Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds
If you’ve played the series before, Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds will give you a strong feeling of familiarity. Not a whole lot has changed, dating back to the PSX days and Out of Bounds continues that tradition. This was a golden opportunity for Clap Hanz to bring the series into the next generation with a blast, but the whole experience feels very safe.
When first navigating the menus in Out of Bounds you might notice some omissions from PS2’s HSG Fore! The single player is more streamlined, combining Fore’s Versus and Tournament modes into the new Challenge mode. Sometimes streamlining can be good, but here it was just unnecessary. Gone is the charming Versus mode map, which was populated with all the characters you could unlock. Instead you’re given a sterile ladder of increasingly difficult tournaments, with each tier culminating in a versus match.To Avoid ConfusionIn European and Japanese markets, the title goes by the name Everybody’s Golf: World Tour. Same game. Different name.Another aspect of the single player that is gone is the Pro Shop, thus prohibiting you to buy the clubs or balls you desire. Your control over the game’s unlockables is relegated to random items awarded after tournaments. While it’s nice earning equipment for victories, the option of buying the equipment that suits you is sorely missed.
One of the other most notable missing features in Out of Bounds, is the lack of mini games. Gone are the mini golf and par 3 courses of HSG past, and with that, gone are the only reasons my girlfriend would play at all. The mini golf was never a huge experience, but it’s just another small casualty that chips away at Out of Bounds’ overall appeal. HSG has always stood on great gameplay, but that gameplay has always been padded with fun modes, characters, courses and silly Easter eggs.
Fortunately Out of Bounds isn’t all gloom and doom. The gameplay is as fun and fresh as it’s always been, and if you like your golf straight forward and arcade flavored, it still delivers. In addition to Traditional Shot, the old school HSG way, Out of Bounds introduces the new Advanced Shot. The new shot relies solely on your character’s animations to set power and impact, rather than a meter. Advanced Shot is a fun alternative to Traditional, but Clap Hanz should have pushed the shot type further. As it stands the only advantage to Advanced Shot is slightly better power on your strokes, but most players won’t learn an entire new system for an extra 10-20 yards. In addition, the Challenge mode only has about 5 Advanced Shot required tournaments, so if you so desire, Advanced Shot can almost be avoided altogether.
With this being the first entry on the PS3, Out of Bounds has of course been given a full graphics overhaul. The result is good in most cases with great character models and exceptional animations, but once again Clap Hanz seemed content playing it on the safer side. The courses look fine, with good texture work, but on a whole are mostly unimpressive. It’s disappointing that no sort of deformation physics were created for the sand traps, characters still stand on top of the sand rather than digging in. It isn’t completely necessary, but it’s this list of small things that makes Out of Bounds feel stagnant.
This time out, Clap Hanz has spent more of their time expanding and refining the online component. While there is more to see and do online then in HSG Fore!, it’s still far from perfect. Out of Bounds lets you create an avatar and choose from a number of clubhouses and lobbies to meet other golfers on. As you progress and achieve certain goals in the offline mode, you’ll unlock extra outfits for your avatar as well, which is a great incentive to get that first chip in Eagle. However, finding a tournament online can be an absolute chore or even just a simple game. Most tournaments have certain restrictions, and upon signing in recently and browsing available tournaments, I was only able to enter about 10% of them. Add to the fact that tournaments have scheduled tee times, and you could theoretically sign on, and wait up to an hour for a match to play in.
Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds remains a solid golf title, and if it were the first in the series, it would be an awesome golf title. The gameplay is fun, the animations are great and there’s a lot to do both online and off. However, this is really HSG5, and the omissions from previous HSG games leave the package feeling somewhat hollow. Tack on the overly convoluted online ranking system and Out of Bounds cruises in at just better than par.