Everybody’s Golf Review (PlayStation 4)
From the designs of the courses to the way players shut out the rest of the world to make that perfect shot, golf is one of the most beautiful games you can play. That's especially true when it comes to the video game version of the sport, where every last tiny detail of the courses and the environments can be tailored to give spectacular vistas without worrying about real world restrictions like real estate and budgetary concerns. Everybody's Golf (formerly known as Hot Shots Golf in the US) has long been a franchise that maximizes the unlimited scope of games to give players some of the most enjoyable golfing experiences available. With this latest entry on the PlayStation 4, Clap Hanz gives longtime fans and newcomers plenty of reason to hit the links, even if it doesn't quite live up to all its promise.
Everybody's Golf opens with players creating an avatar for this wacky world of characters. Past games relied on characters developed by Clap Hanz, each with their own special attributes and personalities. This time around, players are not only completely in charge of how they look on the course, but their skills with clubs come from playing more and more golf. Gone are the days of merely picking the character with the best Power or Control; now you've got to develop your own abilities to ensure you're a true competitor out on the links.
The creation options at the start aren't quite that vast, but you earn more and more clothing and accessories the more you play. By the time you finish up the first round of tournaments, you'll have a much larger wardrobe with which to personalize yourself on Golf Island, the hub world of Everybody's Golf. You'll also have up to eight different slots for custom characters, though fortunately they'll all share the same skill set. You don't have to worry about grinding every new character you come up with if you want to enjoy using them in either single-player or online tournaments.
Eight characters might sound like a lot, but honestly, when you see the number of options available in body type, swing style, personality/voice, and more, you might think it's not enough to craft your creative stable. Plus, you'll have the ability to clone any of the computer characters you meet during play, opening up your options even if you aren't feeling particularly motivated to make more characters on your own.
Improving your clubs has a bit of an RPG vibe, as the more you use a certain club in your bag, the more it will improve in areas like Power, Control and Backspin. There are requirements to meet for gaining upgrades in these areas, such as hitting a club with at least 95% power into a safe area (fairways and greens) or laying up onto the green from at least 60 yards away. They aren't difficult to obtain, though you may find some clubs are slower to level up than others simply out of lack of use.
With this new process, Everybody's Golf incentivizes using every single option in the bag to ensure you're getting the most out of your irons and woods. However, if you just want to be a 5-iron master, you can go for it. Once you finish up every single tournament stage, you'll even unlock the ability to craft your own custom clubs to boost your abilities even further. It's a solid feature, but it costs a lot of in-game currency to even get started. The specialized clubs you earn just by playing normally more than suffice for the duration of Everybody's Golf. There's no wrong way to enjoy the solo content Everybody's Golf offers, but when you go up against the computer characters in Versus mode, you'll want to be as prepared as possible.
Despite moving away from playable characters in the single-player arena, Everybody's Golf still does have more than a dozen different golfers you'll face off against in your quest to be the greatest Golf Island has ever seen. As your own character levels up, you'll earn the right to face off against these pros in a Versus match, most of which use funky rules to make them more interesting than traditional tournaments. Early on the pros aren't that imposing; they'll make just as many mistakes as you if this is your first time playing. Seasoned vets may find these early matches a bit breezy, but you can still fall if you're not up to snuff.
The Clap Hanz pros are formidable and all, but it's often been said that in golf you don't play against other golfers, but against the course. One area where Everybody's Golf has never disappointed is in its course architecture, and this game is no slouch in that department. The early Eagle City Country Club is a basic public course, but as you earn the right to play in new areas, Everybody's Golf's personality begins to shine.
Other country clubs visit Pacific islands, where stunning sunsets tease you behind treacherous cliffsides; the Alpine course that's windy, full of hills, and open enough to blast balls off the tee farther than you ever thought you could; and a desert valley that's hot, dry, and ripe with hazards to eat your shots. There's beauty around every corner, even if the characters on the course have more in common with a cartoon than they do with some of Everybody's Golf's more realistically rendered holes. There's always a new wrinkle to spot or an area to access as you improve your golfer to strike balls further, leaving plenty of wonderful visual to discover the longer you play.
Online was hyped in the lead-up to Everybody's Golf's release to be where a great deal of action would take place, but it's the only element of this latest entry that doesn't deliver. There are online tournaments to partake in, with special daily events offering more prizes for custom play, and Turf Wars, which is a bit of a scramble-fied Capture the Flag. Sadly, Turf Wars randomizes teams no matter what, so you can't guarantee you'll be able to play with a group of friends even if you sync all your logins at the same time. While you can play a round of golf in a private room, you won't earn any progress, and it's a rather stale affair.
Online tournaments take place on open courses, which you unlock at the same pace here as you do in the single-player portion. You can run around and do things like drive carts (once you unlock them) or go fishing (once you unlock it), but the primary source of online fun is still just playing a round of golf in an open course with other real people. Thankfully you can't troll anyone by getting in their way, but you can certainly follow people around to provide support or humor while they're rushing from hole to hole. Open courses also have secret prizes and coins to find scattered throughout, and they change every day, giving you a reason to constantly check in to see what's happening.
With those elements in mind, it's still a bit of a letdown that there isn't much else to do with friends, and even racing around on carts, which should have been a blast, is rather boring when there are no stakes involved. There are no real races or anything, and fishing with friends just amounts to you all standing around the same spot, fishing individually. For a game that was supposed to offer some great online multiplayer experiences, Everybody's Golf still keeps much of its play too solitary to truly make the most of it with friends.
When word arrived that the PlayStation 4 was getting its own Everybody's Golf sequel, and one with a supposedly robust character creator and online suite to boot, we were ecstatic. Everybody's Golf nearly delivers on all its promises, and adds some things we didn't even know we wanted from the franchise. The PlayStation 4 entry reached for greatness, but came up just a bit short of that goal due to the lack of impressiveness online. The end result is still one of the finest golf games of the last 20 years — we did put in time on over 800 holes — even if it's not quite the masterpiece we hoped it would have been.
This review is based on a digital copy of Everybody's Golf provided by the publisher for PlayStation 4.