Golf is really targeted towards such a specific demographic of people. To make them more appealing to a wider audience, video games that capture the sport more often take a more cartoon-ish route, with simplified, accessible gameplay. The only exception to that rule has previously been the EA franchise (formerly Tiger Woods and most recently Rory McGilroy), but with no EA Sports golf game in the coming months, the fairway is clear and sunny days are ahead for The Golf Club 2 to take charge. The question: is it a birdie or a bogey?
The Golf Club 2 is serious business. The analog stick is your only option for swinging, so players of more casual golf games like Everybody’s Golf or Mario Golf may find this tricky at first, as it rewards pacing as opposed to “pressing the button at the right time” as if it’s a rhythm game. The conditions of the course are also unforgiving; you’ll need to make adjustments for the wind, change which club is most suitable, adjust your shot and more. It’s a little overwhelming at first, but a tutorial at the outset ensures you’re doing the right thing before letting you out onto the many, many available courses.
This is definitely not one for the impatient; much like the sport itself, for those who play it. Much like “real life”, learning which type of club and shot that works for each scenario – whether it be a ball that’s on the fairway, in the rough or even in a bunker – is pivotal to your success. It’s very likely that a lot of your early hours learning what makes the game tick will be spent doing quite terribly until it all connects. Once you adapt to this steep learning curve though, things open up to a feature-packed experience.
“…an almost daunting amount of content right from the get-go…”
The Golf Club 2 smartly builds on its predecessor in quite a literal sense, as there are 100,000 courses that come from the user created content in the original that are readily available to play on, along with a range of courses that have been created by the developers themselves. This creates an almost daunting amount of content right from the get-go, and it’s entirely up to you which courses you want to include in your customisable career mode, which is both fantastic and stressful for people like me who are terrible at making firm decisions.
The “play alone” nature of golf means that multiplayer works differently to most sports games in that you compete against a list of players who have either already completed the course in the past, or, are currently playing on it at the same time. It’s easy enough to find people who are currently playing on each course, but the ability to have others in the same game world as you in some way does work well enough without relying on each of you “joining a game”. It also means you can play at your own pace, saving you waiting around for your opponents to “take their turn”.
There is a career mode where you can craft your own tournaments, have your clubhouse and societies that you can join that consistently run events. Despite a lot of options, features and modes, there isn’t really a clear progression path or sense of evolving your character, given most of the bonuses you get – including the clubs – are cosmetic at best.
Despite the refined, complex gameplay, the presentation doesn’t live up to the same level of depth. Menus are a little too easy to get lost in and don’t load quickly, with graphics out on the course no quite making par (sorry). At first glance it’s pretty, but looking closer reveals scaling that tries valiantly to keep up with the camera sweeping across the fairway, following each shot. The observing crowd also doesn’t look fantastic and something about the rigid character models also feels a bit off. It’s a good thing the gameplay is so refined that you’re often focusing on more pertinent details than the visuals.
On reflection, complaining about The Golf Club 2 being difficult is sort of like complaining that the sport of golf itself is difficult… because it is. It takes time to practice, enhance your skills and make good choices. It’s also incredibly frustrating to hit your ball into an almost impenetrable rough, directly into an awful bunker or lose it awkwardly in a large body of water that would have been easily avoidable if you’d just not swung like an idiot in that crucial moment which was the difference between making par or being asked to politely move on to the next hole because you’ve taken way too long.
Hmm… this sounds a lot like my life when I actually play golf. Points must be given for so perfectly capturing that frustration, although controllers actually break when you throw them, while golf clubs don’t.
The Bottom Line
The Golf Club 2 truly captures the essence of real golf, more than any other golf game I’ve experienced… for better and for worse. It’s incredibly difficult to come to grips with at first, but with persistence and patience, it’s incredibly satisfying when you nail that perfect putt or manage to chip from a bunker straight into the hole, barely making par when it really counts late in a tournament. There are loads of features, so if you do take the time to to improve and be successful the game could last an infinite amount of time, which is impressive. Overall, non-fans will be put off by its serious tone, but golfers like myself have a whole lot to enjoy here.