The Hustle: Detroit Streets
The sports genre of games has forever existed, as sports themselves have, but every year, each new installment of FIFA, Madden or Pro Evolution Soccer generally only boasts improved graphics and an updated player roster. The Hustle: Detroit Streets had the potential to be different.
The main character of The Hustle is a pool 'hustler' who has hit rock bottom, having lost all of his money in a recent game. You then have to make your way back to the top to earn a reputation and become the con artist you once were. This is just to get the game rolling, and allow players to become adjusted to the controls. When you get further into the game it simply becomes a matter of being the best and the storyline dies down.
As said, The Hustle had the potential to be different. Making assumptions from the title, you might think that there will be 'con' elements of play, literally hustling other players by cheating or taking advantage but it contains no such thing. You simply bet on the game and then play. Those you play against are just as dull. You can move from bar to bar, choosing which of the local players you wish to challenge and then bet money against them. Each time you win a game you will earn money but also gain more respect and a higher reputation. When you have enough of both, you will be able to challenge bosses or 'loan sharks' as they are known within the game. However, there is no difference in playing against them compared to when you play against normal players apart from the fact that it is a little harder. Once you beat the boss of the bar you are in, you then get to move onto other bars in the city.
Those familiar with pool games will find the game mechanics fairly simple but for those who are new to the genre, it will take a game or two for you to fully grasp it. There are various styles you can choose from to make it easier for you; one is a simple meter that gauges the strength of your shot, another allows you to use the D-pad to increase or decrease the strength of your shot and then another has two meters where you need to stop the marker in between the two to perform an accurate shot. This latter option has you using the PSP's analogue stick and is very awkward to use, making most of your shots fail or mis-cue. It is best to avoid using this option.
During play there are two meters at the bottom of the screen, one for you and one for the player you are against. The red one is an intimidation meter. It basically shows you how scared or confident your opposition is and changes depending on the course of the game. If you make a good shot and pot a ball, your intimidation meter increases, if you continually miss shots, it decreases. The more intimidated someone is, the more mistakes they will make, leaving you to finish them off whilst they are down. The second green one is an intuition meter. The more shots a player makes, the higher the instinct bar will fill. You will gain the most intuition for harder shots and when your meter is full you can use it to perform special shots such as an aftertouch (think Burnout) and dead eye, where a master pool player (a bit like John Virgo from snooker) will show you how to perform tricky shots if you are stuck.
Naturally, one of the down points of any PSP game, especially with The Hustle, is that the loading times are ridiculously long. Every loading screen can take up to (or sometimes more than) five minutes, making even like The Sims seem like it's running fast on the PSP. Even during a match, you have to sit through loading boredom as it changes from player to player, you deciding your shot then your character performing it and even the players around you performing cheers or motions afterwards. It is nothing far from ridiculous.
You can choose to disable the character animations so all you see is your own visage, and your rival's pool cue hitting the balls around the table but this creates an experience similar to a freeware pool game on the internet. The character animations are all part of the game, seeing players take their shots, their facial expressions of worry, anger or glee. Turning this off will take away the last element of the game that created any sense of what the developers were trying to achieve with atmosphere and tension in the first place.
The background music of the game was just as displeasing - very monotonous and grating. The crowd also shout annoying things at you like "Hurry up!" or "You're gunna miss it!" to throw you off and in the end it will make you grind your teeth every time one of them shoots their mouth off. Wishing that the game might run a little more smoothly in multiplayer is true, but you can only play wirelessly between two or more PSPs. There is no internet play. This lack of available competition means that people will rarely have the chance to play the game against other players, as many will soon come to realize that there are better snooker or pool titles out for the PSP at cheaper prices and get rid of The Hustle once they have forced themselves to complete it.
Writing this review, using the comments on the game I have, has dampened my spirits. The Hustle had such an opportunity to finally bring something fresh to the sports genre, especially for pool, something to sink your teeth into, really get involved in. However, as is usually the case, developers seem to cock up, make hideous technical errors and destroy whatever amazing concept for the game that they first had. Waiting through horrendous loading times to play what seems to be a choppy, half-arsed experience is not worth the wait.