Wealthy men walking with sticks. This is what I see every day when driving past the exclusive country club down the street from where I live, and about my only real exposure to the real world of golf. The closest I get to playing golf these days is the Hot Shots Golf series, which features cutesy characters with sticks, sans walking. Now Sony and developer Clap Hanz bring the franchise to the PlayStation 3 with Hot Shots Golf: Out Of Bounds, and I've gone several rounds with the title to see how the series fares on Sony's latest console.
The handicap differential in red and blue, after the jump.
Advanced Shot System: While the original metered swing system is still available, the Advanced Shot System is one of the most natural golf swing mechanics I've encountered. Judging your power seems like it would be a crap shoot without a meter, but somehow they've made it work.
Multiplayer Tournies: Mutliplayer tournaments for up to 50 players work very nicely, with each player taking on the hole simultaneously, returning to the scoreboard once they sink the ball, where they can comment on the losers struggling against the clock on swing 10 on a par 4. All it lacks is voice chat.
Online Game Lobbies: While waiting for an online tournament to begin you get to run your customizable avatar around several nifty online lobbies, complete with railings to slide down, seats to sit in, and other people to bother. You can even doublejump!
Graphics: The golfers look more like action figures than computer-generated models thanks to the power of the PS3. Courses are nicely detailed, with foliage swaying in the breeze almost making the wind indicator on the top right of the screen redundant.
Variable Difficulty: Players just wanting to smack the ball around can stick with an amateur character their whole career, but those wanting a deeper golfing experience can move on the the more advanced characters.
Unlocking Courses: It takes forever to unlock new courses in the game, which is pretty standard for the series. By the time you unlock the third course you'll be completely sick of the first two.
Lack Of Character Customization: Character customisation is limited to variations on the characters' standard costumes, with goofy dress-up items limited to your online lobby avatar. I miss the customisation of Open Tee for the PSP.
Install Time: A console game should be playable within a minute of putting it into the machine. Having to wait 12 minutes for a game to install is a pain in the ass.
For the most part Hot Shots Golf: Out Of Bounds is a fine addition to the Hot Shots franchise. While it doesn't deviate much from the already established formula, the extended online play and new Advanced Shot System partnered with some fine graphics gently ease the addictive series into the current generation, while the long install time painfully reminds you that the current generation has issues it needs to work out.
If you're a PlayStation 3 owner with even the slightest interest in the sport of hitting balls with sticks, you'd be doing yourself a favour in picking up Hot Shots Golf: Out Of Bounds.
Hot Shots Golf: Out Of Bounds was developed by Clap Hanz, published by Sony Computer Entertainment and released on March 18. Retails for $US 59.99. Available on PlayStation 3. Played through 5 levels of single player challenge mode, multiple multiplayer tournaments.