Hot Shots Golf has a long history of super deformed characters playing what amounts to be the most interesting and entertaining rounds of golf ever. As the first iteration of the series on the PS3, Out of Bounds graphics have improved dramatically from the past titles. It is too bad, though, that the same level of advancement hasn’t occurred with any of the play mechanics or pacing of the game.
When the first Hot Shots Golf was released for the PS1, the choice to use stylized characters was pushed by the graphical limitations of the system at the time. This choice managed to distinguish the game from others at the time, but now, with vastly updated graphics, it adds an unneeded, palpable level of creepiness to every game. Each character looks like a classical “cute” anime action figure. This does add a sense of presence to the Hot Shots world, but it also gives off the distinct feeling that the characters may just come out of my PS3 at night and feast on my sleeping body.
Besides the constant worry about being eaten alive, the graphics of Hot Shots seems to have hit a sweet spot. With a subtle blending of realism and the unique look of the characters, most of the courses feel to be a substitute for a real world analog. The courses have been detailed down to blades of manicured grass. This is rather impressive, until you realize the fact that most of the designs are simply copied and pasted from other courses. While none of the copied and pasted aspects of the game look bad, many look entirely too sharp and well defined.
A new addition to this game is the caddy advice, a feature that is supposed to give insightful advice on how to take a shot but always seems to be just another section of the game that needs to be skipped. Along with the other subtle sounds of the game, the entire experience lends to being muted, while something more interesting is played for background music.
While the caddy advice is a nice touch for new players that don’t quite know how to read the intricate grid based system used for putting, it isn’t very useful other than that, and none of the other sections of the game are explained to new comers. With no tutorial outside of the ‘helpful hints’ during loading screens, the game can be rather discouraging during the first hours when the best equipment and characters are still locked.
After several rounds of golf, Hot Shots can start to feel like it has fallen into a rut. Four or five rounds are required before the player can advance to a 1 on 1 battle against the computer to unlock a new course and a new character. This means that several rounds of the same exact course will need to be played in a row to unlock any new content. The game balances this rather well by throwing in “special” tournaments that make the player play the holes in a different order, by playing with a different swing style or some other minor change. While not noticeably different, it is enough of a nudge to keep the game progressing.
The entire multiplayer aspect of the game feels like it was tacked on at the last minute. The lobby that is entered before an online match is started feels fun and interactive but is highly hindered by the cell phone style typing interface that is used to communicate with everyone else. With no voice chat included, it almost feels like the entire experience was added out of obligation to some bullet point to be brushed over in a press release.
Although the game’s main flaws are entirely in its lack of any form of innovation, the main advantage of the game is the traditionally solid controls. Swings are based entirely on timing. Both the classic bar meter and the new advanced swing are based entirely on timing. Neither choice really has an advantage over the other, so the advanced swing tends to feel very similar to a meter system based on guesses and experience.
Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds might not be the needed shot in the arm the series needed to keep fans from straying to other interests, but it is enough to bring back older fans or people who are new to the series. Those new, though, will need to spend time browsing the internet and instruction manual for any idea of the fine styles of play. While Out of Bounds fails in some regards, it is more than welcome comfort food for those looking for something to devour in the wasteland of quality PS3 games.
Source Review of Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds by The Game Reviews