The third installment in the Hot Shots series has arrived, and despite my slight reluctance to actually pop it in my PS2, it has turned out to a more positive experience than I could have imagined. I’ve got very vivid and fond memories of the original HSG; it was developed by Camelot Software, and they truly captured the pure essence and fun aspects of golf in their first title while still maintaining a deeply playing golf game. A sour taste was left in the mouths of all gamers when a new company called ? Clap Hanz ? took over the production of the series. The sequel suffered mostly from unoriginality, and didn’t quite live up to the quality set by the previous title. Now however, Clap Hanz has definitely gotten the hang of things and has created the best HSG of the three in the series.
The general problem with golf for most people seems to be the fact that they find the sport boring; though I am not among this majority I can certainly sympathize with they’re thoughts and feelings. There have really been few golf titles that have come with any kind of exciting elements. Certainly Tiger Woods Golf has came the closest in terms of strict golf games, but still suffered from what all golf titles ? and really all game titles in general ? seem lack the most, replay-ability/value. The simple fact of the matter has been that there’s really been no reason to keep playing golf games beyond the initial neoteric sentiments toward each title. And this my friends is where HSG3 comes into play. Clap Hanz has seemed to of solved the problem, creating not only a familiar and fun atmosphere, but a level of replay-ability that truly surpasses just about every other golf title.
Hot Shots Golf 3 has combined the hardcore, super accurate, sim-golf games, with the goofy, big-headed, silliness of arcade golf titles. The play mechanics have basically remained the same from the previous games. They’ve implemented the same button-tap system we’ve become so familiar with. The power-bar/sweet-spot scale determines with what speed you hit the ball as usual, and you also still use the grid to help assist your putting shots on the green. What has changed however are the new play mechanics for the chip and approach shots. You can now use a mode called “Ultra Approach” that allows you to dictate better control for shots in the 20-15 yard range. Other than that HSG3 plays exactly like its predecessors, great.
In terms of visual presentation, HSG3 is gorgeous; Clap Hanz has upped the frame-rate on this beauty to 60 FPS, making the animations smoother, the environments more detailed, and the transition to a real-time 3D environment that much more impressive. The courses are immaculately designed, complete with details such as; sand particle affects from those unlucky bunker shots, the splashing an lively hood of water falls, realistic deep looking divots in the terrain, and trees that sway in the wind. The effort in detail really never stops presenting itself, with each stroke you’ll notice something new and different.
To go along with this, Clap Hanz has held true to the goofy content of the game, by keeping they’re motley crew of golfers, almost as if it were a spin off of the caddy shack series. They express their own laments through sighs, lowered heads and the like, and then turn around shouting funny messages, and jumping up and down when excited. One can’t but help see the resemblance between these two titles, all you need is a chubby little gopher messing with your playing time, and well you’ve got a hit.
The courses and the highly animate characters (as in facial expression and voice over) are only further accented by impressive weather effects. Lens flares, specs of rain amongst other weather symptoms, and a highly realistic time migration system all make this game worth while. Just as if you were going out to play 18 holes on a Saturday, HSG3 provides that realistic feeling. You can feel the sun crawling across the skies, only to give you more dramatic lighting, presence of reality and real time shadows that stretch across and through various beautiful courses.
The course design is also something that Clap Hanz has majorly focused on; they’ve inset a life-like golf system that places tee-offs at different places, as well as the consistent change of the hole positions, allowing courses to vary in play each time through. You get ?lots of great scenery such as resorts in Tokyo with a beautiful view of mountains, an artificial canyon course that demands highly skilled players, a course consisting of deep forests and beautiful deep-blue lakes, and the list goes on making for a wide variety of courses to choose from, that really make this game worth while; it’s simply huge! Good looking courses, and course changing environments only help to accentuate the single player, and multi-player aspects of HSG3.
The general emphasis of the HSG series has been on the multi-player aspects. With HGS3 Clap Hanz has decided to further advance the single-player aspects of this golf title, by basically giving you an upgrade system that dramatically increases its replay-value. As you play through the game you get to build up experience points, and these points can be used to purchase items such as new balls, new clubs, and other objects in the course stores. There are certainly a plethora of items you can buy, but these aren’t the only ones available. You can also win special items by placing first in tournaments, and winning various mini-games. You can literally play the single player modes for weeks at a time because of the vast amount of things your can acquire in the game. Though Clap Hanz has added multiple single player aspects, the multiplayer game remains unchanged. The head-to-head battles are still the same, and you can still pull your friends in for a lazy Sunday and beat ?em down by 60 strokes (oh yes, it can be done, OH YES)!
All in all, Hot Shots Golf 3 is a game that all people can play and enjoy, whether you’re a hardcore golf fan, or even if you hate the sport; and that’s truly the best thing could be said about a game. HSG3 just about insures the fact that you’ll have fun, what else can you ask for? So I give Sony and Clap Hanz a big two thumbs up for this title, combing serious and silly play; a fun atmosphere and a level of deep gameplay; massive amounts of single player replay value, combined with a thrilling multiplayer head-to-head battle mode; and electrifying fun for all. This is yet another one of those ?must-buy’ titles for the PS2, and a great step in the right direction for the advancement of the genre. Props to Clap Hanz for keeping hope alive in the Golf arena, we needed it (no offense to Tiger Woods though).