Reviewed: July 9, 2008
Released: June 3, 2008
The original Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee that released back in 2005 for the PSP holds two major distinctions for me. It remains, even today; one of my top 20 favorite PSP games of all time, and it was the only PSP game I have ever found myself playing more than a year after it was released. Much of that longevity came as part of the massive amount of content waiting to be unlocked, but even more so was the simple fact that Hot Shots Golf was a fun and addictive title that offered fast pick-up-and-play gameplay.
Needless to say, I have been long awaiting the golfing sequel for the PSP, especially after the dismal next-gen showing the franchise made on the PS3 a few months ago. Thankfully, with Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2, Clap Hanz has created not only a worthy PSP successor but also a handheld game that shames the PS3 version in quality and enjoyment.
Itís hard to improve on perfection, and that is pretty much what the original Open Tee was. Any faults in that game were more oversights than errors. Open Tee 2 brings more than double the content of the original game to the PSP with six new challenging golf courses for a total of 12 exotic locations and distinctive environments. Add in 12 new characters for a total of 20 golfers and 5 caddies, and more than 320 options for clothing, equipment, and accessories, and you have a handheld game that is worthy of being played on a console.
Open Tee 2 keeps the pristine gameplay of the original title totally intact. There are no feeble attempts at using the analog pad to swing or complicating the intuitive swing meter we have all come to love since the original Hot Shots Golf. Just 3 taps of the X button to start the swing, set the power, and set the accuracy and youíll be playing golf like a pro. And if thatís too hard you can even activate an Easy Swing two-tap mode that will negate the accuracy click, perfect for young kids.
Also back are all the special nuances you can use to enhance your swing. You can add extra power to any shot or activate a full-power shot when using the driver. You can also put crazy spin on the ball by tweaking the D-pad during the shot. Many of these abilities are only available after you have increased your characterís loyalty level.
Open Tee 2 offers an interesting skill dynamic that tracks your skill and dedication as a player as well as individually tracking the skill (or loyalty) of the characters you can choose to play as. The longer you play with a character, the more loyalty you earn, and with each level of loyalty comes special bonuses and new shot abilities.
All of the standard gameplay modes youíd expect in a golf game; VS Mode, Training Mode, Tournament Mode, Stroke Mode, Match Play Mode, are here including the infamous Challenge mode that has you playing through a massive career mode spanning multiple tiers with multiple event types and tournaments. In Open Tee 2 these challenges are arranged a bit differently and now focus on unlocking character mods or cards.
Each tournament section features cards based on Head, Body, or Accessory items. If you win the tournament you get to flip over a card and reveal a new character item from that group. If you win the round by three strokes or more you earn the Double Card bonus and get to flip two cards. After you earn a preset number of cards you unlock the ability to challenge a new golfer in a one-on-one match. If you win that game you unlock the golfer as a playable character. Itís a fantastic reward dynamic that will keep you playing for hours and hours at a time.
As you start unlocking more and more reward cards youíll want to customize your characters by choosing new hairstyles, clothing, and accessories. Some of these modifications actually enhance your golferís abilities such as power, spin, or impact accuracy. You can also improve your attributes with new clubs and balls, also earned by winning tournaments. You can maintain multiple versions (outfits) for each character by storing your favorites in closets, and you can earn more closets by increasing character loyalty.
Also new to the unlockable system are hidden rewards actually found on the course while playing the game. You might catch a glint on the horizon, and using the zoom feature of the camera, you can navigate toward that location and find something or someone. Special clubs and even vintage golfers from the original Hot Shots Golf are hidding in the shrubs. To make things even more interesting, you might find that you need a specific golfer or certain clothing to unlock that reward Ė like a certain girl sunbathing on the beach who told me to come back later when I had proper attire.
I had only two major complaints with the original Open Tee game; no mini-golf and no single-system multiplayer. Sadly, Open Tee 2 still does not support pass-the-PSP gameplay. This is totally illogical and actually a bit unfair. If you want to organize a foursome Ė even if you are all in the same room, you will need four PSPís and four copies of the game. Good luck with that.
While mini-golf is still not included the designers did add a mini-game that is extremely challenging and very addicting. This Hole-in-One Challenge reminded me of the mini-games we see in console golf games like Tiger Woods. You are placed within chipping range of a green with color-coded cups, each with a certain point value. Your goal is to sink the ball in a single shot, earning points and achieving a high score. Earn enough points and you can unlock additional and higher scoring cups on each of the 9 holes.
Still the best technical feature of Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 whether you are playing the mini-game or any of the main modes is the lightning fast access and load times. Other than a nominal initial load time for each course, you can blaze your way through 9 holes in 15 minutes or less if you skip all the superfluous animations. You can even skip the ball-in-flight animations for you and any computer opponents for a truly optimized and streamlined golf outing. Sure, it takes away some of the relaxing flavor of the game, but if you are trying to sneak in a quick PAR 4 hole at a stoplight, it can be done. Note: GCM does not encourage nor condone golfing and driving at the same time.
Multiplayer has been significantly enhanced since the original Open Tee. You can now play in 8-player local Ad-hoc games or compete in global tournaments of up to 16 players. The host gets to pick the course and set the rules including whether to allow players to use any golfer enhancements they may have unlocked in solo play. In Open Tee 2 we now get to watch the other golfers play and cheer or taunt them with the D-pad and face buttons just like the console version.
For those who love to relive those special moments, Open Tee 2 has an amazing Data feature that tracks more stats than youíll probably ever want to know. The game also automatically records amazing shots like Eagles, Chip-Ins, Longest Putts, and if you fill up the auto-record library you can always manually record any shot you like. Whatís interesting about these replays is that it doesnít just save the shot Ė it saves the entire hole from the tee to the replay moment, so you can see the chain of events leading up to the finale.
Open Tee 2 realizes that you might not have time to finish 18 holes in a single sitting, so you can exit from a game anytime you are between holes and the game will checkpoint your mid-game progress and allow you to resume that game when you come back. Donít think you can use this to cheat though Ė the temporary save file is deleted when you resume the game.
Open Tee 2 is the most visually stunning golf game on the PSP Ė yes, even better than Tiger Woods. Sure, the characters are cartoonish and even a bit anime in their design, but the level of originality and your ability to customize your golfer to your exact liking is amazing. You might find yourself spending far too much time in the Wardrobe section playing around with various clothing and accessories.
Even better than the colorful characters are the awe-inspiring courses, 12 in all, six classics and six new ones that will take you all over the world to some exotic landscapes. Open Tee 2 brings a new sense of realism to these locations, which comes in stark contrast to the colorful and cartoonish characters that almost seem out of place in these photo-realistic backdrops that fill the horizon.
As always, the camera work is fantastic and offers some truly stunning angles of the action. You can even unlock additional camera angles as bonus prizes in some tournaments. You have the option to replay and record replays after each shot, and you can even use the zoom function of the camera to explore the courses and search for hidden prizes. You can also hit the Start button for an aerial view of the hole and set up your shots that way if you like.
There are even weather effects like rain, snow, streaking wind, and falling leaves that drift lazily from the colorful trees. Some effects are actual tools used for gameplay like the multi-colored grid that indicates upward and downward slopes. These grids also feature animated arrows that show the severity of the slope by the speed of the animation. The HUD is clean, easy to read and kept to the borders of the screen. It contains all information you need including current club, wind direction and speed (if known), distance to hole, etc.
And while it may seem trivial, Iíd like to mention the gorgeous ďThanks for playingĒ ending movies that seem totally random and have nothing to do with golf, but I love them (and their HD quality) just the same.
Music in Open Tee 2 is cheerful and pleasant. Thereís a pretty energetic piece that kicks off the game that sounds like an ESPN anthem or something. By default the in-game music is off and I only turned it on for the purpose of this review then turned it right back off. Not that the music is annoying mind you; itís just that with the music off you are able to hear the wonderful environmental sound effects and physical effects of the ball being struck and the swoosh as it sails high over the course. The wind will howl in the mountains, or youíll hear crashing waves on the coastal course, or youíll hear the trickle of rain and even chirping birds. And when the music does play during the victory screens itís only that much more memorable.
Speech is minimal, mostly words of advice, encouragement or despair from your caddie, and it isnít nearly as corny as it could have been. Itís actually quite good and even a bit humorous at times, especially in multiplayer where you can taunt your opponents by pressing the various buttons while they are lining up their shot. The volume levels for the game are surprisingly loud, so you don't really need headphones to enjoy the game.
While Open Tee 2 doesnít actually give you a percentage complete statistic, Iíd have to guess Iíve finished about 40% of the game in two straight weeks of casual gameplay, or about 28 hours. Given that, Open Tee 2 is shaping up to be a 70-hour game full of unlockables and endless replayability, even if you donít care about the multiplayer offerings.
And then you have to factor in the hidden prizes, finding them, and also meeting any requirements to actually unlock them, which means replaying a course to reach a hole with a certain character wearing a certain item, and if that doesnít work, doing it all over again until it does. Plus, it takes nearly 30 games to max out a characterís loyalty, so if you want to max out the entire cast, prepare to spend many months with Open Tee 2.
The online multiplayer works well enough but still needs some refining, and I will continue to complain loud and long until somebody adds multiplayer support for a single PSP system. After all, golf is about taking turns and passing the PSP is a lot more convenient than finding multiple people with their own copy of the game. Open Tee 2 could have been the perfect party game. Letís hope somebody realizes that before the third installment arrives.
Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 is an almost flawless sequel to a nearly perfect original. The designers wisely chose not to fix what wasnít broke, and instead focused on just offering more new content and presenting it all in a fiendishly addictive fashion that will have you playing your PSP at totally inappropriate times and places. I almost never play my PSP at home, but I found myself playing Open Tee 2 while watching TV. If you want to go to the extreme side of irony, try playing Open Tee 2 while sitting in a real golf cart waiting for your turn to tee off.
Best of all, Open Tee 2 is a technically flawless game with lightning fast load times that allow you to play a round of golf in minutes rather than hours, making this the perfect title for the gamer on the go who needs to play in short spurts. I canít think of any other game that I can make significant progress in during a 15-minute break or 30-minute lunch. Best of all, for some reason Sony is selling this game for only $30, making Open Tee 2 and a must-own title. If youíve never played a Hot Shots Golf game then this is a great place to start.