IGN Review of Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds
Clap Hanz's Hot Shots Golf franchise has long given gamers a highly accessible entryway into golf games, while also leaving plenty of room for growth and depth so that players who put in the time will have a lot to gain. The studio's first PlayStation 3 take on the franchise, Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds, follows this formula fantastically, offering up a super-fun experience where newcomers and old timers alike will find tons to enjoy, and even love.
Out of Bounds brings most every aspect of what we've come to know and love from the franchise to the PlayStation 3, but aside from the prettier pixels, Clap Hanz has also introduced a new way to play the game. The new Advanced Shot mechanic lets you focus more on your golfer's motions rather than staring at a horizontal meter, and helps make the experience feel just a tad more realistic (though it's still highly arcadey in nature).
Instead of watching the old (Traditional) meter rise and fall as you use the three-click system, you instead press X to start your swing, then watch your golfer's backswing and hit X again at some point in his or her motion to set the power. A ghosted image of a full power backstroke helps you tell when you'll hit a full shot, but getting just a percentage of a full shot is a little more difficult to nail than when using the Traditional Shot meter. After selecting the power, a circle then encloses on the ball, and pressing X a third time when it's fully closed will give you a perfectly accurate shot.
Mechanically, the system still works with three clicks and therein is very similar to playing with the old meter, but looking at your golfer (and the club) instead of a horizontal meter simply makes things feel a little more interactive. While, as I mentioned, nailing a 70% power shot or something of that sort is harder this way, I still greatly preferred the Advanced Shot setup simply because it felt more fun. Still, if you want to play it the old-school way, the Traditional Shot option is there for the choosing.
As mentioned, the game is immensely accessible. You can rely on doing nothing more than lining up your shot and pressing X three times in order to have a good, and more importantly, fun round of golf. However, once you've gotten the basics down, delving into the more advanced shot options provides a great deal of reward.
By coupling the D-Pad with your button presses, you can apply topspin, backspin and hook or slice the ball at will. The cool thing about the way that this is implemented is that it relies not on how precisely you line up a cursor on the ball or some such, but it's tied directly into each shot's accuracy (and your character abilities, of course). So essentially all you're doing is telling the game you want to apply some backspin, and then it takes over that part of your shot from there. It's a nice way to give you extra shot options and the ability to attack a course while also keeping the game true to its arcadey roots.
Your shot options will increase the more you play the game, such as how you'll eventually be able to dial back on your power mid-swing, but you'll also upgrade your character's core abilities and their equipment as well. New clubs and balls will become available, and though some are clearly better than others, there are often tradeoffs involved with each. So the most powerful club is not also the most accurate, which means that players will mix and match balls and clubs to suit their playing style and preferences.
You can increase the abilities of each of the game's characters, as well. After each round, you'll increase their individual Loyalty bonus. Each new Loyalty level gives you an increase to some ability, like greater shot power, for instance. It's sort of like a very basic RPG leveling system, which is cool because it helps you to continuously improve your game in some manner.
The one unfortunately lacking area of the upgrades and unlockables is that you can't customize how your character looks. You'll unlock a few extra costumes for each golfer, and are given the ability to choose a caddy, but you can't change clothes or hats, or toss on some crazy accessories. You can do these sorts of things to your online lobby avatar, which I'll get to in a second, but you can't change how your actual golfer looks.
The reasoning for this, we assume, is because Clap Hanz has created some rather fantastic-looking golfers, and allowing them to be editable likely would have reduced their overall quality. The golfers present here do truly look great and provide a showpiece for how characters on the PlayStation 3 can be represented. The courses too are quite beautiful, with fantastic trees and great lighting (though a slight case of jaggies is present), but the cast of characters takes the visual cake this time around.
Speaking of the courses, Clap Hanz has done a great job at giving us some new fairways to play on. The ramp up in difficulty between the first and last course is great, giving you an easy in when you first step onto Highland, but plenty of hazards to deal with by the time you're wrapping up your tour of Out of Bounds. The hole designs on each course is also great, giving you plenty of variety over the course of a single round.
The only downside with regards to the courses is that there are only six of them. I'm not too saddened by this, but more content in those regards still would have been nice to see. Here's hoping that there's some downloadable content in store for the future...
That brings us to the online stuff. Clap Hanz has put together a very satisfying online component to the game, where you can play with up to eight players in a single game, or up to 50 players in a tournament. When you hop online, you'll be taken into a 3D lobby (of which there are different themes) where you can walk around with your custom avatar and chat it up with other players. You have a pretty decent selection of things to customize your avatar with, like different hairstyles, clothing options, accessories (like backpacks or glasses) and more. You'll unlock quite a bit of these things as you play through the single-player game, which is cool.
When you're in the main lobby, which, like the tournaments, support up to 50 players, you can walk around and talk with others before hopping into a particular game lobby that someone (or you) has set up. Unfortunately, voice support is not in the game, be it in the lobby or while on the course, which is certainly unfortunate. You can use a USB keyboard or the in-game keypad to type, or you can use the quick messaging system for basic stuff, but your options here aren't all that great.
Once you're in an actual game, you'll find that everyone plays at the same time. Other players don't actually interfere with your play, and you can actually toggle them on or off at will by clicking one of the analog sticks, but it's pretty awesome to watch other players play at their own pace next to you without feeling rushed. There's a time limit for each hole, of course, but the only waiting you'll do is at the end of each hole while the others finish their play. This design eliminates the need to either watch every player take their turn or play on your own without actually seeing the other players. It's a great in-between that works really well.
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