Review by thrillhouse1000

Reviewed: 08/26/04

The Best Golf Game Gets Better (and Online) =]

Hot Shots Golf Fore in a word is : Awesome! The game has great graphics, often-hilarious characters, and the some of the funniest audio I've heard. But none of that matters if the gameplay isn't solid, engaging, and deep- which it is. I'll break it down further below:

Gameplay

If you played Hot Shots 3, you have some basic idea what to expect with Fore. In other words, Clap Hanz refined and improved their game, but didn't alter the core of their winning formula- realistic golf physics + pick-up and play ease of use + a funny, un-stuckup presentation = fun. =]

Unlike some major competitors like Tiger Woods, this game physics and gameplay do not fall into the category of 'Goofy Golf'. What's Goofy Golf, you ask? Its golf where 400 yd drives and putting spin on the ball AFTER its hit is the norm. It's golf aimed squarely at people that don't know a thing about golf, but think they do. Clap Hanz kept the goofiness out of their gameplay, and kept it where it belongs- with the fun characters, instead of making you play with some boring PGA preppie named 'something something the third' who you don't give two toots about.

It' s golf played by wacky-looking characters. It's the kind of game that Japanese gamers especially really seem to love., but that has found a worldwide market... every single Hot Shots game has become a Greatest Hit in America.

Another game in this category is Mario Golf. And what truly sets Mario apart from is their characters are entrenched in nearly every gamer's mind. Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, Princess Peach. You know them, you love them. HSG Fore took a leaf from the MG book and included Ratchet, Clank, Jak, and Daxter, famous characters from other Sony games, and they look great here.

The other characters are a mix of Japanese (ninja, samurai, etc.) and American themes (a street 'gangsta', a cheerleader, a pro wrestler, etc.). Their various in-game animations are fun and evocative. But what really set the characters apart are some of the lines they spew while burning up the links.

One of the few problems with Hot Shots 3, the previous game in the series, was that the dialogue could get repetitive after awhile. But in HS Fore, Clap Hanz recorded a LOT more lines of audio for each character or caddy, and upped the funny quotient. And in a move that more games should emulate, they used professional voice actors this time around, such as Julie Benz from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel fame, and Debra Wilson of Mad TV. The effect is noticeable. But if you're one who prefers your golf with a little less talking, there's a nice dog you can choose as your caddy... he'll bark occasionally, and that's it. =]

However, a golf game is ultimately about how it plays, and the courses you play on. The 5 full-length courses from HSG3 return (with some tweaks that change how they play), along with a 7 new full-length courses, a par 3 course, and the return of an old favorite: mini-golf!

The swing mechanism is the same as HSG 3, but with some definite improvements and a new easy mode. Its the tried-and-true digital swing, with its familiar 3-click method that works as well as ever but that now allows all variants of spin, punch, flop shots without competing analog swing games 'spin after the hit' ridiculousness.

While a few insist that a golf game must have analog 'or else', analog's only real edge is that its newer, having been introduced by the Golden Tee arcade games a few years back. Both methods have their advantages, and your choice of what swing is best to you is a personal one.... the debate won't truly end until a golf game offers both. HSG vets however, will be overjoyed at the 3-click swing, and the new Everybody's Club adds a simple pick-up-and-play 2-click swing, which makes it easy to hit good(albeit short) shots and allows anybody, even a rank beginner, to get in on the fun. =]

Now add to this that HS Fore also allows you to play online, against up to 50 players in an online tournament or to take a rival down in 1-in-1 in Match Play, and there's no end of the hours you'll be putting in on this one.

Music

The music varies according to course and situation, with some courses tending towards having gentle, almost meditative tracks, while others (like a tropical island course) tending towards reggae and still others getting whimsical (the insane fantasy Day Dream course). And of course, once you put the ball on the green, the music turns tense, to intensify the situation. All in all, good stuff.

Graphics

If you've played HSG3, you know what to expect. Beautiful water, near-photorealistic enviroments, beautiful courses... its all here. And its even better this time around, with touches like trees that sway in the wind and character costumes that have been sharpened up a bit. The character models themselves are a bit cartoony, but that is the attention. Then there's further bonuses, such as seeing a bear, fox, rabbit, or even an alien pop up ,wandering around on a hole every now and again. Graphically, the course enviroments rival the best in its field.

Courses

OK, so the gameplay is first rate, the audio is funny, and the graphics are great, but what about the courses? Your hopes are met, as the game offers a wide variety of outstanding course designs. One or two of the new ones outshine the rest, and easily rival the beauty of playing at any real-world course you'd care to name. But for the 'simmers' out there, there are two real-world courses offered, faithfully recreating Fujizakura C.C. and Kawana Hotel G.C., two premiere courses in Japan. Plus you get a grand total of 15 (!!) courses, far more than HSG 3 ever offered. Trust me, every strategic situation or style of play can be found here, and between the course design and the excellent physics engine (superior to anything out there), you'll be addicted to trying to find a way to conquer every course.

To sum it up, if you love Hot Shots 3, and never tired of it, you'll love HSG: Fore even more because Fore is HSG3 with more improvements than you can shake a stick at:

- Free Online Play, for up to 50 players at a time
- Many new characters, including Jak & Daxter and Ratchet and Clank
- More than double the courses of HSG 3
- Two fun (and innovative) mini-golf courses with pool-style rules
- Often-hilarous audio done by pro voice actors
- A much longer (and tougher) single-player mode
- Many more items and unlockables
- Multiple classes of upgradeable clubs
- A deeper and superior Training Mode
- and much, much more

For those with an interest mainly in online play, Clap Hanz has thankfully added support to the game...pretty good support. First they made it broadband only to keep the laggers out (sorry guys). They chose not to support the headset for communication, which is good and bad... can't talk to your buds, but you also miss out on having some 10-year old scream profanities at you when you're putting. It does include USB keyboard support, so chatting is easy. The game plays smooth and almost entirely lag-free online, and finding a game is easy with the intuitive interface. Plus you can try to get a Top 100 score on any course, which is posted to the Worldwide Rankings... see if you're good enough. =]

HSG Fore, summed up, is an impressive evolution in a series that has sold 7.5 million copies worldwide to date. And its only $39, ten smackers cheaper than the competition. So grab some friends, get online, and be sure to yell 'Fore!!!!' as you tee it up against the best in the world =]

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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