Hustle Kings Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Hustle Kings Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Ball Breaker

Whether you’re a casual gamer or consider yourself part of the “hardcore,” most of us have played our share of video-game pool. Not every take on virtual billiards has hit the mark, but it can be quite a bit of fun when done right. Sony now takes a stab at bringing the classic pastime to the Playstation Network with the help of VooFoo Studios, and we’re chalking up our cue for some serious competition.

Hustle Kings screenshot

Hustle Kings is, without a doubt, a fairly hefty package, offering players everything from a career mode and quick-play options, to tournament play and online multiplayer. The variety of billiard games is robust, and the gameplay systems are surprisingly deep for a $10 downloadable game.

Upon loading up Hustle Kings for the first time, you can opt to run through a series of tutorial levels, and it’s highly recommended. The game doesn’t have a tremendously steep learning curve, but there’s definitely some complexity in terms of control. If you take your time with shots and make smart use of the tools at hand, however, this game will have you feeling like a pro in no time.

When it comes to single player, there’s no story here. The career mode simply sets you up against a selection of other sticks in four different difficulty ranks. It’s a great way to acclimate yourself with the gameplay mechanics, as well as earn Hustle King Cash (HKC). Additionally, there’s Exhibition (quick play), Tournament, Trick Shots, and Bonus Games. All of the various offline options are well thought out and entertaining, and when it comes to variety, Hustle Kings offers ample opportunities to prove your mettle.

Local multiplayer will allow you to play with up to 16 players – either human or A.I.-controlled – though it took us a while to figure out how to set things up properly. The gameplay is great, but the options aren’t completely intuitive. Additionally, players will have to share one controller, and since the game only allows for one career profile, the HKC earned by other players is completely without value.

Hustle Kings screenshot

Minor quibbles aside, if you’re simply looking for some relaxing private time with a good game of pool, Hustle Kings will not disappoint. The controls feel great, make sense, and the gameplay is completely rewarding. You kind of have to push down hard on the circle button to fine-tune shots properly, but overall the game construction is top shelf.

What makes Hustle Kings’ brand of billiards so enjoyable is that most of the guess work has been taken out of the equation. You’ll point your cue with the left analog stick, direct spin on a ball with the right stick, and adjust the power of shots with the triggers. From the very start, the game will teach you how to pull off amazing swerve and jump shots, utilizing a system of lines and camera angles to place balls precisely where you want them. Pulling back on the analog stick and then pushing forward when shooting gives you almost the same satisfaction of following through in a real game of pool.

Hustle Kings screenshot

When you’re ready to hustle, you can take your game online and compete against Playstation Network’s finest. Once logged onto the network, the experience is fairly seamless. The Quick Match option will set you up with another random player, or you can sift through a selection of player-created rooms. If you don’t like what you find, you can create your own room with your own rules. There are seven different games of pool to choose from, and three methods in which to play them: practice, ranked, or hustle.

Hustle rooms are virtual pool halls wherein the room creator has chosen a set amount of HKC to bet per match. If you want into the room, you’ll have to agree to the terms. You might not be betting real cash in Hustle Kings, but the stakes can still get pretty high.

Hustle Kings screenshot

There are two issues I have with the online component – one minor, the other not quite so minor. First off, you’ll have to agree to a long and finely printed disclaimer each and every time you log onto the network to play. It’s not a huge deal, but it is annoying all the same.

My real problem with online multiplayer, however, has to do with the game’s downloadable content. Though you’re given a basic cube of chalk to help improve the general accuracy of your shots, the game allows for players to purchase additional chalks for real money. These premium cubes give players a leg up in terms of accuracy and table sight, and it just seems like the wrong kind of incentive related to selling extra content. It’s debatable just how much of an edge the “uber” chalks offer, but any advantage is too much, really. Everyone who paid the full price for the game should be able to compete on a level playing field.

In terms of production values, Hustle Kings is quite a lovely game, more than what you’d expect out of a downloadable title, especially one that takes up so little space on your hard drive. The selection of tables is stylish and well-rendered, and the pool halls fit the bill perfectly. Some elements of the cityscapes you’ll see off in the background lack detail, but overall you’re getting a pretty package here. The menus are attractive and easy to navigate, though the text is printed unusually small.

The music is fairly generic, yet it works quite well within the context of the gameplay. There are five main music styles, and if you find one to be distracting or simply don’t care for it, you can turn any of the styles off in the options menu. Of course, you can take it one step further by exiting out to the XrossMediaBar and turning on your own tunes to be played in-game. The sound effects and controller feedback are nice additions as well, offering subtle enhancements to the gameplay.

Hustle Kings is a pretty impressive game of pool. There are loads of options, more than I would have ever expected from a $10 game, and the mechanics are pretty much spot-on. The button sensitivity for fine-tuning shots could use some improvement, but otherwise the game is butter. The online component is excellent and, so far, running without a hitch. Billiards is low impact and more methodical than what many current gamers might be used to, but if you’re looking for a serious game of pool, look no further than Hustle Kings.

Lovely visuals and lighting effects. If you peer deep enough, you’ll uncover a lack of detail in the backgrounds, but the overall presentation is very stylish and shiny. 4.5 Control
Great control systems and mechanics. There’s enough complexity to make anyone feel like a pro without burying them beneath a steep learning curve. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is decent, if not unremarkable. Having the option to play tunes from your own song lists is a nice touch, though. The sound effects do a good job of enhancing the gameplay. 4.5 Play Value
Hustle Kings tips toward the higher price range of the downloadable spectrum, but you’re getting a lot of game for your buck. Let’s just say, it would be an impressive package at retail. 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Photo-Realistic HD Graphics – 3D visuals with real physical properties gives players the actual feeling of being in stylish and modern pool bar settings without leaving the comfort of their own home.
  • Hustle Mode – Using their Hustle Kings Credits earned while playing in the various game modes, players can hustle others for their credit to spend in the Hustle Kings Shop.
  • Play Your Favorite Variation of Pool – Supports US 8-Ball, UK 8-Ball (Black-Ball), 9-Ball, Killer, Cut-Throat, 3-Ball, Time Trial, 14.1 Continuous, Trick-Shots, and more.

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