Hustle Kings Review (PS3)
There are a good amount of sports games to download on the PlayStation Network, but most of them are easy enough to pass up. But when I heard about Hustle Kings, an original billiards game on the PSN, I was very intrigued. So intrigued, in fact, that I decided to download the game and give it a shot. Well, I am glad that I did.
Now the first thing to consider when playing a pool game -- or any sports game for that matter -- is how it relates to the actual sport. The physics in this game are very realistic. When you mishit a shot, the cue stick will rattle like it does in real life. When the cue ball is close to the table wall, you will be forced to raise the cue stick at an angle to pull off the shot. The balls also bounce off the cushions and each other appropriately, and the sound effects mimic a real game at a pool hall.
In Hustle Kings, you get more points based on the difficulty of the shot. If you use a jump shot or bounce the cue ball off the wall two times and pocket a solid, you will earn more HKC money than you would had you just pocketed the ball normally. This is important because the HKC money is what you will use to pay your entrance fee into more difficult competitions and also what you will wager with online. You can also use HKC money to unlock different cue sticks and balls from the Hustle Kings store.
The graphics are one of the game's strong points.
You are given three cameras to use so you can make sure that your shots are lined up as precisely as you want them to be. One camera is a cue stick cam, another is an overhead table cam and finally there is a ball cam. In addition to the three cameras, you have aiming lines that will help you determine the path the balls will take. The aiming lines can be long, short or turned off completely.
You also have two options for taking a shot. You can pull back and push forward on the analog stick, or you can use the timing meter by simply pressing X. I preferred the analog stick option as it is very similar to kicking a field goal in Madden or NCAA Football, and it also seems more realistic.
You will also need to chalk your cue stick after taking a few shots. To do so, just simply shake your PS3 controller. Chalking will ensure a more accurate shot, but it will also halve the HKC money you earn on a particular shot.
As far as graphics are concerned, this game is slick. The visuals are shown in 1080p, and presentation is by far this game’s best component. Light glistens off the curvature of balls, and the tables stand out as epic gaming platforms. The clubs and high-end bars where your contests take place are swanky to say the least -- one in particular stood out to me, the Aqua Bar. In this level, there are pools of shimmering water surrounding the bar, dance floor and pool table.
The menus are clean and fairly easy to navigate, and load times are nothing out of the ordinary. The only real gripe I have is the text is a little small. The music is nothing special, but the electronic tunes will not get on your nerves. Nonetheless, you have the ability to turn off any of the five genres (hip-hop, lounge, funk, techno and jazz).
When playing offline there are exhibitions, tournaments, trickshots and bonus games. Exhibition mode allows you to play US 8-Ball, 9 Ball, Black Ball, Killer, Cutthroat, 14.1 Continuous and 3-Ball. You can choose to play against the CPU or another user via passing the controller. Up to eight users can play in one match, so this could be a solid party game.
Trickshots are extremely fun. There is lots of time to be wasted here, and you really feel a sense of accomplishment after completing some of the shots. You also have the ability to unlock more via the Hustle Kings store. The bonus games include clearing the table in a set number of shots, pocketing a target number of balls before time runs out, and clearing every ball on the table in a single break.
The training mode covers the essentials, and it is necessary to check this mode out if you plan on competing against the upper-level AI. The nine lessons include instructions on how to take a typical break-off shot, how to fine tune your accuracy, how to apply spin to the cue ball, changing camera views, moving the cue ball, how to chalk your cue stick and how to pull off swerve/jump shots.
Career mode is a combination of all the gameplay modes found in offline play -- except this time you have to work your way up the ladder to unlock rookie, amateur, semi-pro and professional events. While battling your way up the ladder, you will be earning HKC money. The AI gets more difficult as your career progresses (and by difficult I mean ridiculous). At some point, you will no doubt get the table cleaned against you and feel like you were hustled.
Online play allows you to play ranked, hustle and practice games against other users. With hustle games, you can wager that ever-elusive HKC money. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the online play. I was worried that if I were beating someone, he would wait four hours before taking his shot in hopes that I would disconnect. Thankfully, the developers instituted a shot timer to ensure fairness. There were also a large number of users online while I was playing -- even during the wee hours of the night -- so you should not have a problem finding quality competition.
The gameplay is simply outstanding.
Sony and VooFoo Studios did a great job creating a realistic and entertaining billiards game. If you are an avid pool player and looking for a console equivalent, this is probably the closest thing you will get to the real thing. Even if that is not what you are looking for, the game is still pretty fun for novice pool players. The game also does a good job familiarizing the uninitiated with the rules while giving the experienced players out there some new techniques they might want to try out while competing in their next pool game at the bar.
Between The Pockets: The physics are solid, and the gameplay is very similar to its real-life counterpart.
Graphics: The strong point of the title. I have not seen a better looking billiards game, period.
Sound Design: The music is not bad, but it is not going to win any awards either. The sound effects, however, are polished and only add to the realism.
Entertainment Value: The ability to play with eight different people offline is awesome. The game looks great, feels great and plays great. The price makes this a home run.
Learning Curve: As long as you complete the training mode, the learning curve can be overcome pretty quickly.
Online: Online play is an integral component to Hustle Kings. Hustling people online for HKC money is enjoyable. The connections are stable. I just wish there were trickshot competitions online.
Score: 8.5 (Excellent)