If there’s one sports genre whose video game adaptations have largely been ignored over the last half decade, it’s golf. Mini golf titles are a dime a dozen right now but when it comes to actual golf the number of titles released can be counted on one hand. And those that have been released have been pretty mediocre; good ideas and gameplay wrapped up in something less than adequate. The original Golf Club brought us a closer simulation of the game than titles such as EA’s PGA Tour franchise had delivered. And it was fun, too. The problem was slow loading times and some niggling bugs bringing the whole title down a bit. The Golf Club 2 fixes those issues, and with no competition to speak of it absolutely dominates the genre.
The Golf Club 2 continues to simulate the actual game. You swing the club with the analogue stick and rely on skills, control and a little luck when it comes to hitting the ball straight and true. The unique selling point with The Golf Club 2 is there’s no trajectory lines or power meters, it’s a simulation. Instead, you can change the camera to get better views of each hole, spotting the distance markers along it, and it’s up to you to hit the ball with the right club at the right speed and strength, determined entirely by your swing, to bring the ball down where you want it. It’s hard to succeed at, but hugely gratifying to pull off.
Indeed, in that way The Golf Club 2 very much captures the spirit and skill of the real thing; you need to read the fairways, take note of the wind, understand your club choice and appreciate the physics of the ball. It’s great stuff, difficult stuff but still great. Moreover, with EA having not produced a PGA Tour game in several years, there’s nothing else that really speaks to the serious golfer when it comes to video games, and in comparison The Golf Club 2 is a far more comprehensive title that EA’s disappointingly shallow one.
Sliders and cosmetic options allow you to create your own custom character, with in-game currency earned from playing being used to buy more elaborate clothing. This currency can also be spend on building your society, essentially a club, with member’s fees and club tournaments adding a nice social option to the game. It’s then off to pre-made or custom made tournaments with a wide selection of courses. Better still, many more courses are available online thanks to the community creating their own, with a nifty editor allowing you yourself to get in on the course creation action. As such there’s a huge amount of content that you can play as individual games or as part of lengthy sets.
Furthermore, some terrific visuals truly brings each course to life, with the vegetation casting dynamic shadows over the fairways and greens and really immersing you in the natural beauty of each location. The locations themselves have wonderful variety to them, running the gamut from desert to tropical. Meanwhile, the crucial physics of the ball are excellent, with the wind adding enough unpredictability to keep matches interesting. You can rarely guarantee a victory, or even a loss. Things can go wrong for you and the AI at the drop of a hat. And indeed that’s how it should be, although it does feel occasionally like there’s some rubber banding going on.
However, as excellent as it all looks and plays the lack of official PGA recognition does hurt it. Much like with Pro Evolution Soccer verses FIFA, The Golf Club 2 just doesn’t have that authenticity behind it to truly win over golfing fans. Meanwhile, a lack of true online multiplayer severely limits the competition to local play and asynchronous sessions against ghosts. Although, those currently playing the course at the same time as you online occasionally show up, but playing against your friends in a closed session isn’t available. The simulation factor also makes it highly inaccessible for newcomers to video game golf.
Indeed, the Golf Club 2 is a brilliant golfing simulation with a huge variety of courses, made practically unlimited thanks to community created content, but while the licensing can be ignored the lack of true online multiplayer is hugely disappointing.
Thanks to Xbox and HB Studios for supporting TiX