Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Golf Club (early access)

I saw that The Golf Club was available on Steam Early Access today, so I went ahead and purchased.

The last great golf game, for me, was one of the early Tiger Woods versions by Headgate that still included a course architect. Once the course architect was taken out, though, I rapidly lost interest. So it's been years before a golf game has really hooked me.

The Golf Club is still not finished, but even the Early Access version does a ton of things right. For one, and I can't overemphasize this, the course generator is flat-out amazing. I wanted to play on a mountain course, so I specified degree of hills, trees, water, and difficulty. Then the game generated a prospective layout that I could edit if I wanted to (I didn't). What I wound up with was a beautiful, fun course.

There are also some graphic touches that I've never seen done this well before--in particular, patches of ground that aren't lush, but aren't bare, either. Those sections looked photo-realistic, and some other sections did, too. There are still some issues--flickering shadows, for one, and some pop-in--but overall, it's a tremendous looking game.

I'm also impressed with how the game handles slope and friction. It's very easy to understand and "feel" slopes in the game, particularly on the greens. Friction might even be a tad low, but it's still very, very well done.

Controls are a mixed bag. The mouse and keyboard are not very well implemented, currently, but gamepads work extremely well. I think m+k support has only been recently added, so there should be some improvement.

The one area of the game that feels weak right now is putting, although it's much better with the gamepad than with the mouse. What I don't like is that the putter is drawn back further than you would in real life, which screws me up. The way that greens break, though, is excellent.

Oh, and one more thing that could use improvement: sound effects. The sound of the ball landing on the fairway sounds like someone dropping a golf ball on a board. Not only that, but I guarantee that exact same sound effect has been used in other golf games in the past. I can't remember which one, exactly, but I'm getting somewhere in the Jack Nicklaus era. Hopefully, they'll sort this out, because the sound of the ball landing is a primary sound effect, and the game looks so good that it should sound that good, too.

Overall, I'm impressed, and I think the game has a ton of potential.

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