots. That’s because instead of being able to exactly quantify the amount of power in your swing, you’ll have to judge shot distance based on the fullness of your backswing. Judging distance is a nice challenge for players, especially considering the fact that you’ll constantly upgrade your golfers’ skills and equipment. After selecting distance at the top of your swing, you’ll have to time the impact by depressing the X, Triangle, or Circle button at the bottom of your downswing for a normal impact, a power boost or a decrease in power respectively. If you fear change, the developers at Clap Hanz have left the classic meter for players to use. However, you’ll quickly get the hang of the Advanced Shot and eventually the traditional system will feel kind of like cheating.
As previously mentioned, you will eventually open up shot shaping and ball spin abilities. Spinning the ball is very easy to execute, as it is mapped to the D-Pad. At the point of impact you will press up, down, left or right depending on whether you want to put topspin, backspin or sidespin on the ball. The amount and quality of spin effect put on the ball will depend upon character ability, equipment, and ball type. Overall, controls are not nearly as complex or precise as they are in EA’s Tiger Woods series, but the simplicity actually goes a long way toward appealing to a larger demographic of gamers.
Improving character abilities is also very easy and quite rewarding. The more you use a specific character, the more points go toward that player’s Loyalty Meter. The heart-shaped container will fill until you reach the next level. Upon reaching the next level, you will be awarded with new skills and abilities. This straight-forward mechanic does away with tedious statistic tweaking, but still allows for a greater amount of depth via character development.
The visuals and sounds are really nice and soothing. The crisp look of the kooky characters will urge you on to open them all up, and the highly-detailed, varied environments of the courses will suck you right in. Accompanying you through your pretty walk around the links are course-specific music themes that don’t get old. The music establishes a peaceful setting that is very appropriate for the game. In addition to the great music, the character comments are very nice, though they do become repetitive.
There is a lot of content to be found throughout this game. The courses are laid out really well and provide a very good challenge, especially later on. However, there are only a total of six courses and they can become a bit tiresome. Hopefully this will be augmented with the promised downloadable content in the future, but there really should be at least four more right out of the box. Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds is a very user-friendly golf title that has enough depth to appeal to a large group of people. However, if you are a hardcore gamer that enjoys extreme realism, this game probably won’t be for you. This is not a replacement for your favorite golf simulator, but it is a very well made title that hits on almost every level. If you’re still a kid at heart, this is a great game to share with friends, children, and even your spouse or significant other.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.2 Graphics
The unique characters and challenging courses look sharp and clean on the PS3. 4.0 Control
The controls are very user-friendly and should please a very large demographic. 3.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is very soothing, but the character comments are repetitive. 4.2 Play Value
Simplicity and depth come together in a way that is very appealing! 4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.