Hustle Kings: The Review
For those of you who were wondering when I was going to get this review up, you’re in luck! Here it is! Now first off, pool (formally known as billiards) is all about physics, and this game does an excellent job at replicating that, and it looks good doing it, too. It’s loaded with features, too, and it encourages you to play with friends.
Unfortunately, I’m the only one out of my friends to own this title :P. Anyway, it’s not without it’s flaws, though, as you’ll find out through the review. I broke it down into tabs, shockingly, for better navigation. Be sure to check those out, as I’ve included provisions for a feature that is seldom used, too. Hope you’ll enjoy the read!
[tab:Gameplay and Controls]
Gameplay and Controls
First and foremost, the game definitely isn’t for someone new to pool, but if you’ve even got a remote interest in it, the game has a GREAT tutorial setup to get you used to the controls and the basic uses of different shots like spin, bankshots, and even the standard, how to break.
If you’re new to the game, you can start out going through the tutorial, but if you prefer to skip it, you can (it’s available from the main menu at any time). I definitely recommend it, though, as it shows you how to do some of the trickier shots as well. It’s pretty fun in it’s own right.
As far as controls go, this game does a great job with that. You have your power meter, the spin location on the cue (as well as the elevation), the ability to change your angle towards the table, etc. There is also a choice between 3 different views; the standard behind-the-cue-ball view, an overhead view, and the “Ball View”, which allows you to change the view onto the different balls on the table, giving you an idea of where it will go once it’s hit. The only problem about that view, though, is having to make adjustments, which has to be done in one of the other two views.
Speaking of making adjustments, holding down the circle button allows for fine adjustments on pretty much anything, from the power meter, to the cue placement, and even where to place the cue ball after a scratch (which is done by holding triangle). It can be a little tricky at times, since some of the harder shots require highly minute adjustments and you could have a tendency to overshoot your ball placement. One you have your shot lined up in a satisfactory way, you press the X button which enables you to take your shot.
In this scenario, you’re able to choose between two shooting modes (they affect the accuracy of the shot). You can either have the mode that has you pull back the right stick and shoot it forward, or you can opt for a different setup, which rather has a spinning, color coded wheel. Depending on the color (green for easy shots and red for hard), the wheel will spin at different speeds. For the best accuracy, you have to line up the black bar, that the color band follows, with the white bar above the cue diagram. Accuracy runs by tenths of a percent, so it’s very hard to get 100% accuracy on that setup.
Once you take the shot, the camera pans around the table in a fashion that it calculates which balls will be hit, where they go, etc (so it’s pretty dynamic). A bad scratch, for instance, will show the camera zooming up to the cue ball as it makes its way toward a hole. The views, with system, are actually pretty dramatic in that sense.
After a few shots, you will notice it getting harder and harder to get a good, accurate shot (on the cue diagram, using the right stick setup for shots, red circles will pulsate around the red dot showing how hard the shot is for instance), you’ll want to use chalk.
First off, there is standard blue chalk, but you can also purchase other chalks from the Store that will increase accuracy, etc. In order to use chalk, you’ll have to select it from the chalk menu (default is blue, so if that’s all you have, don’t worry about the chalk menu). After making your chalk selection, shake the controller and it will apply it, increasing your accuracy for the shot (you’ll want to apply it probably after every 4 shots or so).
Now for the game types themselves. The game is loaded with different game types. You’ve got standard black ball, US 8-ball, 9 Ball, Killer, etc. You can play these either online, with a friend, or against a computer. Hustle Kings is also loaded with a bunch of different modes as well, including Quick games against a computer controlled opponent, a career mode (that gets harder as you progress through it), a trick shot mode (the more you play through career, the more you’ll unlock. they’re really fun and challenging, though), and a multiplayer mode (which will be more thoroughly detailed in a later tab).
When playing single player, the AI is very good. Especially in higher difficulties. VooFoo Studios, the developers of the game, said sometimes they can seem unbeatable, yet, they don’t “cheat” the physics system and do everything that a human player would be able to replicate. I, myself, was blown away by how well the AI played the game!
As far as career mode goes, you’ll play against different opponents at different skill levels, depending on the tournament you’re entered in. Some of the matches are straight head-tohead, Hustle (where you place a wager on the game) and a mixture of skill-based mini games (which are also available from the main menu). These mini games include clearing the table on one break, hitting balls in a designated pocket, etc. These types of games are a great way to hone your skills while playing solo, especially with the challenge they provide.
The gameplay is great fun and I enjoyed it quite a bit. There was one glitch I came across, though, that made me laugh in a way. I got frustrated on a mini game that I had been trying to complete forever, and I overpowered my shot on purpose to make the bell I aimed at fly off the table. It looked like it was going to, but it seemed to have gotten stuck in a weird way. The ball bounced off an invisible barrier, headed back toward the green of the table, but kept disappearing and respawning down the bumper until it got close to the end, when it finally landed on the table and acted like nothing happened (and I almost pocketed it, too). Since I couldn’t replicate the scenario, though, it was only a minor problem (I was too weirded out to have recorded it, though haha).
Hustle Kings also has a collection of trophies available to obtain, with many of them focused on the online aspect of the game. For people looking for a real challenge when it comes to trophies, this game is for you. SOme of them are pretty easy to obtain, but the majority? Not so much. There is one trophy in particular that may be pretty hard to get. It’s called “Luck is an Art” and requires you to beat someone who already has it (when the game first came out, only the game’s developers had the trophy).
As far as points go, you receive HKC (Hustle King Credits), which you can use to purchase new stuff from the Hustle King store, including new cues, chrome balls, new avatars (which are lacking by the way, at least playing online uses your PSN ID’s avatar, though). I’m saving up my HKC for some of the cooler balls, because they look awesome thanks to the graphics engine!
Gameplay and Controls?
[review pros=”Great attention to the physics
Plenty of modes
Challenging all around
Plenty of cool things to buy in the Hustle Kings store
Very strong, intelligent AI” cons=”Fine adjustment could be a bit tricky
Though rare, it can have some weird glitches
Lack of avatars” score=85]
This game is gorgeous. First of all, the game’s maximum resolution is 1080P, and it creates a crisp, clear, colorful picture. Everything literally pops out at you, and the detail to the visuals alone is worth the $9.99 price of admission!
You’ll play in an assortment of different pool rooms, either ones you choose (you can unlock more through the game) or one chosen at random. They each add a different stylistic flair to the game, and give it a bit of an atmosphere while playing. Though the gameplay itself is focused on a small area, the background is relatively big, with neon lights, windows, ambient lighting, etc (depending on where you’re at). While playing, it still has a bit of a subtle, calm effect as you’re lining up your shots.
You can also choose the color of the table cloth, from standard green, to red, to violet and all points in between. As for the balls? Stunningly detailed. The light reflecting off of them is smooth, yet refined. It gives the balls a sense of depth (as well as the shadows that drop from everything. They don’t have jagged edges, but are rather smooth and akin to reality). The game does a good job of getting you immersed into the gameplay through the graphics, which is a big plus.
There are some things that I would have liked to have seen (though, may have wound up being a full release). First off, it’s funny watching replays and seeing a floating stick pull back and hit the cue ball. It would have been great to see rendered people (from the cartoony avatars the game has) take the shots, but for being a cheap, downloadable title, that’s not too much of an issue. Other than that, I don’t have any real complaints with the graphics at all, it’s still a wonderful looking game!
[review pros=”Stunning visuals
Shadow and light work adds plenty of depth and realism
Runs at 1080P
One of the best looking downloadable titles to date” cons=”No modeled/rendered players” score=95]
To start off with the sound, I will begin with the soundtrack. First of all, the music genres they have included with the game just scream pool. They’re perfectly mixed for the atmosphere of the games and the backdrops within a game. You have a choice between the likes of funk, hip hop, lounge, jazz, and techno.
Don’t care for either of those? The game also supports custom soundtracks. After I found that out, I downloaded my George Thorogood and the Destroyers album onto my PS3, and to make a long story short, it was awesome. Custom soundtracks is often underused in PS3 games, but this game, luckily, makes good use of it. The only problem I came across, after disabling all the in-game music, I decided to stop listening to GT and went back to the game’s music. After one song, it didn’t continue on to the next, but was fixed after the game was restarted. A minor inconvenience, but just an FYI if you do decide to do that.
As for the game’s sounds themselves, they’re near perfect. The sound of the balls clashing into each other was masterfully recorded, as were all the shot sounds in general. They sound exactly the way they were supposed to.
What wasn’t so great? When navigating the menus, the game has this annoying high-pitched chirp when you go through it. If you have your speakers set up pretty loud, it can really ring your ears. Another complaint I have with the noise is that when you use the chalk, the low frequencies are pretty loud, and punch your speakers. Almost sounds like someone kicking your door pretty hard.
Not much else to comment on in the sound department. No gunshots and explosions :P.
[review pros=”Great reproduction of sounds/very realistic
Perfectly fitting in-game music
Custom Soundtrack support” cons=”Loud, annoying menu navigation chirp
Chalk use is too loud” score=80]
If there’s one thing that could make an awesome game even better, it would be a strong multiplayer component, and I must say, Hustle King’s multiplayer is one of the best experiences on the PS3. Yeah, pretty astonishing for being a cheap, download-only title!
First off, the network code is done amazingly well. Games start up and connect very quickly. I decided to do a quick match first, and was instantly partnered up against an opponent. I would say between choosing to do a quick match and entering the game, it took maybe 7 seconds, and it seemed most of that was because it just had to load the game.
This was even with a laggy player, too. I knew this because when he/she took a shot, it told me that my opponent had fouled because the shot timer ran out (which it didn’t). After the shot, the balls had been moved around, etc. I was glad the game wasn’t like that for everyone, though, but it didn’t totally affect the game any.
A good connection with a player, though, allows for you to see the ball be hit, and the subsequent damage that had been done. It was a much smoother experience, thanks to the great networking code. Only thing I couldn’t see was the accuracy of his shots until after the shots were taken, which is perfectly fine!
The game also includes numerous options of play as well. You can create a “room” with up to 32 players, and allow you to assign universal gameplay rules, like the aiming guide (from short, long and off) and what type of game it will be. Head to head events are like the 9-ball, US 8-ball, and black ball, with each player facing one other opponent.
There is also the “multiplayer” event type, which allows for up to 8 people playing a game simultaneously (14.1 continuous, killer, etc) and adds a bit of fun to the experience. The game, in these respects, is very, very social, much like the real game itself.
Other options include making the game a ranked game, a Hustle game (where you put a wager on it), or just practice. You also have the option to make the room a private room for you and you friend(s), with the only way to get in is to be invited by someone already in the room.
They actually seem to do a great job of joining your friends, too, but I couldn’t test that out because I don’t know anyone with the game haha. If it’s anything like the rest of the multiplayer, though, it would be perfect! Maybe this review will convince some of you?
Anyway, if you’re on your own and you want to see what kind of games there are, you can actually browse a server list. Since you get to name your room and everything, it’s no surprise you can browse through the servers (honestly, why can’t all games do this?). It’s about the best thing about multiplayer, really, since you get a chance to see which servers match your search criteria, and you can choose which to join, based on who’s playing, what the game rules are, and how full the server is. They did a wonderful job on that front! I still prefer the more advanced PC-type server browsing, though.
Once in a room, you will see people’s names highlighted in red and green. Green ones are open opponents not currently engaged in a game, the red ones are. If you want to challenge someone, you just highlight their name, press X and choose to challenge, and await a response. Once they respond and approve the challenge, again, the load time to get into the game is very quick.
Local multiplayer is also an option, and allows for up to 16 players to compete in a tournament as well. This, plus the other options pretty much make up a complete multiplayer package.
Now, for a couple drawbacks. First of all, the game only supports text chat, and that’s in the lobby. So no trash talking or anything (which isn’t too big of a deal for me, but I’m sure a lot of you would appreciate it). Some people could also be inactive when sitting in a room, and they don’t have a status option to let you know either they are busy or have been inactive for a time (they could make the color yellow if the person has been inactive for, say, 5 minutes). Other than that, the multiplayer portion of the game is just about flawless!
[review pros=”Very good network code
Matches start almost immediately
Strong list of multiplayer options and games
Great local multiplayer” cons=”Supports only text chat, and only in lobbys
No way of telling who’s been inactive” score=90]
For being just $9.99, this title is a steal. It’s like a pool player’s virtual kingdom! The gameplay and physics are top notch, without any real issues (maybe a glitch here or there). It’s seriously one of the best looking games you can get from the PlayStation Store! Though there are a couple annoying, loud sounds, the reproduction of the rest are very high quality and sound the way you’d expect them to.
The game has a very strong multiplayer component and rivals that of the best you can find anywhere on the PS3, which includes tons of options, both in searching for a room and creating one. One of the best features would have to be the ability to browse through servers/rooms, which is a rarity in console multiplayer gaming. It’s also great that games start almost immediately, with quick load times to boot!
Any issues with the game are few and far between. If you’re a fan of pool, you owe it to yourself to pick this game up! I highly recommend it. There were a couple things I hadn’t tried, though (as well as a couple upcoming details), so don’t stop with the review on this tab, or you’ll miss a few things!
[review pros=”Great physics engine
Visuals are absolutely stunning
Top quality audio work
Very, very strong multiplayer component
Game quality exceeds the price
Very strong and challenging AI” cons=”A few annoying sounds
Could use rendered players
Only supports text chat
Very strong and challenging AI” score=87.5]
[tab:Other Cool Things]
One of the things I haven’t tried yet was uploading a video replay to YouTube, which is something else this game supports. There are plenty videos available on YouTube right now that people have uploaded, so you can check those out.
There is also some supposed DLC that could be coming in the future (if it hasn’t already), including some more offline and practice modes, as well as Snooker, but that’s still to be seen. Would be pretty cool, though, but how much would such DLC content cost? If it were free, then why the hell not, eh? Then again, given how good the release product was, it would be a welcome addition at a reasonable price, too.
There may also be some work done for a patch that will include both voice chat, and video chat while playing the game as well (maybe even just text). As long as it doesn’t create issues with the currently-strong network code, I’m game!
This review is based on a retail copy of the PS3 version of Hustle Kings provided by VooFoo Studios.