Since the days of Nintendo’s Wii, there has been a promise of video games being able to replicate the actual movement of sports. Wii Sports had a variety of games, but it turned out the motion controls were largely simple, much like the cartoony art of the games included.
When such a sports game comes out for VR it is on this spectrum too. Are the controls detailed and realistic to bring an outdoor game inside our homes with all the nuance intact? Or are the movements simplified, the results exaggerated?
When I tried Everybody’s Golf VR for PlayStation VR at a preview event last week, it felt like a game that was trying to carefully drive straight down the middle.
You stand at the Tee with a single Move controller, held downward to mimic a golf club. You swing a few times, getting a feel for the force you need to swing with. The game tracks the speed at which you swing, tracking the force with a horizontal bar that is labelled 0 to 100%. The game has conveniently given you the appropriate club, turned you to face in the correct direction, and puts a flag icon on that horizontal bar showing the ideal amount of force needed — at the start of a hole it is likely the full 100%. As you near the green, it may be more like 83% or 46%.
And you swing a few times for practice, seeing the bar fill up towards your target percentage, and the color of the afterimage of the club head helpfully showing red if you are too high and blue if you are low enough to hit the ball. You press the Move’s center button to abandon the Practice mode.
And you swing. And the ball flies off. You can’t really see the ball in the distance as it travels, so you watch the numbers of yards count up toward your goal.
And you repeat. Sometimes your swings miss, even though it seems like it should’ve hit the ball. The game just won’t register it as a hit if you don’t have enough velocity. Fortunately, the game doesn’t count these swings against your score for that hole.
How finicky the swing detection is makes things especially tricky once you get to the green, when I had a few putts where I needed to get a 2% bar to get in the hole. A few swings with increasingly exaggerated force and finally it registered, with the ball overshooting with 8%. But it still went in the hole with a “Chip-In.” I’m still not sure it was the game’s tolerances or the tracking which had those swings failing.
The game’s focus on somewhat realistic control with moderate assistance to simplify golf’s movements is in full evidence at the green. The hole has a visible vortex to suck in the ball — ala the above 8% percent putt — though you can turn it off for a more realistic putting game. The green also has a simple grid overlay to help show the geometry of the green, any dips down or slopes up. But the grid lines are so spaced apart, perhaps at approximately 5 yards, that it isn’t terribly useful.
The demo had only 2 holes, which I played through twice, as I finally got a decent swing going and sunk a Birdie. This was on a Forest level, which had vibrant trees and cherry blossoms in the distance. It is the first of three 18-hole courses planned. The second is Seaside, which I did not see, and a third, which is unrevealed.
The game’s graphics were of that VR style I call “simple/sharp.” There’s not a lot of objects or geometry, but what is there has detailed textures that engross you enough. Green and intricate grass, leaves, and trees. A female caddy, one of many you can choose from, stands there and occasionally gives you advice about the fairway or putting green, but mostly is there for some added graphical realism beyond the landscape.
The company hasn’t revealed what leaderboard/highscore functionality or online multiplayer options will be coming when the game is released, though I was told there will be no local multiplayer. Players will have to swing the clubs by themselves, though accompanied by all the graphical overlays.
So this VR version of Golf doesn’t hit that exaggerated, bold art and feel of something like Wii Golf. Nor is it the detailed simulation of the game seen in the past, with dozens of clubs to choose from when you perform nuanced swings that provide English to the ball. It seems to be a simple, and enjoyable test of your ability to swing just hard enough. Which may entertain your lay fan of Golf video games.
Everybody’s Golf VR will be released May 21 for $29.99.