Golf can be a very dull game. Out of all the sports titles available on consoles, or even all the real-world sports broadcast on television, to say that Golf is a much slower-paced game than others is an absolute fact. When it comes to portraying golf simulations in video games, the genre usually falls into two categories: simulation or arcade. The Hot Shots Golf series falls into the latter category and the latest iteration of the series, Out of Bounds, has arrived on the PS3 with all of its usual fun and cartoony goodness. A great deal of credit is due to the developers of the series, as they have managed to make an inherently dull game exciting, fun and instantly accessible.
The downside to this series is the fact that since the developers are dealing with the game of golf at its core, there’s just so much room for improvement or change of any kind. Players will still be hitting a ball, finding where it lands, hitting it again and repeating the process until they manage to get the ball to drop into a tin cup set within a hole in the ground. While this version on the PS3 has cranked up the visual beauty (the big head cartoon characters look fantastic, there are all sorts of visual effects during the actual play mechanics), you know exactly what you’re getting before you even put the disc in the machine. Well, almost…
One change the developers have implemented is a new swing mechanic. This is selectable feature at the beginning of the game that enables golfers to focus more on the character rather than the traditional shot meter bar from past games (the shot meter bar is also selectable for those of you who hate change). Players press X to start the swing, press X again when the character’s backswing reaches the desired height (and therefore, strength) and as the swing comes down toward the ball, a circle around the ball becomes smaller and smaller. When the circle becomes the exact same size of the ball is when a third press of the X button will earn players a perfectly straight shot.
Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds is one of the current crop of PS3 titles that have an install routine once you boot it up for the first time. The game installs a sizeable chunk of data on the PS3’s hard disc, a process that takes approximately eight minutes to complete. Although this new trend in PS3 titles is annoying to some, it is a one time thing that pays off once the game is playable. There are virtually no load times to speak of as a result of this process and since the game is slow-paced to begin with this is a welcome gift. This method will be the way to seriously cut down on load times in general, and it should be embraced despite the waiting period before the first play.
In the core challenge mode, players start by choosing one of two available golfers, and then competing in various tournaments to unlock new golfers and accessories. There are a grand total of fifteen golfers and six courses to unlock throughout the game. This new iteration of the series also sports an excellent multiplayer mode with an over-the-top character design that the player creates themselves. You can then hang out in the clubhouse and chat with other online golfers before teeing off. Online tournaments against the best players are the game’s crown jewel and the tension does mount around the final holes.
As stated earlier, the graphics are gorgeous and run in 720p. The anime-styled golfers set on the realistic looking courses are a beauty to behold, and even though the “spark, flame and vapor trail” visual effects are completely unrealistic, they really add to the fun factor of the game’s visual presentation. It is a disappointment that only six courses are available in total, but perhaps there will be more offered in the future via downloadable content.
The sound designer may have been sleeping through the production of the title, as the game’s sound effects and music are not only simplistic and boring, but at times they can be downright irritating. The character voices are the moan and squeak variety often found in anime characters, and they tend to repeat themselves constantly much the same way the winning fighter in Soul Caliber would. Most players will be playing their own music and turning the volume down on this title before long.
Despite the shortcomings in sound design and number of courses, Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds delivers a great deal of fun on the golf course with its sparkling visual presentation and instantly playable control and gameplay style. With virtually no learning curve, players will be teeing off and landing birdies in no time. For fans of golf who aren’t demanding a simulation bogged down in minutiae, this game will deliver fast and easy golfing with an exceptional online component. Rent before you buy, but if you are fan of the series at all you will find a lot here to warm your heart. The title may not be a hole-in-one, but it certainly is on par.