Review by Heatmiser
"Not so Hot this time around"
A disturbing trend begins anew everytime the next generation of video game consoles is released. No, not the trend of angry fanboys debating which system is the best; something even more unpleasant. What I'm referring to is the trend of game companies bringing successful old series from previous consoles to their next-gen console replacements- while deciding to eliminate some or all of the upgrades and updates that sequels usually always have. These companies somehow think it's alright to "start over" a franchise on a new system, forgetting the people that have been supporting that game series for years. Dynasty Warriors 6 is an egregious example of this trend, as is Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds.
When Camelot left the reins of this game to the clearly-over-their-heads Clap Hanz, it was just assumed there'd be somewhat of a letdown. What wasn't assumed was the nosedive-like downward trajectory this series has taken since the original for the PS1. HSG:OOB gives us barely over a dozen golfers, about a half dozen courses, and absolutely no innovation to be found whatsoever. I'll try to go into detail, but you'll have to forgive me in advance if I find myself less than enthusiastic about it; I'm just so disappointed in this game, and, ultimately, in this series.
The music and graphics are, while not astounding in any manner, acceptable in most every way. You get some legit "wow!" type moments when one of the golfers jumps in front of the camera before lining up his or her shot, or viewing some of the beautiful snowcapped mountains, but really nothing stretches out the PS3's massive hardware muscles. The music, though repetitive it may be, does a good job at being catchy while at the same time lingering politely in the background. Nothing you'll want to download, let's put it that way, but nothing that'll warrant breaking out the earmuffs.
Online mode is fairly standard, with a few items you can display in your lobby that you receive by playing the game normally (more on that later). Honestly, I don't delve into online gaming very much, but it's done pretty well here in Out of Bounds, so I can't complain too much. The complaining will come when I discuss the gameplay.
Ohhh, the gameplay. I mentioned already the dearth of courses and golfers. But don't fret, there's plenty of disappointment to be found elsewhere. For example, how about caddies that routinely talk during your backswing (and Tiger Woods thought a simple camera click was annoying)? How about the odd fact that every single hole you'll play has what seems like 10,000 MPH worth of wind wooshing all over the place, making most of your adjustments moot as the game goes on (it's more a wind simulator than a golf game)? Or how about the fact that of the paucity of golfers you have to choose from, you can either choose ones who have no accuracy and huge power, or ones that have no power and great accuracy. You don't get anyone who's in between, and you can't tailor a good set of clubs and golf balls to a needy character until you "level up" that character's loyalty level by using him/her for several rounds of golf. Yep, you'll be forced to use an inadequate character many times over before you can give that golfer the set of clubs you want. Thanks, Clap Hanz. No applause for you.
But it gets worse. Even the golfers with above average accuracy still manage to wildly mis-hit the ball a stunningly high percentage of the time, due to the inexplicable "Impact" statistic each character has. If it's a high grade (usually only the terrible characters grade highly here), you'll hit the ball straight everytime your thumbs click the buttons with perfect timing. The new "Advanced Shots" system allows you to do this without worrying about any old school shot meters, and is a breeze to handle once you give an hour or so to learning it. Sadly, most golfers in HSG:OOB have a low Impact grade, so even if you nail the buttons absolutely flawlessly, your ball will do one of three things: spray wildly to the left, go right down the center as planned, or spray wildly to the right. It's not pleasant, worrying about if your ball is going to go straight even if you timed the buttons exactly right. Unfair to say the least.
Also unfair would be the removal of the golf store. Many of you HSG vets are probably reeling with anger now, having just read the previous sentence, and I can't blame any one of you. It was fun to cash in your points to purchase new goodies, new caddies, new clubs, and so on. But now the only way you get any items is to beat one of the courses- and considering that there's only a half dozen or so courses, mixed up in various ways to make them LOOK like they're new and different, this gets old fast. The irony that one might be unable to win a particular course without a new set of clubs that can only be obtained by winning that particular course seems to be lost on Clap Hanz. No applause for you, again.
The only bright spot is for those of you out there wholly unfamiliar with the Hot Shots Golf series. If you've never played any of them before, you could very well end up absolutely falling in love with Out of Bounds. For those of us who expect more, sure, this is a big disappointment. But for the new fans out there, the easy golf swing interfaces, the cutesey environments, the anime style, it'll all seem bright and new and inviting- just the way it was for us who've been playing this game series for years now. And those loyal fans are disrespected so thoroughly with HSG:OOB, I can't in all fairness recommend it to you for purchase. Then again, with video games as they are lately, the sequel will probably have everything we were looking for in this edition- everything that this edition should've had.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 04/18/08
Game Release: Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds (US, 03/18/08)
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