The sequel adds a career mode, online societies, enhanced character customization, and of course the deep course creation of the original. But is it easier to play than its ultra-challenging predecessor?
Preparing to golf
The Golf Club 2 starts out with a tutorial that explains its intricate swinging mechanics, how to change clubs, and more. The tutorial is welcome, as this is an extremely difficult game. But it's also painful due to black loading screens that interrupt the flow of information and an announcer who has obvious difficulty reading his lines smoothly.
After that rough beginning, you can access your profile and customize your golfer. Character customization was a big weakness in the first Golf Club, and thankfully it has improved dramatically here. You can adjust numerous aspects of your male or female golfer, although height, weight, and bust size are notably fixed. Hair and clothing colors are fully customizable.
Emblems and additional clothing options must be purchased with currency earned through completing challenges during gameplay. The currency system and buyable clothes provide goals to shoot for, something the first game notably lacked. But less skilled players like me will find the challenges awfully hard to complete, so the money might roll in slowly.
Career and presentation
Whereas the first Golf Club consisted of individual courses to play with no connective tissue, the new game has a career of sorts. You have to create a career and then customize the parameters such as number of events, AI participants, and difficulty. Having set up your career, you'll then go through however many courses you set up. Between courses, you can spend winnings to upgrade your society and buy new clubhouses.
The new career provides some structure for players who need it, though it's still relatively lacking in presentation. That said, the actual graphics have been noticeably upgraded, with 3D human crowds on the course (no more lone animal spectators!) and greater environmental detail.
The Golf Club 2 might look a lot nicer than its predecessor, but for better or worse, it plays exactly the same. This is not an arcade-style golf game; it's a brutally unforgiving simulation.
Instead of stopping meters to adjust the strength of your stroke, you'll swing with the right- or left-analog stick. Pull the stick down to wind up, and then push it up to whack the ball. The straighter your motion, the more accurate your shot will fly. The actual speed of your up and down swing affects the shot as well.
In concept, that's not a bad swinging mechanic. But in practice, it's just too damn hard to consistently make straight shots of the desired power level. Try to swing a little short of full strength and you'll just as likely hit the ball with no strength at all. Aim perfectly straight and it'll turn out you moved a few millimeters to the side, sending the ball into the rough.
The problem is the game just doesn't give you any guides to help with aiming or to judge how your shot is going before you connect with the ball. You can switch to an overhead view that shows the general location you're aiming towards, but you can't aim from that view like in other golf games. I've sometimes hit a nearly perfect shot only to have it land somewhere unexpected because The Golf Club 2 doesn't want me to know where the ball is going.
Even putting, often a simple and enjoyable activity in other games, is a major challenge here. Hitting the ball with anything less than very minor strength or very high strength is all but impossible for me. My shots quite often miss the mark and roll well past the hole thanks to minor differences in elevation. When every aspect of hitting the ball, from regular shots to puts, is a major ordeal, your golf game is probably harder than necessary.
As with the original, The Golf Club 2's greatest strengths are its course creation and sharing tools. The course creator lets you select from several climates, terrain types, adjust water level, tree density, overall difficulty, the number of holes, and much more. You can even import your custom courses from the first game. It's a really powerful editor.
Cool custom courses only matter if you can find them easily, and The Golf Club 2 doesn't slouch there. Numerous filters let you search for friends' courses, friends' favorites, official HB Studios courses, popular courses, and even courses suited to your handicap. Finding new courses to play will never be a problem here.
The Golf Club 2 supports 4-player local multiplayer as well as asynchronous online multiplayer. When playing online, you'll go through the course like normal, but you'll also see your friend's actions alongside you. It feels like real-time multiplayer, except that you can't chat with each other unless you're in a party. There are large-scale asynchronous tournaments, too.
New to this game are online societies, the equivalent of guilds or clans. Societies basically function as multiplayer versions of the career mode, allowing a group of players to participate in courses and tournaments as well as working towards upgrading the society clubhouse.
The Xbox One version of The Golf Club 2 offers 26 Achievements worth a total of 1,000 Gamerscore. The easier ones involve completing an 18-hole course, completing a career season, sinking 25 puts in one session of putting practice, and favoriting ten courses.
The hardest ones are getting a hole-in-one and getting a hole-in-one from over 250 feet away. This is an extremely tough game, and a lot of the Achievements will be out of reach unless you happen to fully grok its complex mechanics.
The Golf Club 2 is a nicely improved sequel to the launch-era first game. Career mode, online societies, improved graphics and loading times, and strong character customization all make for a larger and longer lasting game. I just wish the actual golfing was friendlier.
If Golf Club 2 played like Mario Golf or other traditional golf games but had all the same features, I'd play it forever. But the golf mechanics here are an unforgiving and acquired taste, limiting the game's appeal. If you can handle the analog swinging and steep difficulty, this might be just the club for you.
The Golf Club 2 costs $39.99, five dollars more than the first game's launch price.
- Career mode and online societies provide long-term replay value.
- Graphics are much improved over the first game.
- You can hit a squirrel with a golf ball.
- Golf mechanics are too unforgiving.
- Your golfer's body size and type can't be customized.
- The tutorial narrator is amazingly bad.
Xbox One review copy provided by the publisher.
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