Sports games often find themselves straddling a very fine line, providing enough challenge and content for hardcore simulation fans while being simple and easy enough to appeal to the mass market. This isn’t an easy feat, with most of these titles emphasizing one skill level over another. Not so for the Hot Shots Golf series, which has managed to keep a significant level of depth while remaining light and whimsical. It’s been a little more than two years since a Hot Shots title has graced the PS2, and this new game easily makes up for its absence with the same addictive gameplay that its become known for. So grab your clubs as we take a look at Hot Shots Golf: Fore!
If you’ve ever played one of the Hot Shots games, you’re pretty accustomed to the quirky lighthearted gameplay that is rampant on the golf course. While the demo we received was somewhat feature-limited, it was a solid indication of what we’ll receive when the final version comes out later this summer. First of all, more than 30 golfers will be available to hit the links. Many of these will need to be unlocked as you enter tournaments and acquire points to buy access to these players, along with new clothes and equipment, at the golf shop. A mix of brand new characters and old favorites from the three previous titles, players should have no problem finding someone they’ll like. From the Zen-like Sam and cheerleader Phoebe to the Morpheus-imitating T-Bone and lounge lizard Mel, these are some of the most vibrant people to have ever picked up clubs.
These golfers will have 12 unique golf courses to play through, ranging from what appears to be luxury resort spots to expansive mountain country clubs. Most of these demonstrate varying par levels to keep golfers on their toes, with a healthy dose of rough along with sand and water hazards. While veteran players will be accustomed to the three button golf swing to launch balls down the fairway, beginners will probably welcome the inclusion of easy mode, which reduces your stroke down to two buttons. This gives players the option of trying to simply power the ball down the fairway, or go for the more experienced but risky “sweet spot shot” (try saying that three times fast!).
Aside from the full courses, and executive Par-3 only course has been included, and making its triumphant return to the series from the first game, two miniature golf courses have been included as well. This isn’t the typical mini-golf that you’ll find scattered around entertainment centers or amusement parks with colorful obstacles; instead, these resemble shrunken realistic golf courses arranged around hazards. While sinking a ball into the hole is the main objective, doing it with style is much more important to your score. To this end, banking shots off walls, rocks and other objects is key to racking up points. On top of all of this, online play has been included, allowing friends to challenge each other in virtual golf tournaments.
Fans of the series will be pleased to know that the unique flair of graphical presentation has been retained. The golfers still have their expressive, anime-influenced facial animations, and the courses look very vibrant, with a striking amount of detail paid to water hazards. The voices that’ve been included are also well done and relatively engaging. In fact, the caddies will often remark on how well or poorly you’re playing, offering their advice along the way. While still early, it looks like Hot Shots Golf: Fore! will be a great title for PS2 owners when it tees off later this year. Check back soon for a full review!
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