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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds (Playstation 3)

This release brings the popular casual sports title to the PS3 in fine form with several exciting changes that make for an even more playable and entertaining game. The most important of these is the new Advanced Shot system which makes it easier to aim and shoot with a greater degree of accuracy. There are also several new modes, with the online component adding a significant new depth to the game. In addition, the game's visuals have been upgraded and Out of Bounds looks fantastic in HD. Overall, this is another excellent installment in the long running series that offers a superb balance between accessible play and challenging strategy.

There are a number of tournaments and variations on each course as well, and you can select either full courses, front or back nine holes and other options. The game includes several levels of difficulty, though most should be able to pick up the basics fairly quickly. You can also Players can choose from a variety of basic modes including stroke play, which follows the basic rules of golf, a more interesting challenge mode where you compete against another player head to head and finally a series of open tournaments where your playing a full round against a field of thirty players. Out of Bounds offers modes for single players, matches against opponents head to head and now, an extensive online mode where you can play via the net with players from around the world. Successfully completing tournaments at high levels allows you to unlock additional items such as courses and player clothing, while additional characters can be unlocked by challenging and defeating them head to head. The game's online modes are also impressive and allow players to compete in a wide variety of tournaments, with special rewards given for beating other online players. The interface for these modes is incredibly simple, with easy-to-navigate menus and screens making it easy to set up and get into games quickly. Using the online leaderboards, players can track their progress and compare their performance with other players, which gives you additional motivation. As you'd expect, Hot Shots Golf plays just as smoothly and intuitively online as it does off, making the experience as seamless and enjoyable as the offline editions.

The biggest change between Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds and previous installments is the new Advanced Shot system. Players can select this option which gives them more precise and intuitive controls. Instead of staring at a generic power bar at the bottom of the screen, players watch their character swing their club and press the X button when they want the swing to stop, which gives things a much more visceral feel. Once you've done this, your golfer will begin to swing towards the ball and a circle will close in on the tee, the closer it gets, the straighter and farther your shot will fly. Once you get close in to the hole, a slightly modified system occurs, where you control the shot and can see an indicator on the course showing you where your put is likely to land. This works well in practice and makes timing your long shots and putts on the green much easier and faster, while also giving the gameplay a more intuitive feel overall. Players who don't like this new system can still use the game's traditional power bar interface, where you have to time your shot and stroke strength, but it feels clumsy after you've played a few rounds with the advanced shot mode. The gameplay is fairly traditional by series standards, and players can choose either a standard scoring system based on the number of strokes or an arcade-style scoring method where you earn points for successful shots and swings, but lose them when you hit a bunker or water hazard. The game includes modes with both scoring systems, so you'll need to stay on your toes and master both styles of play if you want to compete against other players successfully.

A large part of Hot Shots Golf's appeal has always been in its charming characters and arcade style approach to the sport. Out of Bounds continues this approach on the PS3 and players familiar with previous installments should feel right at home here. There are a number of cute characters and their accompanying caddies in the game. As usual, when you swing the ball a great distance, you'll see your little friend scurrying down the course to sight your ball. If you hit a really spectacular shot, the screen explodes in a burst of color and waves. The visuals aren't that much of an upgrade from previous installments, though some of the course designs and renderings seem more elaborate with additional light sourcing and special effects used to give the game a gentle high-defintion upgrade. The sound effects and voice acting is decent, though the high-pitched voices can become a little grating after awhile, and the generic background music repeats too much which makes it annoying as well. These are minor problems, however and the overall impression most players will probably have of Hot Shots Golf's first Playstation 3 outing will probably be positive. The game stays true to the general look and feel of previous installments and initial impressions might be deceiving. Look a bit deeper and you'll find a much improved gameplay interface in the form of its Advanced Shot mode and a much more extensive online mode that should extend the game's longevity substantially. Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds is a solid title overall that delivers the accessible, enjoyable golfing that players have come to expect from the series with some welcome changes and upgrades that make it play even better.  -Michael Palisano

Grade: B

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