In August 2014, HB Studios released a small independent game entitled The Golf Club. If I am being honest, a game that would already be best described as a niche title within a niche genre was already a hard sell to a community.
Now imagine trying to sell that idea and premise to a community who is used to having legitimate licensed courses, apparel, clubs and balls — not so easy.
Oh yeah, did I mention trying to do all of this with no major publisher or famous cover athlete to help market the game? Regardless, The Golf Club grabbed the attention of quite a few people, and now HB Studios and Maximum Games are trying to pull it off yet again with The Golf Club 2.
For a golf simulation to be successful with both the community and critics, it needs to offer options and an accessible approach for all levels of skill. Thankfully, TGC 2 does a fine job of offering up both a casual and sim experience, and can be adjusted as one’s in-game ability develops.
The game gives you three levels of difficulty, and even incorporates a driving range to hone your skills, which is a welcomed addition to this rendition. The combination of ease of use, fluidity and realistic physics create a well-rounded experience in regards to the gameplay.
While the game provides a fun game of golf for all to enjoy, a lot of the enjoyment is going to come from the course you are playing, so be smart in the courses you choose to spend your time with. Overall, the swing mechanic is fluid and realistic, and the utilization of either analog stick helps with immersion. It would have been nice to see a three-click method of swinging implemented into the game, but I understand what HB was trying to accomplish with just the analog swing method.
It’s fairly obvious that gaming is trending in a very social way right now, with a strong focus on connecting people together. While that is great, there are many of us who simply want to turn on our system of choice and enjoy a single-player experience.
HB has offered up a singular career type of society that allows you to play through multiple template-type seasons against the AI. What stuck out here is the ability to edit almost everything, including the names of the competitors, the names of the tournaments and the ability to change the difficulty on the fly. Another aspect of career that deserves focus and praise is the simple fact that I saw no AI rubber-banding, which means I saw no evidence of the AI playing up or down to the user’s ability.
As mentioned before, if you find yourself winning often and by large margins, the difficulty can be changed on the go.
With the vast amount of customization possible, you can plan out the type of courses you want to play, and even include four major events on your tour if you’re trying to replicate what the PGA does in real life. It’s no secret that TGC 2’s main focus is online play, and that’s fine, but have no concerns about what lies in-store if you’re looking for a strong single-player experience. HB has done an admirable job in relationship to that, and provided a mode that is far more than just an afterthought.
If you played the first TGC, then you have a full understanding of how tedious it was to try and actually play a friend live and in real time. All the information was recorded onto a centrally located server and relayed back to the session. It was a long and drawn out process that was barely worth the time and effort.
Thankfully the community feedback was heard and absorbed as the new multiplayer sessions are vastly improved. Inviting people to your session is easy, and the turn-based swing option is relatively seamless and enjoyable. In my time with TGC 2, I played multiple multiplayer games and it provided a strong connective session with instant player feedback and turn around.
The title provides the user many options to enjoy online, whether it be with a group of live friends, playing previously recorded “ghost balls” of friends and rivals, or offering online societies that you can join.
Speaking of online social societies, that was a huge focus of the game this year. TGC 2 allows people to either join or create their own online clubhouse, and invite others to join and play as well. As your clubhouse membership gets bigger, its status grows as well.
Creating and playing in daily and weekly tournaments is a huge focus of the society, and although there are entrance fees (in-game currency) to join, there are also tournament payouts. The mode offers many different “templates” to help set up your society, and the customization is deep enough to make the experience your very own. The game lets the creator of the society rename each tournament, choose what courses will be played, and determine what the final payout will be to the winner. This is a mode that will become very popular, very quickly.
Back again this year is the intuitive course creator. Although the mechanics of its use have not changed dramatically, the options that are offered have increased quite a bit. For those looking to try and re-create their favorite courses, they will now find it easier to do so with the new objects that HB has included in the sequel.
While testing the creator on the PS4 Pro, I did experience crashes to dashboard often, so it is smart idea to save and save often. In TGC 1 course creators found that to increase the difficulty of the game, they had to create a course with a high level of difficulty. That is not the case with TGC 2, and the concern is that a lot of the courses that can and will be imported from the first game will not translate well to TGC 2. The bottom line is this, if you love to create courses, initially the focus should shift to the aesthetics of the layout rather than the severity in the challenge of said course.
Niche sport or not, if you create a fun sports title with depth and a strong social core, the community will respond. While TGC 2 may not be perfect, it hits all the high notes that golf fans desire. A strong and editable career mode, social societies, strong ball physics and a user-friendly course creator.
What it lacks in authentic licensing, it makes up for in the fun it provides, the depth it gives, and enough options to challenge those from all skill sets. If you were a fan of the first title, then TGC 2 is an absolute must buy. If you’re just looking for a fun golf game to play with friends online while sitting back and relaxing, TGC 2 has you covered there as well.