Inside Pulse 12

Review: Hot Shots Golf Open Tee 2 (Sony PSP)


Hot Shots Golf Open Tee 2
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment of America
Developer: Clap Hanz
Genre: Sports/Golf
Release Date: 06/03/07

If you don’t count wrestling, the only sport I have any remote interest in is football. (I mean REAL football, not that soccer crap.) So it might come as a surprise that I’m in love with the Hot Shots Golf series. I once tried to watch an actual game of gold on TV once, and nearly passed out into a coma of boredom. However, there has always been something about this game series that keeps me coming back for more.

Open Tee 2 is the seventh Hot Shots and the second for the PSP. The big hook this time around is online play, which was surprisingly absent from the first title, despite the fact that Twisted Metal: Head On has already accomplished it. Beyond that, Open Tee 2 continues the tradition of throwing wacky characters and challenging golf courses at you as fast as you can handle them. Will the sequel outdo the original, or are we in for another round of the same game we’ve been playing for ten years.

Modes
Most of your time playing Hot Shots will be spent in challenge mode, which offers a lengthy quest through the games 12 courses. The main objective here is to win matches and tournaments in order to build of your rank until you’ve gone as high as you can go.

Each rank begins with three different games you can play. They are split up according to what kinds of cards you can unlock by winning. You have head, body, and accessory cards to choose from. Win a match in either category, and you’ll be rewarded with an item that corresponds with which card you unlocked. These items can then be used to customize your character. The cards are also used as experience to increase some of your basic stats, such as power, control, and spin. For every five body cards you earn, for instance, and you’ll go up a level in power, which will help you hit the ball harder no matter which character you use. Once you’ve obtained a preset number of cards in a rank, you’ll be able to challenge a new character. Beat him or her, and you’ll not only unlock the character for use, but also unlock a new rank and one or two new courses to play on. To top it all off, you’ll gain loyalty to whatever character you use. Gaining levels in loyalty will give you bonus power shots, unlock more wardrobes to further customize your character, AND give you special abilities such as the homing/rising shot. There are about ten ranks to go through, and it will take some time and effort to reach the upper echelons of Hot Shots greatness.

There is also stroke play; which allows you to play 9 or 18 holes of any course, practice mode; which allows you to play on any course without affecting your stats and get a feel for how each hole plays, and minigame mode; which offers a slightly different gaming experience. You’ll shoot for a hole in one in one of three holes, each worth a certain amount of points. You won’t unlock any items or gain any loyalty here, but it does keep track of your high score. And there’s always data mode. Data mode is a stat whore’s wet dream. Not only does it keep detailed records of your best scores on each course, but you’ll have a fantastic putting report that shows you what percentage of putts you make from up to thirty feet away. Top that off with a video recorder that automatically saves your chip ins, double eagles, and hole in ones, AND allows you to manually record any shot you make, and you can get a pretty good look into how you’re doing in the game.

The big mode, though, is multiplayer. You’ll have the standard ad-hoc options, but Open Tee also features a robust wireless play mechanic. You’ll start off in a lobby that offers you the chance to play against domestic opponents or challenge the world in either tournament or match play. You’ll also have the ability to search for a specific game type if you so chose. As of right now, finding people to play with isn’t the easiest thing to do. Despite the games ability to include sixteen player tournaments, the most I’ve seen is eight. Also, there is a serious connection issue with this game. I’ve only played a handful of games where at least one person didn’t drop out due to a connection error. (Although some of them just quit because they knew they had no chance) I myself got disconnected several times, and that’s something that almost never happened with any of the other PSP online games I’ve played. So if you go to play online, be prepared to get kicked off every once in a while. Beyond that, playing in a tournament against people from Britain, Spain, and Japan all at once is a fun experience, as it almost has an Olympic type feel to it. You’ll also gain items just for placing in the top four, so the game rewards you for your time spent.

All in all, there’s a lot to do in HSGOT 2. It may not have the most compelling modes on the market, but for a portable title, it’s definitely solid.

Graphics

Once again, the Hot Shots franchise manages to provide solid visuals without ever pushing the system or giving us anything great. Character models are nice looking, and the courses are fairly well detailed. There are some nice effects anytime you hit the ball out of the rough or sand, but beyond that, you’ve got some pretty standard, if not overly cartoony, stuff going on here.

I’d go into more detail, but there really isn’t anything to talk about here. It’s not bad. It’s not great. It will get the job done.

Audio

Open Tee 1 fans will recognize the music instantly. It’s all the same elevator music from the first game plus a few new tracks. The music will repeat on every hole, so it’s good that you have the option of turning it off, leaving you nothing but the sound of the club hitting the ball, with the occasional cheer/jeer from your caddy.

The voices in the game are decent little clips that pop up every now and again. Golfers only have a few phrases they mutter; like “it’s going in!” or “oh no!” The caddies have a few more phrases, and each of them sound decent, if not spectacular. Still, there’s nothing like timing a shot just right and hearing “NICE SHOT!”

Sound effects are fantastic. Well, what’s there is fantastic. All you really need to deal with is a few different thwacks and maybe the sound of the ball hitting the sand/bare ground/cup. There really isn’t anything missing, but once again everything is so simple it would be hard to mess up. Hot Shots never goes for great, but it strives to make sure there aren’t any glaring issues. It succeeds.

Gameplay

What’s always made HSG so fun to play is its combination of accessibility for newer players and depth for veterans. It utilizes a three click system. You push X once to start your power meter. Once your cursor has reached the desired length, push X again, and then once more when the cursor hits a short section at the end. The last click decides the accuracy and impact of your shot. Hit too early and the ball will go flying in the wrong direction. Too slowly, and you’ll be luck to reach half the distance you intended. It’s incredibly simple, but it takes a lot of practice to get the timing right.

If you’re a true pro, you’ll be able to adjust the angle of your shot to account for wind, ball lie, height of the green, angle of the green, etc. You can easily spend several minutes lining up your shot if you so chose, but newcomers can swing away and not screw up too badly. The system works really well. You can generally get a good idea of where a ball is going to go, unless of course your timing is way off. Almost any frustration you feel while playing is due to a bad shot on your part. (Trust me, I know)

Putting is a real beast. Early greens are no problem, but once you get past the first few courses, you’ll need to become a master. The green often slopes at high angles, meaning you have to account for the grass leaning towards the left, as well as the upward slope of the green. Finding the right combination of angle and power is a hard learned skill. After playing hundreds of courses throughout my time with the HSG games, I still can’t grasp it.

I won’t bother explaining the rules of golf to you. All you really need to know is that low score wins. You can play either nine or eighteen hole courses with a good mix of par 3s, 4s, and 5s for you to go through. You’ll be awarded points depending on how well you stayed on the fairway, how close you got to the pin, and how many shots it took you to sink the ball in the cup. The player with the lowest score wins, and if there is a tie, points will decide the winner. In match play, the goal is to win more holes than your opponent. If you go up by three, the game is called in your favor. Pretty simple stuff.

There are no real issues with the game at all. I can’t think of a single glitch I ever came across. It’s nothing stellar, but it is a ton of fun. There’s a reason Hot Shots is one of the best golf games on the market. Simplicity.

Replayability

This game includes all of the content found in the first Open Tee, PLUS 12 new characters, 6 new characters, AND online play. There are so many items to unlock and secret characters/items to find hidden in the courses that you can expect to spend upwards of forty hours just playing through the challenge mode! Couple that with the satisfaction of dominating players from across the globe with your mad putting skills, and you’ve got a fantastic deal at only thirty bucks.

Of course, playing through the challenge mode a second time is out of the question. There’s no way in hell I’d spend the time necessary to unlock everything again, but you can always utilize multiple saves if you desire.

Balance

The first five or so ranks are incredibly easy. You never have to sink a birdie to win. After that though, the courses and competition become much stiffer. Greens become steep, fairways become more and more narrow, and roughs and/or bunkers pop up everywhere. You’ll have plenty of tries to tackle each course, but once you start hitting bogeys on a regular basis, there is some definite frustration.

Still, it is nice to see the whole game isn’t a cakewalk.

Originality

This is the same game we’ve been playing for years. Just like any other sports game it seem, all we really get is some roster updates, (new courses and characters) and one or two new features. (Online play)

You won’t find anything new or exciting here, which means you would probably be fine just sticking with the first Open Tee. Hardcore fans should jump at this game though.

Addictiveness

You are constantly being thrown new content in this game. Each successful win in challenge mode nets you experience, loyalty, AND a new item. This makes Open Tee 2 one of the most rewarding games that I’ve ever played. Most of the items aren’t much more than a new head piece or two, but every once in a while, you’ll get something crazy, like a car your character will drive, a new caddy, and even new clubs. You’ll be hard pressed to put this game down for too long.

If what I’ve seen during online play in any indication, this game is addicting as hell. I’ve played three or four games back to back and noticed several people that keep coming back for more. A group of three with us ended up in the same tournament four times in a row! As I’ve said, this game is a ton of fun, and it shows across the globe.

Appeal Factor

I think most people have played at least one Hot Shots game. There really aren’t any other golf games that can say that. (Off the top of my head I can only think of Tiger Woods PGA). Golf on the go is a great idea, as a quick game of golf can help long car rides feel significantly less dull.

The first game was a moderate hit as a PSP launch title, and was one of the first greatest hits for the system. The sequel is coming out at the budget price of only thirty dollars, so I’m banking that people won’t be afraid to drop down the cash. The only thing that might hold them back is its near mirror like similarity to the first game. Those who never got around to buying Open Tee 1 should feel free to grab it.

Miscellaneous

As a portable title, HSGF shines. The PSP power save feature works its magic here, allowing you to pick back up where you left off without a hitch. Load times are shorter then they’ve ever been. You’ll be able to quit any course in between holes, and then come back to it when you continue your game.

I’d like to mention how hidden characters are unlocked. The entire cast of the first game is strewn about various holes in various courses. You can find them by searching for little golden sparkles on the play field, and zooming in on them with the camera. Some require your character to use specific items to be able to unlock them. This makes it almost a game in itself to find all the tricks to getting the full cast.

I do kind of wish Clap Hanz would give us something new. This really should have just been called a platinum edition of the first game or something. It’s fine for now, but if they want my dollars for the future, they need to add a little something to the formula.

    The Scores


Modes: Very Good
Graphics: Above Average
Audio: Mediocre
Gameplay: Very Good
Replayability: Great
Balance: Decent
Originality Worthless
Addictiveness: Enjoyable
Appeal Factor: Good
Miscellaneous: Decent

Final Score: Above Average Game!

    Short Attention Span Summary


Hot Shots Golf Open Tee 2 is a fun game with plenty of content and has the drive to keep you coming back for more. It never quite reaches that plateau of greatness, but it doesn’t have any real problems. The core formula the series has relied on for years is still as strong today as it was all those years ago. If you have the first Open Tee, you might want to reconsider buying this one, as it does have far too much crossover for most tastes. However, from where I’m standing, if you want golfing on the go, you can’t beat Hot Shots Golf Open Tee 2.

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