Overall - 60%
I'm under no illusions. Creating a brand new golf franchise from scratch is no easy feat. There's a lot of things to get right, and while The Golf Club 2 delivers on some fronts, it's really lacking on others. At its best, it's an average golf game with near endless hours of content and a strong community feel.
Boasting cutting-edge swing mechanics, over 100,000 courses, and a robust course creation tool, The Golf Club 2 tees up to be the perfect golfing game on paper. Does it deliver, or is this one double bogey you’ll forget to add to your scorecard?
In a genre long dominated by EA’s PGA Tour Series, one would think there’s plenty of room for a developer to swoop in and steal the show. However, without official licensing, it’s a tough war to win. HB Studios’ original The Golf Club was met with mixed receptions from critics and players alike, but with a brand new release comes the potential for a much better experience – or so you would think.
The Golf Club 2 starts off with a strong drive as a great tutorial walks you through the basics of playing a few holes. Whether you’re a veteran or brand new to the genre, the tutorial does a great job of covering all the bases. You’ll learn about the “cutting-edge swing mechanics,” which involves swinging the stick up and down, something used by EA for years – as well as the more advanced aspects of golf such as applying draw and fade (curving the ball).
While the tutorial is a very welcoming introduction to the game, it immediately points out some huge flaws in the user interface. When planning your shot, you can use various camera angles to view the landing location, glance at the lay of the green and inspect nearby hazards – but you cannot adjust any elements of your shot with the cameras are active. This leads to a lot of frustrated repetition as you inspect the landing location – which just pans the camera to a rough area and doesn’t feature any visual prompts to suggest the exact location, adjust your shot, and inspect again for accuracy.
Further problems with the UI come into play when taking your shot. Unlike practically every other golf game on the planet, you aren’t shown how clean your initial back-swing is. Nothing is shown until after your shot is played. The only method to gauging your power is seeing how far your golfer lifts the club, which is not a very accurate representation. The putting interface shows further issues, with the UI as the putter distance is 101ft, and that’s all you get. Whether it’s a 4ft putt or 80ft, it’s the exact same interface and swing technique. There’s no option to reduce the max power closer to the distance you require, making putting a terrifying nightmare for new players. It’s workable after a few hours of play but some simple additions would have made the interface far more intuitive.
Outside of the tutorial, The Golf Club 2 features two main modes of play: Career Mode and Play (which can be played solo, online, or with a couch buddy). The Career Mode is where the game shines brightest, with some interesting concepts that promise endless hours of golfing fun – if you can get past the games problems. The main bulk of career mode will see you setting up your own golfing events as the Administrator of your own Society. This allows you to set up a series of courses with a number of rounds, crowning a champion at the end of the event.
You’re rewarded with a currency that allows you to purchase new items of clothing for your golfer, or upgrade your clubhouse to a more grander setting. If you’re happy with the basic golf mechanics and features of the game, the Career Mode is a great way to burn away with hours with resumable holes, customizable events, and more golf courses than you can ever hope to complete. The Society system carries over into Online Play as well, where you can compete and cooperate with other players to improve your own Society or work on taking down your biggest rivals.
The Online Play promises endless golfing fun as you compete against other players and friends in single course matches. However this is another area of the game that is plagued with problems. One of the biggest drawbacks to The Golf Club 2 experience is the lack of “fluff.” While the game manages to deliver decent core golfing mechanics, there’s very little in terms of added content. Golfer customization options are limited purely to aesthetics, resulting in many of the Online Play matches featuring identical shots time after time. You can unlock a huge selection of new clothing items through in-game currency, but outside of that, customization and progression is limited. While many hardcore players are likely to welcome the bare-bones approach to character progression and customization, those looking for a more exciting golfing experience will be left disappointed.
While I understand the idea of creating an even playing field, it’s unrealistic, uninspired, and rather dull. The ability to customize stats in a golfing game is not a new concept and has been the backbone of many a successful golfing release. While I personally dislike the lack of unique golfers, it does have its benefits. New players can jump into a game with a friend and not be left behind 100 yards on a drive and competitive play is nearly perfectly balanced. It just depends on what you’re looking for in golf sim.
Another area of Online Play that I felt was lacking was the atmosphere. When playing in Career Mode, the bells and whistles are in full swing. The crowd cheer, clap, gasp, and react to your every shot. When accompanied by the good commentary, the gentle mix of birds tweeting and the breeze blowing through the trees, it creates a realistic and immersive atmosphere that gives every single shot a meaningful impact. Online Play completely removes the audience entirely, and while the commentary and sounds of nature are still in effect, it feels drastically different to the Career Mode experience. In the course creator, there is an option to turn on crowds, but I’ve not been able to find one that has the feature enabled on the official list.
Finally, Online Play with friends is also really disappointing. You have to enable a specific option to actually watch their shots live but then it’s not live. You don’t see the shot until 5-10 seconds after the player has taken it – removing the element of couch gaming style banter between friends as you’re always behind.
While The Golf Club 2 fails to innovate or even deliver industry standard in many areas, there’s one aspect in which it excels: Courses. The game features a robust, industry-leading course creation tool that lets every player dive in and create their very own Augusta National (but without the third hole, please), or any course they can dream up. You can edit everything from reshaping terrain to adding water hazards, seating for spectators and cameras to capture that perfect chip in off the green on the 18th. Some of the community courses rival the insanity of the Fantasy Courses made popular in the PGA titles. In short, they are crazy.
This is, without a doubt, the games greatest asset and it’s one that’s likely to convince those still on the fence. While the UI is lacking and the game lacks any serious level of golfer customization, if you enjoy the mechanics the game will deliver endless hours of variety thanks to thousands of community-created courses.
I’m under no illusions. Creating a brand new golf franchise from scratch is no easy feat. There’s a lot of things to get right, and while The Golf Club 2 delivers on some fronts, it’s really lacking on others. At its best, it’s an average golf game with near endless hours of content and a strong community feel.