If they taught sex the way they teach golf, the race would have died out years ago
A wise man once said that “Golf is the most over-taught and least-learned human endeavor; if they taught sex the way they teach golf, the race would have died out years ago.” This quote from the famous sports writer Jim Murray couldn’t be truer, so why would you spend all that time and money learning the sport when PC gaming continues to become more lifelike all the time? Now, you have the added benefit of coming close to getting all the best parts of golf from the comfort of your desk chair — and you don’t even have to put on pants!
HB Studios have been developing and contributing to sports titles since their first release of the Electronic Arts-published Cricket 2002, and they continued this dynasty with their most recent title The Golf Club 2 (TGC2). The entry is a follow-up to the 2014 release of TGC, and while the titles continue to add mechanics, such as shot tempo, and slightly updated graphics, there’s not much that sets it apart from the original title.
The focus for any sports title, above graphics, sound design, and even multiplayer, has to be given first and foremost to the controls, because how a release handles makes or breaks the player experience. TGC2 offers full controller support as well as keyboard and mouse, so you have the option to pick what feels best for you. Each of these options has their strengths; however, it seems the benefits vary between the long- and the short-game. A mouse is a great option when playing your long game. The range of motion allows for consistency of speed, and the ability to adjust mouse sensitivity allows for long, straight drives for any hole, whether it’s a short par three or you’re swinging for 500 yards. The mouse begins to lose its appeal, though, when you get onto the green. The swing tempo doesn’t work well with the putter and makes shots much over twenty feet an absolute nightmare, turning a putt for birdie into a triple-bogey.
In stark contrast to that, when playing on the controller, the short stick movement doesn’t allow you to take advantage of the swing tempo, which is one of the key features of this installment of TGC. Using a controller requires surgical precision to get a straight shot, and a slight deviation will shank the ball to the point where you may land on the green of the next hole, or endanger the lives of the spectators. However, the controller feels better than the mouse on the green, making shots more manageable. Unfortunately, the title doesn’t support using both simultaneously and, you must open the settings menu and assign the controller, make your putt then switch it back. Switching back and forth between control types was the only way to keep my numbers even close to par consistently.
PAINFULLY SLOW BALLS
Characters are exquisitely modeled, and the animations of the swings flow well without much lag with the movement of the mouse. In keeping with the culture around golf, the customization is decent, but lacks depth which doesn’t facilitate virtually recreating and expressing yourself accurately. The clothing is nothing more than different colors and patterns on a couple of simple designs, such as pleated pants and a polo shirt. Even the physical appearance customizations, like facial hair and build, hasn’t have changed much in the past ten years of titles in the golf genre. Every profile of every player effectively plays the same ‘game,' because there are no specific attributes that allow for play style customization which may add balance when playing multiplayer but doesn’t enable you to own the character truly.
The courses, whether custom player-generated or officially-launched content, are fantastically designed. The overall look and feel of each hole, as well as the vegetation near the players, give an immersive feel. While the details are not groundbreaking, they are robust and aid in the experience. However, this level of detail gets lost with the background and distance vegetation, which doesn’t have the same quality of texture and is, in most cases, out of focus. The graphics also fail regarding the crowd that gathers around each hole. Of course, extreme textures on the crowd would make the required specifications incredibly high, but when driving down the fairway or dropping a lob on the green, these individuals are close to the camera. So, while the distant vegetation doesn’t detract, unfortunately, these poorly modeled onlookers cheapen the experience. A large part of that is because they react physically to your shots, which draws the eye from the painfully slow moving ball that will not stop rolling away from the pin on a particularly aggressive green.
Similar to the controls and the graphics, the sound design also has its ups and downs. The distinct ping of contact with the ball (based on the quality of the swing) is fantastic. If you’ve spent time playing golf, you’ll know the sweet sound of a solid drive, and it’s no less satisfying in TGC2. The announcer on the ‘TGC Network’ that adds commentary to the game has the familiar hushed feel expected of a golf broadcast and will even comment on the quality of your shot in mid flight, which is a nice touch. Sometimes he will even call a shot in the rough and correct himself if the ball takes a funny hop and rolls onto the fairway. These are the primary audible cues in the game, but in much the same way as the spectators depreciate the graphic quality it also impacts the sound quality. The clapping is fine but as they move to cheers, jeers, and sometimes even laughing at you with every putt missed by inches. The audio moves from the crystal clarity of the rest of the game to distorted boos of the crowds that remind me of audio from Mike Tyson’s Punch Out on the NES.
 Murray, Jim. http://www.nytimes.com/1989/06/25/business/what-s-new-in-the-golf-business-new-gurus-computers-and-therapists.htm
TGC2 is an solid golf title overall and anyone looking for a modern, robust PC experience should give it a shot. The swing mechanics have come a long way from the golf simulations in the mid-2000’s, and the ability to generate and create custom courses and events allows for fans of the sport to have unique encounters round after round.