Thursday, April 26, 2018

Everybody's Golf (PS4) Review

Two more reviews are coming in April before we bid this month adieu. The first is an August release from last year, Everybody's Golf. Does a new name (for North America) and new features make for a better golf game for this long-running PlayStation franchise? You know what I always like to say, "Let's find out!"

A golf game where everybody's welcome

The Everybody's Golf series is one of the PlayStation brand's longest-running franchises, dating back all the way to the original PlayStation. The series is one of the few that has released on every PlayStation platform under the sun. In North America the series was given a name change for its localization. It was previously Hot Shots Golf, but now the franchise retains its worldwide name and comes to the PlayStation 4 with a brand-new game. Simply titled "Everybody's Golf", developer Clap Hanz creates a much more approachable and accessible game of golf than ever before.

Your destination in Everybody's Golf is Golf Island, and this is the hub where you can perform a myriad of tasks, the first of which is creating your custom avatar. It's absolutely amazing how many features can be altered to create a golfer that is as close a likeness to you as possible, or if you like, something incredibly off-the-wall with freaky proportions that will give other golfers nightmares on the links. Even with the limited (compared to what you can buy, earn, and unlock later in the game) selection of customization parts, you can tailor and outfit your golfer to your liking with an abundance of options.

My golf game's future is so bright I gotta wear shades!
You begin at the lowest rank on Golf Island, and it's your objective to go as high as possible, Rank 1. Through completing tournaments--9 or 18 hole rounds where you try to get the best score against the rest of the competing field--you earn experience points. More is earned upon making first place. When enough experience points have accumulated, you are challenged by an AI opponent for a one-on-one match. Different competitors offer varying rules. Some might have you win holes by points, while others might impose one stroke penalties on you for hitting into the rough, or a bunker. There are three opponents per rank, and beating the third opponent in Match Play awards you with an increased rank.

Look, Ma! I'm about to drive this ball with my eyes closed!
The first couple ranks can be a bit of a grind to move forward as you're limited to just one golf course at the beginning. There are only so many times you can play either the front or back 9 of the beginner course Eagle City before you start growing tired of its sunny, city surroundings. Thankfully, there is an option to speed things up by turning on Serious Mode. This mode makes the competitors in tournaments get better scores, making for a greater challenge while having the benefit of increasing how much experience and money you earn per round. It doesn't quite solve the problem of having to replay the same course over and over again until a later rank, but it does hasten the time it takes to get to your next rank. 

My opponent Laura is about to get schooled in golf by
my custom avatar (of which you can create eight different ones).
Still, there are some perpetual carrots on sticks to get you to keep playing rounds. You earn coins after rounds are complete that can be used to purchase new customization options like clothing, hair styles, and accessories. Additionally, after each round, you also are awarded with bonus goodies such as gear in the form of clothing and specialized limited-use golf balls of varying abilities as well.

Everybody's Golf uses a tried and true three-button-press system--one to start the swing gauge, one to set the power, and one to set the accuracy. You can hold the D-Pad in one of four directions upon setting the accuracy to unleash topspin, backspin, and sidespin. Later in the game you learn how to perform the incredibly helpful super forms of these aforementioned shot types. Also while determining accuracy, you want to have the meter inside the pink area upon pressing the button the third time to set the accuracy. Otherwise you run the risk of having the ball stray off course significantly, ruining your chance at par in the process.

Too fast of a button press. This ball will go a bit off course.
Button pressed right within the zone. This ball should stay right on track.
As you use clubs, you slowly but surely level them up, increasing their aptitude and ability. Each club in your bag has four different stats that increase in level upon using them properly: power, control, sidespin, and backdoor. Increasing a club's power level strengthens the maximum distance a ball can be hit. A control increase means your shot won't be as susceptible to sway and off course shots. Sidespin gives you more control and ability out of your spins, and backdoor grants a higher probability of golf balls, whether chipped or putted, of going into the hole if they hit the cup's rim. Having each club level up individually means that you'll want to vary which clubs you use and not stick to just one or two. However, it also means that there's a bit of a grind here as well, especially for clubs you don't always use. While your 1-Wood might be spectacular at driving large distances, it doesn't mean anything if your Putter or Wedges are at low levels and can't help out your short game for beans.

Everybody's Golf provides tips in the form of info messages to help you out on the links.
 Fortunately, if you don't want them, you can turn them off.
One of my biggest beefs with past Everybody's Golf games is how brutal they could get when it concerned difficulty. Some of the games featured some truly tricky holes and greens that offered little leeway to mess up, making for a blood pressure-raising experience instead of a relaxing, engaging, and fun one. Everybody's Golf on PlayStation 4 is not just easier in difficulty, but it's also much more inviting, allowing players of all skill levels to fully enjoy the game. There aren't many insanely narrow, extremely undulating greens to make next-to-impossible putts on, or hazard-filled monstrosities packed with small patches of fairway and large patches of bodies of water or other penalty-inducing hazards to be immensely intimidated by. 

That isn't to say that the latest Everybody's Golf is a breeze to play through. While the Match Play competitors you'll face make a multitude of mistakes like errant shots and failed putts, later challengers provide quite the, well, challenge! It's not uncommon for miracle shots to be performed such as 150 yard chip-ins, though it's more dependent on if unrealistic rules like Mega Cups or Tornado Cups are used, where the latter sucks in nearby balls within a close proximity to the hole. The latter two courses (Everybody's Golf sadly only has five total courses included on the disc with three as rather pricey DLC) are a bit more unforgiving, making one really miss the relatively easygoing feeling of the first three courses.

One of many picturesque views of the second course introduced in Everybody's Golf, Alpina Forest.
A new mechanic to Everybody's Golf in this edition of the game is the ability to freely traverse courses as you explore, ride golf carts, and--once the ability is unlocked--fish around them. The online open course exploration allows players to meet up, converse, message, play rounds (or play any hole they like... repeatedly until they finally get that much desired condor they've been wanting--but enough about me), and more. There are even monthly tournaments where players around the globe compete to get the best score possible on that tournament's selected course and rules in order to earn exclusive prizes. 

Better hope your short game is up to snuff if you want that birdie, Phil!
Meanwhile, there are Turf Wars, though this mode isn't the most populated one in Everybody's Golf. Regardless, this mode provides players with a timer and the need to rush as they complete holes and traverse holes to get the lowest score between themselves. This can get absolutely insane when golf carts are smashing into one another and players speed through strokes to finish the round first while also hoping to score under par. It's just a shame that this mode isn't as popular as it should be, given how exciting it can be.

The artist formerly known as Hot Shots Golf (at least in North America), Everybody's Golf is a content-rich golf game that unlike past installments in the series features gameplay that is welcoming to both newbies to the franchise and veterans alike. The single player offers a bit of a grind, and the limited number of available courses that comes packaged with the game disappoints a little, but that notwithstanding, Everybody's Golf is golfing for the masses. Well, the masses that don't mind anime-inspired characters and some creative liberties with the sport.

[SPC Says: B]

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