Pick up your golf bag and meet us on the green! Sony’s third installment of their successful series, “Hot Shots Golf”, reminds me why I picked up a PlayStation 2. Sony once again demonstrates how they can take a sport that’s generally thought of as boring and monotonous, and transform it into a game that brings a sense of competition and fun to the masses. Golf, in my own opinion, is a very dull sport, but after breaking down the wall I’ve built up against it, I picked up a controller to find that this game has a lot more fire than one might think.
In Game Graphics
Let us start with in-game graphics. Hmm… where do I begin? Awesome! I loved the graphics. First thing you’ll notice is the feeling of “space” in the game. You really feel like you’re standing on a hill, on a sunny day, with the wind blowing in your face. If you start playing with the views, you’ll find that the trees on the fairway are incredibly detailed. Don’t let me forget the water hazards either, as the ripples of animated water will make you ooh and aah with giddy delight! The details in such a simple game are really quite astonishing. When you make a putt, the ball leaves a light trail in the grass like a real golf ball would. When the ball bounces on the grass, small dust clouds appear. The character designs are very cartoony in animation and look, which is great, but I feel there may have been more taste needed in designing the alternate outfits besides just changing the colors. I would have loved to seen some new costumes! But with over 10 characters to choose from, my complaint is very minor. The different camera angles of the golf ball in “flight” were a bit frustrating, as you have no idea where the ball was really going to land. Many of the angles were quite impressive but should’ve been reserved for replays only, in my opinion.
Full Motion Video
The full motion videos were rendered in the spirit of the game and they were consistent to the graphics of the game. Each character has their own little short movie, giving us a quick glance at their personalities. Hey, this is a golf game, this isn’t an RPG, let’s move on.
Music… Hmm, not much to speak of, other than I quickly got tired of it and turned it off in the options menu. On the other hand, the sound effects are excellent. Every time you launch the ball into the air, you get a sense of immersion as the environment comes alive. From water sounds, to even the buzz of dragonflies, everything is very nicely done to make you feel like you were right there on the green. Okay, I have one pet peeve, someone please tell the caddy to stop using the same one-liners. Halfway through a tournament they will drive you nuts. Overall, they do add some excitement when you score an amazing shot, but the lines get old really fast.
Gameplay to me is the most important thing in scoring a game. Sony proves that they can take a boring sport like Golf and remove all the annoying little perks by generating a virtual world in which they create a reality where Golf is actually fun. This proves that you don’t need to know anything about golf to play this game. Hot Shots Golf 3 pretty much self teaches you in a few rounds, and if you are dying to learn more, you can test new shots and ideas in the training mode. You’ll realize where the real skill is once you’ve played a few rounds, predicting the physics of the terrain and better placement of the ball to avoid sand traps, water hazards, and the dreaded O.B. (out of bounds). Once you have all that down, you can still learn how to react to the wind, and whether to use topspin, backspin, or sidespin. Each of the clubs is rated for its maximum yardage and another indicator showing how far you are from your goal gives you easy choice on what clubs to use. The camera control is quite awesome also, as you can “fly” around the course to pick out where you’ll want to hit your next ball. Play a few rounds and grab three other friends and you’ll find that this game is incredibly addictive as you compete with each other in either stroke or match play. Of course, if you decide to play solo, there are many types of games you can play from a short round, full tournament, or versus mode against the computer, which can unlock a bevy of new characters, giving this game tremendous replay value. If you are hard pressed for time, the game allows you to save between holes and continue play at a later time. There’s another feature of the game that allows for competition against others on the web. You login to the website and enter a code in the game for a specific tournament and complete it by entering another code at the end of the tournament back on the website to compete with other players’ scores without even hooking your PlayStation 2 to the web. This allows players to see how they score against each other on any one of the 5 different courses.
As I briefly stated before, the replay value of this game is astounding, just like its predecessors. You can earn Hot Shot points throughout the game and gain rewards for beating the game on the various difficulty settings, as well as scoring well on courses to unlock hidden features such as hidden characters. Once you have enough points, you can buy items from the store, learn new tips and secrets, and strive to become a Hot Shots Golf Master. For this very reason, you get a ton of bang for your buck, and I would expect this to be a game worthy of staying near your PS2 for a long time, not just being tucked away collecting dust on the shelf.
Sony is one of the reasons why the video game industry has become as popular as it has. They have proven time and time again that they can come up with ideas that revolutionize the way we perceive and play our games. Hot Shots Golf 3 alone has given me somewhat of a newfound respect for those that play Golf in real life. So go grab your club… err, controller, and play a few rounds, you won't be disappointed!