Note – Due to the nature of early access video games, this review is based on a version of The Golf Club that was the latest release available.
Golf is a sport that has been relatively underplayed in the games industry this generation, with the only mainstream releases coming in the form of the PGA Tour’s annual release. This has now been altered with the release The Golf Club, a golf game that is heavily focused on creating your own content, as well as using reproductions of some of the world’s most popular courses and equipment.
Graphically speaking, the game is quite simply stunning. The photo-realistic nature of sport titles has always been a vital component, and The Golf Club doesn’t disappoint, from the lush green fairways on the floor of each hole, to the vivid reflections on the water’s surface and the clothes that cover your character’s avatar. Speaking of the golfers themselves, the animations for their swing and general movements look very smooth, with only the odd hiccup occurring during some of the more intensive shots.
The game modes included with The Golf Club are fairly typical, with tournament and stroke play being some of the honourable mentions. There are training options and match play options available as well, plus a host of ways to customise your character, balls and clubs. you can play through the pre-designed tours set up by the developers, or generate your own rules for your own personal touch They can all be played both online and local multiplayer, so you will always have fresh competition aside from the built in AI.
There aren’t many music tracks and sound effects included with the game, but the few are used appropriately, so they don’t outstay their welcome. This is a good way to go, as some sport simulators feel the need to overload their games with constant music, distracting from the content of the game itself.
The course creator is one of The Golf Club’s biggest focus points, and for the most part, it feels very intuitive. The game takes you to a vast forest area, and you are able to literally carve a new hole wherever you choose, as long as it doesn’t cross any that you have made before. When you have chosen the length of each hole, you can alter every aspect of it such as height and rotation with customisable templates. This means that you can create a 50ft bunker, and an entire hole covered in water with rabbits around the side if you choose. While it would be nice to make your own shapes, it wasn’t enough of a problem for me to feel restricted, and to create a course fit for the Masters.
If you would prefer not to customise your own round, but you would like a whole new experience to play through, then you can generate a unique full eighteen hole course in a matter of moments. This is similar to how the battlegrounds are generated in the Worms series. These courses can be saved to replay at any time, and it will probably be possible share them in the future revisions of the game.
With both the keyboard and controller schemes, I felt that it was incredibly easy to play through the game. There are a range of different control styles for taking each shot, with some catering for the beginners and others for the more advanced players on the course. Each style a learning curve all its own, so even if you are master using the keyboard, the controller will prove to be another challenge to overcome. I had worried that designing my own course would prove difficult with the controller, but to my pleasant surprise, both control schemes were well suited to the task and I preferred it to the keyboard option.
Sadly, The Golf Club comes across some major hazards along its journey. If you are a fan of the sport, then The Golf Club will definitely be for you, as it mimics the sport perfectly, but there is rarely any alleviation of its serious nature, so many casual gamers and non-professionals may feel as if they are slightly out of place. The graphics are well implemented, but only gamers with the latest graphics cards will be able to play, because the game requires DirectX 11 hardware and will not accept any substitutes. Anyone that has bought a computer in the last eighteen months should be fine, but otherwise you will need to invest in some new equipment before you can make the first swing.
Being an Early Access product, there is still a chance that a lot of things will be altered before the final version of The Golf Club. But if things stay as they are, then HB Studios have created a visually appealing and fun to play golf simulator that will bring a whole new audience to the digital fairways. Does it get a hole in one? Not quite because of the high system requirements, but it is still a pretty close second.