This should be an interesting year for The Golf Club. While this year isn’t the first edition of the game, this is the first year it will have to compete against EA’s newly rebranded Rory McIlroy PGA Tour, and the title from publisher Maximum Games feels like a response to what we have seen in earlier versions of EA’s golf titles.
The Golf Club is supposed to be about golf, not about buying better equipment and getting upgrades by good performances. It isn’t about making your character look goofy or having them flout the traditional golfing establishment. Detractors would, perhaps, explain it as “stodgy golf.” But is that fair?
Honestly, it might be, but that really is the point of it. It is there to give you an idea of how golf is played, and anyone who has spent loads of time with one of EA’s titles will have a lot of adjusting to do. Honestly, I haven’t picked up an EA golf game in about a year, but when I first sat down with The Golf Club I was absolutely button mashing to try to get the appropriate spin on my ball when it was in the air.
The button mashing didn’t help. The Golf Club isn’t about that, once you’ve set your ball on its way, that’s it, it’s going. You may have hit a good shot, you may have hit a bad shot, but that’s your shot and you’re going to have to just play it where it lies.
There is a purity to that experience which is wonderful, and which I admire. What I take issue with in the game are a lot of the steps that it takes to hit that ball in the right way.
There are things which EA does really well, and they do them really well in part because they have been around for a long time and have spent the time (and money) to get things right. Not everything mind you, but some things. The Golf Club finds itself definitely lacking in some of these, obvious, areas.
For instance, the font and size in which opening instructions are given is a little tough to read, and the overview of a while on the course hole offers up a lot of numbers on the green which all seem to run into one another making it awfully difficult to figure out what’s going on. You also don’t see distances from your current location in the overview of the hole which makes things more difficult.
You can turn to the “scout” camera which shows the predicted ball landing area, but as you move the camera you’re not actually changing your aim (even though it feels like you should be). Along the same lines, you can’t change your club while in this camera setting and that proves cumbersome. If you don’t like where the ball ought to end up, you have to leave the scout camera setting to go to the main camera, change your club, and then go back to the scout camera. Don’t like how that looks? Leave the scout camera, fix it, and check again. There are just too many steps, especially when you also can’t change your left-right aim in the scout camera.
As for swinging itself, there is no visible swing meter provided by The Golf Club, which makes things incredibly tricky, especially as there is no feedback given by the controller either. While big swings are easy to figure out, things like chipping and putting are exceptionally hard and not made easier by the game offering club distances that don’t really seem to fit with the results on chipping.
There are also the usual sorts of weirdness that EA has in the past had issues with as well. These include (but aren’t limited to), the game telling you that you’re in the rough (and adjusting your accuracy/distance accordingly) when you’re clearly in the fairway and the caddy being downright awful when hills are involved. Hit the ball in the water and, just like EA, the game is going to choose your drop rather than letting you make the decision to drop (and where) or to rehit.
One of the more weird issues we came across was upon finishing a season. As we completed it in third place, we were told that we hadn’t unlocked the next, more advanced season. However, when we went to start a new season the more advanced one was indeed available.
As for those seasons, they are new to the Collector’s Edition version of the game (which also comes with an ebook) and offer up five different difficulty levels with players progressing from one level to the next. The seasons do make the game more enjoyable as there is something to strive for as you play.
The course designer is still here, as is online play. While both are fun, for this reviewer it is really the ability to play a season and get that sense of progression which makes the game, reasonably priced in this day and age at $39.99, worth it. It is a beautiful-looking game which is focused on the golf itself and not gussying it all up with side activities.
EA will, as stated, be back with their Rory McIlroy PGA Tour later this year and it will be interesting to be able to compare the two at that time. Until then, however, I’m going to be exceptionally happy out on the links with The Golf Course Collector’s Edition.
The Golf Club Collector’s Edition is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: Xbox One, and Windows PC.
UPDATE (4/27/15): I have been informed by Maximum Games that they are aware of the issue with the discrepancy around whether or not the next season has been unlocked and that it will be fixed in the next update.
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