The Hot Shots series doesn’t change. This is usually viewed as a stigma, the lament of gamers who are sick of having money go to the same product over and over. For Hot Shots though, this is a comfort. They have a winning formula and they aren’t going to run away from it. Instead they just add to it in ways that don’t rock the boat.
All this may sound negative, but if you love the Hot Shots series it is in fact great news. HSG:WI is every bit as addictive and fun as its predecessors. There are improvements mixed in with nothing old taken out. The game has three new shot mechanics, but they kept the two old ones as well. All of the courses are new, of course, but are also instantly familiar as Hot Shots links. There is a new leveling system, but really it’s not much different from the old days when you unlocked things as you progressed in the game, except that with this system you still get points when you lose, lessening the frustration.
Back from HSG: Out of Bounds on the PS3 are the online tournaments. They run on a set schedule and you have to book a spot before they start. Once you’re in, you play along with 29 others. This mode is great fun, but it can be frustrating having to wait for the slow-as-molasses timer to let everyone begin the next hole. Missing from the online modes, however, is a stroke-play mode where you and some friends can play on the course together. This is a supreme bummer keeping the game just shy of greatness.
The biggest addition to the game, and possibly the greatest addition in the franchise’s history, is the inclusion of daily tournaments. There are three of them a day, two nine-hole tournaments and one eighteen-hole tournament. They will sometimes have special rules or the courses will play at different lengths or be mirrored to keep the whole thing fresh. The asynchronous nature of this, plus the simple ability to sort the scores by your friends list after the fact, make this extremely fun and competitive. Leagues have sprung up from these tournaments all around the world and for good reason… these tournaments are by far the most fun I have on my Vita.
The single player game is the same as it ever was, including the fact that it becomes ludicrously difficult as you hit about the 75% mark. I am hoping that if Sony does go the DLC route with courses that they focus on easier courses. The difficult courses are great for the small percentage of people good enough to play on them, but the vast majority of us don’t get to experience their great (and usually weird) design because they are just too difficult to play on. Plus, almost every online and daily tournament is the first three courses, which are the easiest to play, so getting more in that range should be of utmost importance.
In the end Hot Shots doesn’t do anything new, other than asynchronous daily tournaments, but it doesn’t need to. The underlying golf physics are superb, it now has five different shot systems and the courses are creative and fun (until you reach the very last ones). At some point Hot Shots Golf probably won’t be the best game on a Sony system around its launch, but that point is not now. Highly recommended.