The Sports Desk – Everybody's Golf Beta Reaction, PES Mobile & NBA Live 18
The Hot Shots Golf franchise has been a mainstay on Sony platforms since the original PlayStation, so it's been disappointing we haven't had one since 2012. For the series debut on the PS4, it's not only being renamed Everybody's Golf (aligning it with the franchise's traditional Japanese title) but it's also opening its course to full exploration.
The game recently held a closed online beta (similar to what Sony just did for GT Sport), and it's made me excited for an aspect of the game that I was previously skeptical about.
Note: This is only a slice of what will be in the final game, and content in the beta may change for the final release.
Before I get into Everybody's Golf, I want to say THANKS to everyone who has dropped by and read The Sports Desk. This week marks the one-year anniversary of the column, and I hope you've enjoyed the content and keep coming back for more. Thank you so much. Click on the Sports Desk banner below to see all the columns so far, and if you have any suggestions or anything, please don't hesitate to email me (email@example.com) or hit me up on twitter (@mattkato).
E3 Note: There will be no Sports Desk on June 12. I'll be at E3 and will be writing about plenty of sports stuff, so make sure you check the main page for any stories. Of course, I'll also be covering what happens at E3 in future columns of The Sports Desk, so you won't miss anything.
An Open Course
Saying a game is an "open world" can mean anything, and in the case of Everybody's Golf, it means you're free to run around the environment, find treasures, fish, cruise around in a golf cart, and more. While the beta does not include golf carts or fishing (click here for more info), I found coin presents and ran to any hole in the Eagle City Course. This was useful because I could practice on any of the holes apart from starting up a tournament. You can also type chat and/or emote to anyone else on the course. The weather conditions will change from day to day, as will the location of the presents, so it's helpful to come back daily and talk to others to see what they've found that day and where.
Between being able to run relatively quickly between holes and use golf carts (which I suspect is for 18-hole courses), I'm hopeful that getting around in the open world is a win-win situation for players: It makes it easy for those who aren't interested in exploring to cut to the chase and just golf, as well as rewarding more curious or leisurely players who want to roam and see everything. Between the coins, cosmetic items, and different events at the courses, as long as Sony and Clap Hanz keep populating the world with interesting content, players should be engaged.
The second video below shows me running through the hub world. Here you can go to various courses and meet people. Later on in the beta, more options like the shop opened up (the shop can also be accessed by entering the pause menu while on a course), and in the final release there will be more people and events. Who knows what else will be available in the hub location. Judging by its beaches and lounge areas, hopefully it'll be something fun.
Everybody's Golf contains the classic three-click golf gameplay the series has become know for, and layers on familiar elements such as special clubs and balls, and skill shots. The better you perform on the course (such as long drives, good approaches, etc.) the better you become with that club. There are four areas that level up through your performance: Power, Control, Backspin, and Back Door. In previous titles, back door shots were ones that circled the lip of the hole before dropping in. One way to effectively level up your clubs is to be sure to utilize the courses' open structure and practice on the holes.
I never tire of the series' three-click gameplay, and find the special skill shots like applying super backspin a fun challenge. I also like leveling up specific clubs based on how well you do, and it will be interesting to see how this meshes with the new equipment you find or earn and the rate at which you get it. If the game's open world is full of coins you can spend at the shop and/or presents, then it is incumbent on the game to balance everything out so as not to make anything overpowered or useless.
Turf War Breaks Out At Respectable Golf Course
Turf War is a multiplayer mode (the final version will also have four-player offline play) where teams of golfers compete simultaneously to win as many holes as possible in a set amount of time by earning the most points as a team on each hole.
Seeing the other avatars may be confusing and disorientating at times (especially if they're emoting while you're putting!), but that's part of the fun. Of course, since the courses are open, you're not obligated to play the same sequence of holes that the other players are, so it pays to go and try and win holes that the other team hasn't done well on.
Finally, here's a look at the beta's character creation options. Of course, there will be more options available as you play in the final game. I like how you can layer on various facial features like combining a black eye with freckles or whatever.
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WARMING UP WITH PES 2017 MOBILE
Konami just released a free Pro Evolution Soccer mobile title – PES 2017 Mobile – on iOS and Android, and unlike PES Club Manager, this game is about the onscreen/onfield action. While pairing touchscreen controls with a franchise known for the tightness of its controls (for its console versions) may seem too ambitious, I played the title and found a few pleasant surprises. Here's a quick rundown of my initial impressions.
While there are two control schemes – advanced and classic – I definitely prefer advanced, which has you press and make easy gestures on the touchscreen. Classic superimposes a virtual controller in the bottom-ish right-hand part of the screen, and is just more trouble than it's worth.
I was surprised at the inclusion of some traditional controls in the mobile title, and how easy it was to perform them. Give-and-gos, through balls, lofted passes, gang defending, fake shots, and special moves are all possible with little thought, although the special moves (like step overs) are automatically chosen for you. Ironically, passing can be a little tricky because you obviously have to make sure your player is facing the correct direction first. There's a indicator showing this on the base of your player, but this can be hard to see sometimes depending on the size of your screen. At least you can change whom you're passing to before the ball leaves your feet if you're quick enough. Other visual concerns include your thumbs sometimes getting in the way of the action and the small radar being hard to use.
Assembling Your Squad
The game uses the MyClub format, where you assemble a roster of players, replacing them with increasingly better ones through the lottery system of agents, special agents (for star players), and scouts. This is governed by the currencies of stamina, coins, and GP. Coins and GP are spent on getting players via agents/special agents (there's also an auction house using GP), with GP accumulated through winning games and how you perform in games. Coins are harder to come by in the game, but can be bought with real money.
Coins can be used to replenish your stamina, which also regenerates over time. Like many other free titles, this limits how many matches you can play in a sitting unless you spend your hard-earned coins to buy more stamina. You start out with 100 stamina and playing a match costs 20, with one stamina point regenerating every 15 minutes. Player and manager contracts cost GP, so like other free games, you're always juggling your resources.
Apart from the game's gating, the onscreen action is relatively smooth. It feels satisfying making the right passes, outwitting opponents, seeing your A.I. players make runs, and of course, scoring. I must say that I wasn't able to complete any of my four multiplayer games against another human opponent because the connection kept dropping (at no cost to my reputation rating), but it wasn't laggy when I was playing, so there's that. Hopefully the drops were an isolated problem (there are offline matches/challenges as well).
Similar to the MyClub mode in the console version of PES, you can certainly sink a lot of time and possibly money into PES 2017 Mobile if you want to chase your dream lineup, but even if you don't, the action on the pitch itself can be worth playing the game regardless.
NBA LIVE 18 DEBUTS WITH SCREENS & GAMEPLAY FOOTAGE
The NBA Live series has been on hiatus, but recently it broke its silence with a handful of screenshots as well as a quick gameplay video.
We expect to see the game at E3 in a few weeks, and will hopefully hear more about its features and modes. Until then, head over to Bertz's story on the game, read what he has to say about the footage, and take a look at the title's initial batch of screens.
A quick rundown of some of the sports news from the week.
Super Mega Baseball 2 Gets a New Release Date
Until September, you can check out this new trailer highlighting the game's new art style and how it affects the title as a whole.