The wait for a full PlayStation 4 entry in the popular Everybody’s Golf series has been one that has driven players to distraction. Finally, the series that many people will be surprised to find has been going for a shade over 20 years now – although the last six of them have been barren – has made the jump into the current generation. With promises of a new home base, tight online integration, and a new leveling up system, fans were understandably pumped.
Everybody’s Golf’s “Golf Island” resort initially looks to be a place that’s ripe for exploration, so you wander off to see what you can find. The entrance to the two online modes stands to the left, next to the customization shop. The signup desk for single-player challenge tournaments to the right. A tempting race track suggests that there will be some golf cart racing to be done later on. A fishing dock reminds you that you’ve already read about the minigame that you can play once you’ve unlocked it. A little guy gives you a quiz about the basics of golf. Ten minutes of fruitless wandering around later, you realize that you’ve seen all that there is to see. That includes the new character models which, while being nicely customisable, look like they were something rejected during the design stages of Microsoft’s Xbox Live avatars back in 2008.
At this point, you’ll probably plump for a single-player round and be happy to see that the action plays out largely as it always did, though in a more beautiful setting. The control setup is exactly as you remember (barring putting, which is now a three-press input), and even if you haven’t sampled the delights of Everybody’s Golf before, it won’t take more than nine holes for you to be fully up to speed on how to play. Of course, it’ll take a little while to fully master, but that’s the beauty of the series. Anybody can grab a controller and be relatively competitive, without having to have any sort of golfing knowledge at all. That – happily – is still the case in this PlayStation 4 version.
Experienced players (and even those that pick the game up quickly) will find that they’re soon hitting the top of the tournament leaderboards and having to enable the game’s “Serious Mode” (which makes the AI players a bit better) to find any sort of challenge. To say that’s a recurring problem would be the understatement of the year. Even with that harder difficulty level enabled, Everybody’s Golf is easy to the point of being a tedious grind fest for the first ten hours of single player mode. This is exacerbated by the new leveling system, that powers up your abilities with individual clubs as you play accurate shots with them. Hit a 100% power shot to the fairway with your 1 wood, and you’re now able to hit further with that club. Hit a beautiful approach shot that lands within 6ft of the cup from 60 yards away with your 7 iron, and that club’s “Control” stat increases. This is a genuinely good idea that rewards players for using all the clubs in their bag, rather than just relying on the driver, a short iron, and a pitching wedge.
The problem is that while you’re getting better, the opposition isn’t. Not only that, but you start off with one incredibly easy course to play on, with the remaining four being unlocked as you progress through the ranks. By the time you’ve played your tenth round in a row on the first course, you’ll probably be playing with your eyes closed and winning by double digits. The second course isn’t much more of a challenge (even if it is gorgeous to look at), though the third throws the occasional curveball your way. The fourth and fifth ones that you unlock are where the game begins to become as attractive and as addictive as we know it can be. On these courses, you’ll have multiple shot choices, and will need actual skill to put in low-scoring rounds. It’s just such a shame that it takes hours upon hours of painfully easy wins to get to them. Courses that are locked offline are unavailable for you to play online, too, so there’s no getting around it that way.
In a way, this does mean that you get plenty of bang for your buck since the single player mode will take a long time to fully complete. Half of that time will be spent wishing that you could just skip ahead, but things can be livened up by participating in the fishing minigame (once you’ve eventually unlocked it) which is surprisingly enjoyable. Failing that, the lack of any cart racing events – they’ve built a track, but it’s just for driving around on your own – means that if single-player gets you down, online is where you’ll head.
Everybody’s Golf’s online world is separated into three main modes. A standard room-based setup lets you take on friends or all-comers round a course of your choice and with whichever rules you’d like. An “open course” gives you the opportunity to run (or cart) around, emoting to other players with the d-pad as you go. Searching for the very occasional piece of cosplay loot and playing holes individually, or taking on the back or front nine as a set is the order of the day here and is a pleasant and relaxing experience. Daily scoreboards for each hole and each 9-hole round are available, with rewards being doled out for those that do well. But the highlight of the piece is “Turf War.”
Here, you’re placed on either the red or blue team and given a time limit within which you cart around the course, looking for holes to play to score points for your team. Once you’ve sunk the ball, it’s back to your cart to race to another hole to try to grab more points. There are no limits. If you think you can do better on the 15th than you just did, you can race back and play it again! Anything goes, as long as it takes place before time is out.
Every round is a madcap dash that gets the adrenaline flowing more than you’d expect a quick bit of online golf to ever be able to. The fun is threatened by the ability to play with unbalanced teams and by the inclusion of a limited-use “warp” option. Using this, you can complete a hole, then warp to the next without having to walk or drive. This would be all well and good if it was truly limited, but if you want to plunk down the in-game cash, you can buy hundreds of warps and give yourself a massive advantage. It isn’t quite enough to render things unplayable, but there are definitely going to be times when you feel as if others have an unfair advantage.
Whether Turf War and the glorious relaxation and fun provided by the other online modes make up for the utter tediousness of the majority of the single-player experience is up for debate. But, it’s clear that Everybody’s Golf does what it set out to do. That is, it preserves – rather than dramatically changes – the fun and welcoming on-course experience as the other titles in the series while adding some much-needed depth in the form of its online modes. These modes are hampered somewhat by the game’s already thin roster of five courses (with two more available as DLC) being placed under lock and key for all modes.
It should also be noted that some of the game’s daily online challenges may be held on courses that you haven’t unlocked yet. So while the game looks great (aside from the characters themselves, which are a step back) and plays well, the question of whether it’s for you is solely going to be down to how happy you’ll be to grind your way through hours of unchallenging gameplay to get to the good stuff.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version, which we were provided with.
Everybody’s Golf is a decent update for the series that retains the fantastic fun and gameplay found in earlier versions, but the hours of grinding required to unlock the full experience won’t be for everyone.