Hot Shots Golf: Fore! Review (PS2)
"Golf for the people". That's how the latest installment of the Hot Shots franchise bills itself. This is not your traditional golf sim ala Tiger Woods PGA Tour. Instead, Hot Shots has always taken pride in their cartoony characters, simplified controls, role-playing elements, and addicting gameplay, and the fourth installment is no different.
Hot Shots Golf Fore returns to the PS2 boasting 12 full courses, 24 characters with 10 different caddies, the return of mini-golf, and a par-3 short course. All five courses from HSG3 return with the addition of seven new ones, and many of the characters from HSG3 also return. Also new to this HSG4 is the addition of online multiplayer. Multiplayer lets you play a traditional stroke match with up to 4 players, or in an online tournament mode with many more. There are also a ton of unlockables including mirrored and back-tee versions of each course, character costumes, and tons of other hidden goodies.
The graphics in Hot Shots Golf Fore are similar to the previous version for the PS2, albeit with some new effects and slightly improved course designs. Each character's animations are smooth and their costumes are nicely detailed. There are also some new ambient effects in courses such as animals running through the woods or planes flying overhead which are nice touches. All in all the graphics for HSG4 are nice, but nothing to drool over.
The gameplay is where Hot Shots really stands out. Instead of the analog method of swinging used in Tiger Woods, Hot Shots uses a simpler 3 button swing. Press once to start the shot meter, a second time to gauge the power of your shot, and a third to mark the accuracy. Sounds simple enough, but there are also a number of things you can do during those three button presses to further specify your shot. Pressing the d-pad during your swing adds curve, topspin, or backspin to the ball, depending on the direction pressed. If you want more curve or spin, press one direction while setting the power and then the opposite during the accuracy portion of the meter. You can also press the triangle or circle buttons during the accuracy press to add or take away a bit of power if you changed your mind during the power portion of the swing. This all happens in about 3 seconds so it is still very challenging to get the perfect swing.
The sweet spot still remains on the accuracy portion of the shot where if you time it perfectly, the ball will fly perfectly straight, there is a new even more perfect method of striking the ball. On the very extreme edges of the accuracy meter are two dark red lines. If you hit one of these lines, you will get a skull icon, but your ball will fly perfectly straight and much father than a normal shot. Also when it hits the ground it will die upon impact. If you miss the mark by even a fraction, however, your ball will fly way off course or you may even miss the shot completely. It is a very challenging swing and makes it perfect for those tight spots.
A great addition to the gameplay is the terrain meter which rests just above the shot meter at the bottom of the screen. This shows the altitude of the course from the ball to the hole. It's a very subtle yet fantastic tool which really helps in determining how to hit the ball. If the hole is higher than you, you will need more power, if its lower, take something off the shot.
Different game style include the tournament and versus mode of single player. In tournament mode, you play a full 18 hole course against a number of computer controlled players. If you finish in the top ten, you receive some experience to get to the next rank level, and if you win the tournament, you get trophies, unlockables such as the mirrored and back tee versions of courses, along with possible freebies from the store. Versus mode pits you against one computer controlled opponent on a nine hole course of your choice. Should you win, that character will now be playable, and if you win by two, you can play the hard mode of that character to unlock additional costumes.
During any match, you earn points for your play on each hole. For example a fairway shot will get you 20 points, a par 100, birdie 200, and so on, and bad shots will deduct points. At the end of the match your points determine the winner in ties, but more importantly, they can be spent at the store in between matches to upgrade your equipment, buy new caddies, costumes, and more. Another new feature this year is the concept that each type of club has different classes. This offers even more for you to unlock.
Environment sounds are pretty average throughout each course. There are the usual birds chirping and soft music playing in the background but nothing spectacular. What does get slightly annoying are the caddie and character sayings. After the first course or so, you've already heard everything that the character or caddie is going to say. It would have been nice if there were more sayings so that you go at least a few holes without the characters repeating themselves.
Traditional offline multiplayer still exists in the form of match or stroke play with up to four others. Online multiplayer this year is a new feature and adds a whole new replay walue to the game. Players with an online adapter and Internet connection play for free and can play in online stroke matches or tournaments. I had as much fun in the online tournament mode as I have with any online console title to date. The way Clap Handz instituted it works perfectly, there is minimal waiting and you can still play at your own pace. Players can choose to start a tournament with the settings that they like and then are placed into the lobby. For the next 5-10 minutes, people can view and join your game. It reminded me of Starcraft with the way people could join up and then waited for the counter to countdown to start the game.
Once the tournament starts, each player begins at the first hole and is given a time limit (roughly 90-120 seconds per hole). Once you finish that hole, you are placed in a game lobby screen where you can see how the rest of the people did and also chat with them. It works out where a normal player will finish the hole with about 40 seconds to look at the other scores and chat. Once the time runs out, the next hole begins and so on. After the tournament is over, you are giving a national ranking and can see how you place with everyone else in the world.
The online competition is much tougher than the in game players. In a tournament of 38 players, I shot a -7 and ended up in 20th place. Your single player rank is also shown with your username so it gives you a reason to play the single player also so you can build up your shown ranking for bragging rights.
Hot Shots Golf Fore is one of the most addicting golf games that I have ever played. It keeps all of the elements from HSG3, adds more courses, characters, secrets, and mini-golf to provide quite a bit of replay value. The multiplayer is done as well as you could hope for and offers golfers the opportunity to challenge the masses once they've mastered the single player. This is one of the rare games I've played where I would play for a few hours, put the controller down, walk around the house for a couple of minutes, and then say "just one more quick game". If you don't take your golf too seriously and can deal with the cartoony characters, you'll find HSG4 to be one of the best golf games available on the PS2.
Last edited by SALvation; 04-26-2008 at 02:38 AM.