Hot Shots, Part Trois.
Video golf occupies a unique position in the sports gaming spectrum. People who have no business with golf whatsoever can sit and whack a ball around an arcade course for hours despite barely knowing the rules. You don't see that kind of appeal in other games - if you don't like football, you won't like Madden or even NFL Blitz. But ever since that kickass Golf for the Intellivision, links gaming has always worked well on the home consoles.
rarely does it work as well as with the Hot Shots Golf series. The original
for the PSX was a phenomenon in Japan and sold well in the US. The sequel didn't
make nearly as much noise, but was certainly a solid game. With the next-generation
well underway, Hot Shots Golf 3 emerges on the PS2 to add yet another
bright feather in this series' cap, though it looks a lot like the other feathers.
The premise is identical to every other arcade golf game on the planet. You
play goofy golf with a zany cast of wacky characters who, at times, act downright
bonkers. You use a little sliding horizontal hit meter to smash the ball and
a grid to help with putting. Nothing new in terms of general design.
Hot Shots Golf 3 features the RPG qualities of its forbears. Points
are awarded (or deducted) based on your performance. You get some points for
every birdie, for every fairway you hit, for every chip in, etc. and lose points
for hitting sand traps, water, etc. In turn, these points can be used at the
'shop' to buy all sorts of items and power ups, including new clubs, new balls,
and new character outfits. So the game actually flows more like a role-playing
game than a golf game, which explains much of its crossover appeal.
The game has a slew of game modes to enjoy. Classic Stroke play lets you take
on a course alone and gain points. Tournament mode pits you against a field
of CPU golfers. Winning here raises your player ranking and unlocks new courses.
In VS. mode, you take on a CPU controlled golfer - beat 'em to unlock 'em. There's
also a National Tournament option that requires a password found on the Hot
Shots Golf 3 website and lets you compare scores against other players.
Tack on a Training mode, a Par 3 Short course, Multiplayer stroke and match
play and the aforementioned Shop area and you have more golfing goodness than
you can shake
a 2-iron at.
The gameplay itself is largely the same as past installments. You press a
button three times to use the little horizontal hit meter, you can add spin
to the ball depending on your golfer's spin skills, and so on. The putting grid
now features these little moving white dots that indicate the intensity and
direction of the slopes. It works wonders for putting. So simple, it's almost
courses, however, aren't very brilliant at all. The game features 6 and only
2 are accessible from the start. For the most part, the courses are decent and
realistic, but I keep finding myself wanting some really bizarre courses to
match the bizarre atmosphere. Most of the holes are the kinds of things you'd
find in real life.
Though the characters and cartoony the look screams arcade, the physics are
pretty accurate and really make the game work. It's much better than any of
the wannabes that have cropped
up for other systems.
If there's one area in which Hot Shots Golf 3 completely obliterates
the competition, it's pacing. The loading times are nearly nonexistent, meaning
you won't be waiting for months for the opposing golfers to take their turns.
You can finish an 18 hole course in a half-hour, which is really great.
The graphics certainly make the load time easy enough, as they're simple and
somewhat sparse. The textures are pretty plain (though the water effect is very
nice) and the animations are simple. To be honest, the game doesn't look a whole
helluva lot different from past Hot Shots games, though things are obviously
smoother and tighter.
It sounds about the same, too, with all sorts of annoying quips from the crowd
and your caddie (several of whom were actually characters in earlier installments).
Not a lot of variety in the speech, that's for sure. The classic 'video game
music' brings up fond memories of the 16-bit days.
Which actually leads to the game's main flaw - it's just not very unique.
The Hot Shots brand has been around for a while, yet the mechanics haven't
changed a smidgen. Considering this is the third game in the series, I hoped
for some gameplay enhancements, perhaps the ability to use the analog sticks
for swinging or something. Though familiarity is a good thing, this game is
almost too familiar, so reminiscent of older games that it almost feels
a little old itself.
But that doesn't mean it isn't plenty of fun. If you're looking for some video
golf for your PS2, you should stop looking and start driving to your local retailer.
This one is on the green in two.