|The Hustle: Detroit Streets (2006)
Available for: PlayStation 2, Xbox
The old adage of “you get what you pay for” never rings truer than when it comes to budget line video games. Now, some budget titles are good, like the “Midway Arcade Classics” series, but most games that come out new and priced at 20 bucks or less are better left on the shelf. Case in point: “The Hustle: Detroit Streets” by the gang at Activision Value, who have dumped such duds as “Riot Police” and “University Tycoon” on PC gamers. Unfortunately the developer’s track record doesn’t fare any better here.
This game is a port of a PSP title, and while I don’t own a PSP, I can safely say that it makes for one poor console game. The big problem with “The Hustle” is its moronic story line, which finds the player as “Jack Swift,” a guy who recently landed in Detroit and is some kind of amazing pool hustler. There’s some undercover cop chick who uses Jack to bring down the head bad guy pool hustler who’s been controlling …what, I can’t recall as the story is so goddamned second rate that it really has nothing to do with much of anything going on here.
But you’ll be tortured into following along with that story, filled with slow load times, poor voice acting (natch), and crappy graphics (double natch for a budget title) with boring cut scenes that go nowhere. Somewhere in all of this is some kind of pool simulation. But first you’ll have to fill out a corny “psychological profile” that apparently has something to do with how Jack Swift will react to his opponents and other characters he meets. It’s all so pointless. Did I mention the opening movie to this game features what I guess are gangsta pool hustlers doing doughnuts in a jeep in the middle of a city street while firing an Uzi into the air? Oh yeah, there’s that plus shots of drive-by shootings and other violence!
But dammit, this is a pool game! Why is all this other crap larded on top of it? Once you finally do get to the actual game portion, you can choose to sit through a tutorial which, of course, will show you how to place and make your shots. It’s another power gauge-based interface, like so many of the golf sims employ these days. However, more times than not I found myself pressing the wrong buttons, which would change the camera mode, or start making my shot when I wasn’t ready, or some other crap. This is to say that the controls aren’t very intuitive.
Eventually, you’ll learn to make some decent trick shots and whatnot, and there are a wealth of pool games to play here, but actually playing them is a drag considering the amount of times you’ll be playing the same local morons over and over, occasionally getting to a boss type player, but not often enough. There’s no sense of suspense or action here, and the game plods along at an ungodly pace, whether or not you get good at it. There’s also online play, which may or may not be fun, but the times I tried to have a game with other actual human players, there weren’t many to be found at all on the server, as they were either tied up in a game already or just weren’t there, period.
So yes, you definitely get what you pay for. It would be better if you could expect something for nothing here instead, but unfortunately that wouldn’t work, because “The Hustle” just doesn’t have too much going for it. Why the designers thought putting some pointless bad guy story line and ridiculous violence into this title to beef it up is beyond comprehension. Not everything needs to be riddled with corruption in video game land (witness Rockstar’s own “Table Tennis” for the Xbox 360). It’s just a pool sim. Not one worth your time, mind you, but no amount of other crap thrown on top will detract from that fact.