Hands-onHot Shots Golf 3

We go hands-on with the latest game in Sony's Hot Shots Golf series.

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The third Hot Shots game, recently released for the PlayStation 2 in Japan under the name Everybody's Golf 3, keeps the focus on the combination of comical character antics and engaging golf gameplay. We got to sit down with the Japanese import and take a look at how the series has matured since Hot Shots 2.

Graphically, Hot Shots 3 features courses that showcase impressive background elements, like slowly rotating Ferris wheels, floating hot-air balloons, rippling water effects, and detailed flora. Spectators now watch the action on the course and are represented by 2D characters that--like the golfers themselves--are blessed with gigantic, oversized heads. The characters in Hot Shots 3 are as lively and as spontaneously wacky as those from previous games. After particularly good rounds, characters may twirl in glee, toss their clubs into the air, or can even partake in a line dance with a frog companion. Keeping your golfer company on the courses is a caddie, who is no longer represented solely by a caricature--now the caddie stands beside your golfer, offering bits of advice and waiting patiently. The caddie shifts from one foot to the next as you line up shots, and after a long drive he will race after the ball, throwing up clouds of dirt in the process.

Not only is the game humorous during celebrations, but overall it's a livelier affair. If you perfectly time the shot meter, for instance, a rainbow may replace the trailing arc your ball leaves behind. The introductory movie also implies that some over-the-top shots can be made. The particular scene shown indicated a ball missing its mark by a good distance, stopping in its tracks, bursting into flames, and searing a path back to the hole. Fifteen characters in the Japanese version can be unlocked, as can various pieces of equipment and optional game modes, such as the movie viewer. These extras are unlocked when you spend points attained by winning tournaments and by playing the slots game that appears after each round. In the version that will be produced for the US market, new characters will be introduced. These characters will apparently be slightly more realistic looking while still retaining their cartoony demeanor.

The fully controllable camera from the previous Hot Shots games has returned, along with a slew of new gauges, indicators, and options to make playing the game easier. A useful line above your strength meter now represents the topography of the putting green. If you need additional help gauging putts, a grid overlay appears on the green, with flowing, flashing lights indicating the level of depth and slope. These new gameplay aids help cut down on judgment errors and allow for relatively easy birdies on just about every hole.

Hot Shots Golf 3 includes a number of different play modes, including tournament play, stroke challenges, solo course practice, and multiplayer games with Multitap support. Hot Shots Golf 3 is scheduled for release later this year. Stay tuned to GameSpot for the latest screens, movies, and a full preview as we approach release.

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