WITH EA’s long-term Tiger Woods series still in gestation as the publisher jettisons the underperforming US player from the franchise ahead of next year’s PGA Tour 15, the coast is clear for a strong and convincing golf game to appeal to next gen console owners.
The Golf Club - Xbox One (reviewed) / Playstation 4 / PC
Score: 6.8 / 10
The Xbox One has Powerstar Golf, an entertaining and derivative bedfellow of the Everybody’s Golf franchise, albeit one which is unlikely to appeal to those who crave realism in their depiction of the sport.
That is a quality HB Studios provide in abundance, arguably to its detriment. Developed on the Unity engine, The Golf Club eschews the frills and fancies of the Woods games for a pared back simulation. The presentation is minimal while there are no crowds hugging the fringes or the greens and no overexcited whoops of ‘Get in the hole!’. This is golf as it is played on municipal courses the country over.
Intricate movements are judged by the golfer’s stance
At the heart of the game is a simplified swing mechanic where the use of the right analog stick mimics the arc of a golfer’s body. It is a device that has been deployed in numerous golf titles but mastering the The Golf Club demands expert use of it. There is no arcade style option to influence the spin of the ball after it has left your club; instead, such intricate movements are judged by the golfer’s stance.
There is a sense that the developer was aiming for a purified control system but it can feel reductive. A slight misjudgement of angle using the thumbstick can throw a round into disarray as a hole that looked like it might give up a birdie turns out into a double bogey slog, and assessing a delicate chip shot can be extremely difficult given the lack of a gauge. In attempting to offer an austere and challenging version of the sport, the game feels punitive and with the absence of a gripping career mode, it soon becomes a challenge to persist with it.
The course creator mode is a superb feature
In the game’s favour, the course creator mode is a superb feature, allowing players to be as hands on or hands off as they wish, with the ability to drop in play your custom-made holes while they are in creation. It takes time to sculpt something truly memorable and involving beyond the basic procedurally generated options, but no doubt the coming weeks and months will reveal some inspired creations, not least imitation of well-known courses from around the world.
The shortcomings of The Golf Club mean its £28 price tag is hard to justify, yet that assessment should be reassessed in time. It is as much a template as it is a game and it will flourish as players make use of its many creative tools. EA is unlikely to be unduly concerned at its new rival but it would do well to learn from some of HB’s more inspired ideas.
TIPS AND TRICKS:
1) The difficulty in putting spin on a shot means you have to think carefully about club selection. To avoid the ball running off the back of the green, take a lower club, but adjust the loft so it falls on a more vertical plane.
2) The pre-installed courses pose a robust challenge to newcomers. Instead, browse through some of the user created courses which offer a gentler introduction to The Golf Club.
3) When putting, it is wise to avoid trying to judge how far back on the meter to pull and simply develop a ‘feel’. It takes time to master, but it is a rewarding skill in a game that poses a stern challenge.