Developer: Clap Hanz / Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment || Overall: 9.0/10
Sony Computer Entertainment’s Hot Shots Golf series has entered into the next generation in Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds. Out of Bounds is an arcade-style golfing game developed by Clap Hanz in Japan. While not everyone will get the appeal of the inherently Japanese-styled characters, beneath what you see is a very meaty, fun, golfing game that provides entertainment for a very long time. An all-new online mode is introduced in Out of Bounds and adds a distinctive layer to the series.
The first thing anyone sees when they put their copy of Out of Bounds into their PS3 is an installation screen. Even though the game takes about a 4 giga-BITE (get it? okay, sorry) out of your hard drive space, it’ll be well worth it since the game runs like a dream from hole to hole. The only time you’ll see a load screen in this game is right before you start a new game, and only for a few seconds. Whatever your philosophy on mandatory installs may be, it is very nice to play a game where there is minimal time spent with loading, leaving more to actually playing.
Traditionally, the Hot Shots Golf series’ shot system had worked by the “3 click” system. First, you start the power meter, click the X button when it got to the power setting you wanted, and then when the dial came back to the beginning, you hit the X button again, in an attempt to get the dial right on target to where it had began. It’s a pretty standard system found in most golf games prior to this one.
A new Advanced Shot system is described as a more “analog” way to play the game, judging the power of a stroke by how far the club is raised, and how straight the ball flies by a closing circle. In Out of Bounds, instead of forcing you to go with the new Advanced Shot system, they give you the option of using both, but do make it very encouraging to play with the Advanced Shot system since it is more advantageous than the Traditional Shot system in almost all ways except for judging exactly how far you want the ball to go. Spinning the ball in different ways allows you to take extra control over what the ball does, as well.
Essentially, the shot systems are the game. There are six courses that will challenge your mastery of the particular shot systems, with weather, special rules, or even competition against another golfer being tossed in the Challenge Mode of the game. Golfers each have their individual talents, and there 15 to choose from. Challenge Mode allows you to acquire new gear, golfers, and other items. Also, as you progress through Challenge Mode, new courses eventually open up. In Stroke Mode, you can select any of the various ways to play each course and modify the individual course however you like before you play. A multiplayer mode allows for local play, but the main multiplayer mode that will suck up your time is the online multiplayer mode. Online multiplayer is quite interesting in how it’s presented. Unlike most online games where you simply join a game and play, there is a whole lobby and chat system – you even get your own cute little avatar to jump around and interact with people in a multitude of visual chat rooms. All of that is quite novel, but the main point is to play games online, after all.
The online multiplayer is unique and not exactly 100% golf-oriented, but obviously the point of the whole lobby system is to join games and play. Normal games that are created by other people in the lobby that you are currently in can be joined and created on the fly. Tournaments require a little bit more planning. You have a set time that the tournament starts at, and you book your spot in the tournament well in advance before it starts. You might be able to find a tournament starting right when you’re looking to play or plan ahead and find a game that is four hours ahead.
Additionally, Tournaments are separated in different rankings, GF, G0, G1, and G2. GF doesn’t count for much (everyone can play), while G0, G1, and G2 allow you to rank up, starting from G2, and getting to G0. The more you play (and win), the higher ranking you’ll be able to get. You’ll have to keep winning to keep your online ranking, and if you don’t get enough points to sustain your rank, you could actually get demoted, so it keeps you on your toes, constantly competing against other players online. Tournaments feature up to 50 players. The downside of that is that there can be a lot of time wasted, as you wait for everyone to finish the hole.
Graphics are very nice, and smooth — practically no jaggies anywhere and the lighting effects are quite beautiful. The sound effects are satisfying, and so is the soundtrack. What really annoys from a presentation-standpoint is the voice-overs. The voice actors are just astoundingly bad. I’m only thankful that we don’t have to hear them speak actual dialogue to propel a story forward, not that there would be one since it’s a golfing game, but it’s a curious choice in the localization process. If the American voices annoy you enough, however, you can switch on the Japanese voices.
Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds is a great entry into the popular golf series. Its easy to get in to, and the concept is simple – get the ball in the hole with as few strokes as possible. There’s a lot of time to be spent with this title, and fans won’t be disappointed with either the offline or the online modes. Not only is the game satisfying and full of content, there is also the prospect of getting extra characters and courses through the PlayStation Store.