Everybody’s Golf pretty much has the arcade-style golf game corner locked down. With developer Clap Hanz’s close ties to Sony, it was only a matter of time before we saw a PlayStation VR spin on the series. Everybody’s Golf VR perfectly carries the solid golf systems at the series’ heart into virtual reality, though it lacks a lot of the bells and whistles from 2017’s ambitious outing.
Everybody’s Golf VR trades in the abstraction of a shot power gauge for something that can capture the feel of golf more directly: motion controls. There’s still a power gauge as part of the UI, but instead of being based on timed button presses, your shot power is determined by how swiftly you swing your controller—either a standard PS4 gamepad or a PlayStation Move controller, though I’d definitely recommend the latter. Likewise, things like accuracy and curve comes down to how accurately you hit the ball, the contact angle, and so on.
It works better than I ever expected it to. PlayStation VR’s movement tracking is good enough to pick everything from big drives to the subtle changes in the angle of a swing. I’ve never played golf in real life, so I’m not one to say how accurate Everybody’s Golf VR‘s simulation of swing mechanics, but it certainly feels authentic—to play this game is feel like what I’d expect the real thing to feel like, but without the exorbitant club fees.
That also means that Everybody’s Golf VR can be hard to get used to, especially if you’re only familiar with gauge-based games. I spent my first couple of hours, at least, sending balls flying every which way, putting curves on shots I wanted to go straight, and otherwise making a fool of myself. But over time, these things start to click into place, and it’s satisfying oh so satisfying when they do. As you improve, you’ll see yourself getting better—not just in better scores, but in more organic things like seeing the ball move how you want it to. These are things that can be lost in the old gauge-based systems.
Thankfully, the game also has a handful of different tools you can use to help you improve. Chief among these is a driving range, which is a first for the Everybody’s Golf series. Here, you can practice your swings to your heart’s content and develop your technique, teeing off from either the ground level and the first floor. There’s also an area for practising putting and your approach to the green, both of which are vital for a good score.
There’s also the option to take practice swings before every shot you take, in every game mode. When you’re readying for a swing, the press of a button will switch the swing between a practice one and the real thing. In a practice swing, you’ll see a trail of your club’s path, highlighted in either blue (if you would have hit the ball) or red (if you would have missed), as well as crucial projections of the shot’s power, direction of travel, curve, and flight distance. With this, you can fine-tune each shot before taking the real thing.
Finally, some of Everybody’s Golf‘s regular beginner-friendly options make a return. Optional vortex cups can help with putting by adding some light pull towards the cup, making shots that would otherwise narrowly miss instead drop nicely into the hole. Among the unlockable sets of clubs is a beginner set, which trades in power for accuracy—these clubs are less susceptible to the whims of contact angle, so you can generally rely on the ball to go more or less in the direction you swing (notwithstanding wind speed).
So the golfing mechanics at the heart of Everybody’s Golf VR are solid—as you’d expect, given Clap Hanz’s experience. But where this game falls short are in its more peripheral features, with relatively few courses on offer and a handful of half-baked ideas that feel more like something out of a tech demo than meaningful additions to the game.
There are just three courses to play: the Forest Course, the Seaside Course, and the Dinosaur Course. The Forest Course is a pretty stock-standard first course against a backdrop of greenery, and the Seaside Course, despite its beach resort setting, doesn’t really have anything that stands out. The Dinosaur Course is definitely the highlight, though; giant brachiosaurs and T-rexes are exactly the sort of spectacle that suits VR, while volcanic scenery and bunkers shaped like dinosaur footprints or claw marks complete the theme.
If all three courses had the same sense of creativity as the Dinosaur Course, I wouldn’t be too concerned about there being only three. But when only one of three really stands out, it just feels like something’s missing.
Everybody’s Golf VR also tries to play to the VR element with “caddie events”, which are short little scenes that randomly pop up in between holes. The idea is a good one: basically, they’re little vignettes that try to inject a bit of personality into your chosen caddie, with the VR element trying to create a sense of intimacy in some sense and grandeur in others.
The problem is just that there’s very little to these scenes. There are only two caddies available in the base package (with others available as DLC), and each of them only has four different events—none of which are particularly inspiring. Standing for a few moments on a log that straddles a deep valley or lava flow, because your caddie decided to take a “shortcut”, before she decides to turn around and head back is about as interesting as things get. Worse still, you’ll see the same events over and over again, which just serves as a constant reminder of how undercooked they are.
Still, the core of Everybody’s Golf VR is good enough to be worth looking past its superficial shortcomings. Clap Hanz’s knack for creating captivating golf games translates perfectly to virtual reality, where a smartly-design motion control system can deliver a deeper and more authentic experience than ever. Coupled with the series usual cheerful atmosphere and plenty of tools to help newcomers deal with an admittedly steep learning curve, that makes Everybody’s Golf VR a hit.
The publisher provided a copy of Everybody’s Golf VR to Shindig for reviewing purposes.