Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The Golf Club (PS4) review

From HB Studios comes The Golf Club,  the first golf sim for the Playstation 4. Instead of an arcade-style title, with power ups and colourful characters and whatnot, The Golf Club is a fairly realistic title, with a huge emphasis on creating courses. It has no career mode, no mini-games, and no extra clubs or players to unlock. Yet despite the lack of modern features and mechanics that we're used to, The Golf Club is a great game. Read our full review below to find out why. 

The first thing you'll notice about The Golf Club is that it doesn't have all of the features that many games over the years have incorporated and made standard. There is no career mode per se, you simply play golf. You don't level up, you don't unlock new characters, kit, or locations, and to be honest, it's refreshing. It doesn't ever become a chore, because you choose exactly what you want to do. If you don't like a course, just quit; there are no repercussions, and it doesn't mean you can't progress further, because there isn't any progression in the traditional sense. The progression in TGC is all natural. It just depends on you learning and mastering the game, till you feel comfortable playing the harder courses. If you wanted, you can of course play the hardest course you can find as soon as you start the game, but it's easier to get used to the controls on the simpler courses.

There's a decent variety of environments, from the alpine to the desert, and more

You hit the ball by pulling the right analogue stick back to ready your swing, then you push it straight back up to hit the ball, which sounds simple enough, but it does have it's flaws. For a start, it's far too sensitive; if you push forward slightly off centre, the ball will be hooked or sliced. Of course, this is true to real golf, but it feels too harsh. There is also no power meter, meaning that should you need to hit below 100% power, you just have to take a guess at when you should swing your club. This applies to both driving and putting, the latter of which is the most infuriating part of the game. The difference between a huge hit and a slight tap is very minimal, meaning that a lot of the time, particularly for the first few times you play, you'll either sail right past the hole to the other side of the green, or tap it a few inches and end up way short of the hole. A classic three-click control scheme would be a fantastic addition to the game, even if it would take away a great deal of the difficulty. With separate leaderboards for the different control schemes though, this would not be an issue.

Perhaps the greatest feature of The Golf Club is the Greg Norman Course Designer, which makes it possible to create an entirely new course in a matter of seconds. You choose how many holes you want, the foliage density, how hilly the course is, and how much water you'd like there to be, and it creates a course tailored exactly to those specifications in just a few seconds. It's an incredibly impressive course designer, and more often than not you won't even need to make any changes to the course; it'll be perfectly playable right away. Should you want to, you can go into a more advanced mode where you can literally design every aspect of the course. You can raise and lower terrain, add hazards, wildlife and environmental objects such as bridges, clubhouses and many more. It's an insanely powerful tool, and means there is an infinite number of courses. It's also really simple to share your own courses, and try out other players' courses, which are usually as good as, or better than the twelve official courses included in the game.

The Golf Club looks great, despite some niggling texture issues

Graphically, TGC is hit and miss. Your immediate environment is gorgeous, but as the camera tracks the ball through the air, there is an awful lot of texture pop-in. Trees often appear from thin air, which is never good. Another issue is that the higher resolution details only appear when you're a few metres from the object, and you can see them rendering as you roll past. It's nothing spectacularly bad, but there have been games with better graphics where these things aren't an issue, so it is a little annoying.

All in all, The Golf Club is worth checking out, but don't expect all of the superfluous extras that you may be used to thanks to the PGA games. This is pure and simple golf. The control scheme does let it down quite a lot, but if you can get used to it, it's a fantastic golf simulator. The unlimited number of courses means that for entirety of the time you spend playing the game, you'll never have to play the same course twice, which means you get more than your moneys worth of content. 


by Louis Gardner


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