Friday, September 8, 2017

Everybody's Golf Review (PS4)

Don’t let the unfamiliar title of Everybody’s Golf fool you, this is still the same good ol’ Hot Shots Golf U.S. players have enjoyed for two decades now. Except that it isn’t quite the same. Hot Shots Golf Fore launched in 2004 with 15 courses. Everybody’s Golf has just 5 with an added dose of excessive DLC and microtransaction foolishness. Even the gameplay didn’t make it out unscathed as one of the tenets of golf videogames – if you hit a shot with perfect impact it’ll actually go where you want it – doesn’t apply to Everybody’s Golf anymore and instead shots fire off seemingly totally at random. It is frustrating and disappointing because the core golf game underneath the nonsense is still actually really great, and the character creator is absolutely phenomenal, but there is so much tacked on jank that it’s hard not to be let down a bit. See our full Everybody’s Golf review for all of the details.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Sony
  • Developer: Clap Hanz
  • ESRB Rating: “E” for Everybody
  • Genre: Golf
  • Pros: Fantastic gameplay; awesome character maker; tornado cups
  • Cons: Not enough courses; long unlock grind; impact accuracy doesn’t matter; open online feels pointless; microtransactions
  • MSRP: $40
Everybody’s Golf is the latest in the long running PlayStation exclusive arcade-style golf franchise. It features just five courses on the disc with at least five more planned as DLC – three of which are already available. Honestly, this isn’t enough courses. Five courses are not enough for a golf game. At all. Period. It seems like a money grab through and through.

You’d think that with so few courses on the disc that they’d at least be available to play right away, but no luck there, either. Only one course is open when you start and you have to grind your way through hours and hours and hours of playing on the first boring course in order to unlock the next one. The game is fun, don’t get me wrong, but spending the first 15-hours of the game on the same 2-3 courses (mostly on the first one) is kind of ridiculous. You’re tired of the game before you even see it all.

The gameplay in Everybody’s Golf uses the intuitive three-click swing system – one button press to start the swing, one button press to set the power as a meter fills, and a third button press to set the accuracy. This is oldschool classic videogame golf, and I love it. What I don’t love, however, is that no matter how well you set up your shot, there is still a massive amount of randomness that can occur. In previous games, if you set the impact in the pink or white area of the meter it was guaranteed to go reasonably straight (and perfectly straight if you got a perfect impact). Not so in Everybody’s Golf. Even a perfect impact can still result in your carefully calculated shot veering wildly to the left or right of where you’re aiming and there is seemingly nothing you can do about it. It doesn’t seem that bad on the first couple of courses, but the courses greatly increase in difficulty and these little fits of the game randomly shanking a perfectly good shot can really screw you over. 

The reason why the randomness of your shots is so frustrating is because almost everything else in Everybody’s Golf is freaking perfect. It feels so good to play. The courses are well-designed and fun to play on. When you do well it is incredibly satisfying. But then something totally out of your control can screw up a round. The more time I have spent with the game, the more this has become a problem. I love the game, but I also have an increasingly strong urge to just buy Hot Shots Golf Fore and play that instead.

I also have an issue with the open online courses. You can play local multiplayer or set up regular online multiplayer matches if you want, of course, but you can also play on an open online course with up to 60 other players running around. The open courses are just that – totally open – so you can run around to any hole, drive golf carts, collect random coins and items that drop, and even go fishing. The idea behind the open online courses is that you can find extra coins and customization items as well as play a round and submit a score to compete with the other players. The problem is that the other players are all using maxed out clubs and / or are freaking golf savants and post –20 scores on the nine hole courses. That means they’re getting eagles and albatrosses on every – single – hole. I'll have a great round of –9 or –10 and can’t even sniff the leaderboard. It makes the mode feel pretty pointless and not particularly fun. And don’t tell me to “git gud”.

Part of the problem with online play is that the game has a deep dark secret of microtransactions and pay-to-win hidden deep under the surface. When you finish the single-player mode your reward is the option to buy custom clubs – clubs that you can pay real money to upgrade far beyond the normal clubs that you level up normally over the course of gameplay. People are able to post such low scores online because they have paid for clubs that let them drive every par 4 or par 5 and basically take all of the skill and strategy out of golf. I don’t blame people for taking advantage of it. I blame Sony for being greedy and adding microtransactions.

One other complaint I have is that there is an excessive amount of fluff and pointless nonsense in Everybody’s Golf. When you first start playing the game just throws NPC after NPC at you that all just – keep – talking –about – nothing! I just want to play golf, shut up! The “menu” is a sort of open island where you can walk around to the various options and modes and stuff and it is just utterly pointless. Just let me select a tournament from a menu and get on with it. Likewise, the addition of drivable golf carts (with bad controls … oh, and there are premium DLC ones to buy as well …) and fishing (which is just freaking awful) serve no purpose. I would rather they put that effort into a few more courses.

Another annoyance is the presence of NPCs constantly running around the course while you play. The gallery is seemingly running wild and free to just roam the course, and NPC competitors are hitting their shots at the exact same time you are. None of the NPCs can interfere with your shots, thankfully, but they definitely distract you. And it really sucks to have your victory animation interrupted by some rando NPC getting in the way. This feature is so completely unnecessary. 

On a more positive note, Everybody’s Golf does have an absolutely fantastic character customization feature. There aren’t really preset characters in Everybody’s Golf like there were in past Hot Shots Golf games and instead you just make a custom character using a huge amount of parts. Your reward for grinding through the single-player and posting scores for open online courses is that you earn a continuous stream of new clothing and other customization options for your character. You can make some really great characters in Everybody’s Golf and it is honestly one of my favorite features. I actually change up my character every couple of rounds because it’s so fun, which is something I literally never ever do in any other games.

I also have to admit that I actually like the wide range of accessibility options in Everybody’s Golf that make the game a little easier and more fun. Things like optional “Mega Cups” that are larger than normal golf holes or even the “Tornado Cups” that basically suck in any shot that is reasonably close make the game stupidly easy, but also surprisingly fun. You know in the back of your mind that you’re not really accomplishing anything to brag about when you get an eagle or albatross from 200-yards away on a Tornado Cup, but it’s still fun to actually do crazy unbelievable stuff like that. I like that they went kind of over the top to make the game as fun as possible for everyone, even if it does dumb things down to a pretty ridiculous degree. Of course, if you want more of a challenge the game also offers smaller than normal “Teeny Cups” as well. I love it.

Presentation-wise, Everybody’s Golf is pretty nice all around. It isn’t gorgeous looking, or anything, but the courses are bright and colorful and clean so it all looks very nice. The characters, though, even as much as I do love the customization options, can have a sort of creepy simple 3D hentai look to them. Not that I’ve ever seen any of that stuff. This is more a problem with the stock NPCs, though, and not so much player-created characters thankfully. The sound in Everybody’s Golf is just acceptable. The sound effects for golf are fine, but the loading screen music – which you hear a LOT – is kind of awful.

Everybody’s Golf has me pretty conflicted, to be honest. It is a ton of fun to play and I love love love the character creator and really enjoy the wealth of options to play the game however you like, but there are so many creeping little annoyances that I just don’t like the game overall as much as I wish I could. There aren’t enough courses, I hate the added fluff, microtransactions are evil, and the game takes away too much control from the player with the whole “Perfect Impact isn’t really Perfect Impact anymore” thing. This all adds up to a game that objectively isn’t nearly as good as past entries in the series. I’d much rather go back to HSG Out of Bounds on PS3 or HSG Fore on PS2. I don’t hate it. I just don’t love it. Wait for a price drop before buying Everybody’s Golf.