It’s been almost three years since The Golf Club bagged up its 9 iron and plotted a course for the user created links of the PlayStation 4. HB Studios’ simulation resembled a present day Tiger Woods: a little rough around the edges but still capable of magic. This sequel, then, aims to improve upon the handicap of its predecessor by expanding on all of its features – but does it hit an eagle or a hole in one?
In honesty, this is another above par entry from the Canadian company, with the core course-based action feeling decent and the wrapper around it being a bit of a swing and a miss. At the beating heart of the package this time is a system called Societies: a clan-like mechanic which allows you to create a clubhouse for the world to sign up to, where you can lay on tournaments and compete for global superiority.
It’s a brilliant idea: you spend in-game currency on admission and entry into events, and that cash then gets banked by the clubhouse and can be spent on both cosmetic and gameplay upgrades. The problem is that, for all of its ingenuity, it’s not as seamlessly integrated as we’d have liked – and honestly is so convoluted that we can only envisage the most hardcore players utilising the feature to its full potential.
That’s a shame because, with a bit more care and forethought, it’s easy to imagine how a feature like this could be outrageously addictive – a la DriveClub, for example. What’s also unfortunate is that the same Societies system is leveraged for the career mode, which allows you to either select pre-determined events or create custom seasons out of user generated courses, but ultimately doesn’t have that same feeling of progression that you’d find in a more authored sports game.
But the big theme here is clearly to “play your way”, and in that sense the game’s successful. You can import any courses you created in the original release, and update them to take advantage of the new multi-tee system and environmental themes. Water features allow you to create more stunning scenery, while a dynamic crowd system alters the density of onlookers depending upon the event; a lowly practice session will draw smaller gatherings than the final of a major tournament.
There’s a seemingly never-ending supply of content to be had here: user-generated courses are now augmented with mini-challenges as they accrue more plays, which add replay value as you work to complete tasks in order to earn in-game currency. And this all feeds into the character creator system, as you purchase new outfits and accessories for your ugly yet serviceable avatar.
Impressive is how social the title can feel at times. You can challenge players from around the globe who happen to be competing on the same course as you, or pull in ghosts of previous playthroughs. Alternatively, you can quickly add friends and family for local sessions – or you can opt for a combination of all three. Every course is equipped with leaderboards and stats, and you can even favourite the layouts that you like the most.
Moreover, 18-hole rounds can be exited and resumed as you feel fit, which is a nice touch when you consider the kind of investment a full-round requires. The gameplay when you’re out on the course feels good, with the analogue stick swing mechanic requiring skill (especially while putting) but arming you with a variety of shot options, such as the ability to add draw and fade – or change the shot type entirely depending upon your circumstances.
There’s plenty to do, then, and teeing off is an enjoyable act – we just wished that the Societies system pulled everything together better than it does. There are some neat ideas here, and HB Studios’ commitment to a Web 2.0-esque experience is one to be admired, but it feels like it still needs to sink that gimme with its third stroke to score the birdie that this series is getting tantalisingly close to achieving.
A decent sequel that improves upon its predecessor in virtually every department, The Golf Club 2 strikes a good drive. But while the improvements to the simulation and course editor are appreciated, there’s still work that needs to be done to the unifying Societies system, which represents a clever idea that’s far too convoluted for its own good right now. A third stroke should see this series realise its very real potential – but in fairness, this entry is in regulation and well worth buying if you’re a fan of the sport.