Mix pool with high-stakes gambling and you'll get - surprisingly - an almost entirely unenjoyable game. The Hustle offers 10 variations on the classic game of billiards, though they must be unlocked over the course of a story mode that's about as engaging as an informercial, set to the strains of generic bar rock. From there, 170 vaguely distinguishable opponents await while bystanders offer side bets. No matter which locale you're mining for respect, you'll wind up wanting to nuke the place after the same dimwit randomly advises you to "buy some glasses!" five times in as many minutes. Oddly, setting the voice volume to zero does nothing to get rid of these brain-dead interjections.
Hustling your opponents via deliberately botched shots and staged comebacks seems promising at first but they don't pan out. The Intimidation factor should really do more than just speed up a shot meter, while an intuition bank lets you call on a retired pro for advice and add insane amounts of aftertouch to the cue ball.
Trouble is, the core mechanics of play are too irritating for even these thin features to take hold. Adjusting position, english and strike angle becomes an exercise in arbitrary controller contortions - and there's no way to get an untethered view of the table. Are those balls touching or just really close? Is there room between the bumper and the eight ball? You'll never know. The designers had time to add pointless unlockable fashion accessories, but not enough to make the camera work?
Worst of all, inexcusable lag and long load times mean staring at felt for a good five seconds after each and every play. It's like watching grass not grow, and robs the game of any momentum. Only the Xbox version avoids these particular frustrations, substituting instead a bizarre and extreme oversensitivity such that every last movement requires the "fine adjustment" trigger.
The Hustle might aim to be an affordable budget diversion, but even a bargain price can't make this deeply flawed game worth buying. Unless you've got a pathological love for billiards, this hustle will only leave you feeling cheated.