Title: The Golf Club 2
Publisher: Maximum Games
Developer: HB Studios
Genre: Sports, Golf
Official Site: TheGolfClubGame
Release Date: June 27, 2017
Where To Buy It: Retail, XBox Games Store, PlayStation Store, Steam
The ranks within the once crowded golf video game genre have thinned significantly of late. With EA no longer releasing a yearly title and the demise of franchises such as Hot Shots Golf, Outlaw Golf, and Mario Golf it might just be the perfect time for a new franchise to reign over the virtual links. Enter The Golf Club 2 from indie developer HB Studios. The team, previously known for their work on Rugby and Cricket games made some noise with The Golf Club in 2014. With a solid swing mechanic and state of the art course generating tool, there was a solid foundation to the game that the sequel could use as a foundation.
The Golf Club 2 certainly fits in the category of a simulation. You definitely will not be seeing flaming golf balls, zany characters or gimmicky game modes. This is a game this will delight purists with its accurate portrayal of the game. Balls run fast on certain turf conditions and die when it hits the tall grass. The ball leaves divots in the turf when falling from a skied shot making that delightful sound only a true golf fan can appreciate. Shot options also abound with the ability to increase loft, fade or draw, chip or flop when the situation dictates, although, the fancier the shot the tighter the swing needs to be to pull it off.
The core gameplay in The Golf Club 2 the swing mechanic. Wisely, the developer chose to go back to the stick back and forward control scheme which, in my opinion, is infinitely superior and more realistic than the other common mechanic of pressing a button at three distinct areas of a power meter. With the controls in The Golf Club 2 players must watch their actual golfer determine when to stop the back swing and strike the ball instead of playing to a power meter. The mechanic is also highly reliant on steady hands as any deviations on flicking the stick truly forward can be disastrous when it comes to the resultant shot. I enjoyed the visual cues to how straight my shots were as they provided me with the appropriate feedback to improve my shooting over time.
The lack of a power meter to play to is a double edged sword in terms realism. This works wonderfully when driving and chipping as it is a natural fit to adjust your actions to your onscreen avatar. On the other hand, when it comes to putting the “play by feel” demand of the controls is completely off base. The problem lies in the fact that the putter has a potential range of around 150 feet. You won’t see too many putts that ever approach this distance. Therefore a 15-foot putt only requires you to pull back the club 10% of the max, a 7 footer half this. What results is a very real difficulty in judging distance for your putting backstroke that is completely unforgiving. A 3 footer is far easier to sink in real life than it is in the game. Overall though, the short game has improved significantly since The Golf Club. In that title, chipping was incredibly flawed with an inherent propensity to overshoot this delicate shot.
The visual presentation of The Golf Club 2 is hands down improved over its predecessor. It is hard to believe that such a small studio in Lunenburg Nova Scotia delivers graphics that look like they came from a much larger\ A studio. Barring some weird wavy water, the courses are gorgeous and the player customization for your golfer is the deepest I have ever seen in a game, of any genre. I have never had the option to choose how deep I wanted my character’s frown lines to be or the opacity of pimples under the eyes. While the game will delight the peepers, the same can’t be said for the audio.
There are the same bird noises on near continuous loop and an announcer that really lacks polish. The same announcer from the first game, John McCarthy, was far worse in the first game but he still gives an impression that his commentary is completely off the cuff and that the developer couldn’t afford to do a second take in many situations. I don’t need the hushed baritones that traditional commentate televised PGA events or Steve Carell from Outlaw Golf, but the voice work needs to be cleaner, crisper and more professional. McCarthy’s underperformance coupled with the stale environmental noises creates a sterile overall atmosphere and not akin to an experience in the great outdoors.
The Golf Club 2 continues the series’ exemplary tradition of having an incredibly deep course creator mode where gamers can generate the golf course of their dream. The tool is incredibly robust and easy to manipulate the very ground you will walk on. Elevations and be altered, golf carts can be added mid-fairway, tree density can be increased at the drop of a hat and greens can be sloped on a whim. Overall there is very little the tool can’t do allowing the creation of fun courses with insane bunkers and elevation changes to near perfect reproductions of those real world courses with the membership fees outside your price range.
While the course creation tool is wonderful its greatest strength is that it allows for a vibrant community of players who can share their creations for others to play. This generates literally thousands of courses that are recommended for players based on their handicaps creating near infinite replay opportunities. The only thing missing from the tool is the ability to add less traditional obstacles to the courses for those hoping to create a bit more of an arcade-like experience. It would be great if the next game in the series allowed for the opportunity to add bridges, windmills, buildings and the like to the courses to add an extra layer of fun.
Verdict: With the release of The Golf Club 2 the series can rightfully stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the storied video game golfing franchises from the past two decades. The long swing game continues to be a strength and now the short clubs fire on all cylinders although putting remains weak. The course creation mode continues to delight and helps deliver a wonderful looking game, although I wish the same could be said for the sound design.
The Golf Club 2 is HB Studios’ second installment and successor to the top golf game on Sony PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC platforms, The Golf Club.
- Delightful course creator tool
- Beautiful graphics
- Excellent swing mechanic and options
- Accurate sim of the real thing
- Unforgiving putting
- B-rate commentary and sound design