Replay Value: 7.2
If you've played any Hot Shots game before now, you know exactly what you're going to find in Fore. The same swing mechanic, which involves one button press to start, another to select power, and another to determine accuracy is present, though there is now a simplified two-button system for novices. You can put a slice or a fade on the ball by pressing left or right, and you can also put back-spin on the ball by pressing down before hitting the ball. Learning to put backspin on the ball is key to getting short, manageable putts in the game, so you'll want to master this technique quickly.
Fore! features a total of 12 courses, five of which are back from the last game. For some odd reason, the game forces you to play the first course repeatedly as you build up skill and defeat golfers, and it's the same course you'll have played to death if you played Hot Shots 3. There's no excuse for not being able to come up with a new beginner course, especially when you're going to spend so much time there. The course generally have the same feel as they always have, but putting seems to be a little more difficult this year. In fact, on the "beginner" course, any putt longer than six feet is so difficult that true beginners are likely to give up.
Back by popular demand this year is the game's miniature golf mode, where not only do you want to sink the putt in the fewest amount of strokes possible, you also want to cover the most ground by doing so. This forces you to take extra risks on what would normally be an easy putt; instead you're bouncing it off of as many walls as you can. Mini-golf is fun for a while, but once you've mastered each hole, there's not much else you can do with it.
The biggest addition to the game is a true online mode. Hot Shots 3 featured an online ranking system, but Fore! allows you to play full tournaments against players from around the world. It's quite easy to get in a game, and the time limit set for each hole really keeps the game moving. Since the game allows you to use players that you've unlocked in the single-player game, you're going to want to spend some time unlocking the better golfers before you head online. Voice chat is not supported, but keyboard chat before the tournament and in-between holes is allowed and encouraged. Online play is very smooth, and really adds a lot to the game. If you've got broadband and you're a veteran of the series, you're not likely to spend much time doing anything but playing in online tournaments.
Visually, Hot Shots Golf Fore! looks nearly identical to its predecessor. There are some new characters and animations, but not enough to justify two years in development. This year the characters are more over the top than ever, as you can unlock a six year old girl (I don't know how old she is, she's young, and annoying) and a golfing dog as well. A cool bonus is the ability to unlock both Ratchet and Jak, with Clank and Daxter as their respective caddies. The courses look a little nicer with better water and some really nice wind effects, but again, with five of the courses being rehashes, you've got to wonder what the developers did with their time.
Fore! features cutesy characters that yell out what are supposed to be cute and funny phrases after finishing a hole. Perhaps these sayings are funny in Japan, or they think this is what kind of humor we like, but it's quite unbearable. Caddies will speak at the same time, annoying bugs will buzz around while you try to hit, and next thing you know, you've got it muted with your favorite CD playing in the background.
If you're not going to play this game online, you don't need it, you won't like it, and you'll be mad that you paid full price for it. The improvements over the last game are at best minimal, and the new characters, like a little girl and a dog are quite lame. If you're going to play online, then I'd suggest renting the game and playing the heck out of it for a weekend. If you're not tired of it by Sunday night, then by all means, go buy it, but most people should just go pick up Hot Shots 3 on the cheap.