The Golf Club 2019 Review02/10/2018
Unfortunately, golf games are a bit of a rarity these days. The EA Sports yearly releases dried up and left a hole in the market. In 2014 though, developer HB Studios saw a gap in the market and decided to seize upon the opportunity. A realistic and immersive experience was the aim and while the game was not a blockbuster hit, it certainly had its fan base. Enough that in June last year we saw a sequel which built on the foundation set by the first.
Now, just over a year later HB Studios is back with a third entry. This time packing the punch of the recently acquired PGA Tour license. So do this addition and the tweaks that have come along with it raise the bar set by the other two games and is this the breakout release that the franchise needed? Let’s take a closer look.
GRAPHICS & AUDIO
The Golf Club 2019 is a good looking game. Courses are vibrant and detailed. Anyone who has ever watched a round of golf or been lucky enough to visit the likes of TPC Sawgrass will instantly recognise the course and how well it has been recreated in the game. Player models, for the most part, look good, although the odd awkward swing animation can let it down at times.
In terms of audio, I would define it as functional. The sound of a driver cracking a ball off the tee, the birds chirping in the distance and the noise of the crowd are all present and as you would expect. Commentary impresses at first but the longer you get into the game the more repetitive and dull it became. Given the nature of the sport and the amount of downtime though I realise this is a difficult issue to navigate.
It is disappointing to not have any licensed golfers make an appearance, especially given the PGA Tour license, but I have to admit I play golf games for the joy of the sport and would almost always lean towards a career mode where you create your own character so while it is a little off-putting not lining up against the likes of Rory McIlroy, it wasn’t a huge deal to me.
This brings me to the modes featured in the game. The bulk of my time was spent in career mode as I alluded to before. The addition of the PGA Tour definitely adds a new dimension to the mode, although I did come away feeling like it felt a little half-baked. Only 6 real courses have been added, with the likes of St. Andrews missing out. This meant only a handful of the events you compete in throughout career mode actually take place on a real course.
Now the fictional courses aren’t bad by any means. They are well designed, detailed and challenging, but I guess I just expected a more realistic road to the top when I started my career. The journey itself is a fun, challenging and occasionally frustrating experience which I overall enjoyed a lot. As you progress through your career you unlock the usual upgrades like new clothes, clubs, and sponsorship deals that you would expect.
Elsewhere you have the usual drop in games, online matchmaking and societies, but also new this time around is Skins and Alt-Shot modes. Unfortunately, my time with this was limited due to sparse online activity but the potential is definitely there for a budding community.
The Golf Club 2019 uses the tried and tested analogue stick swing mechanic. With it though, you have to be way more precise than in the old EA Sports offerings. misjudge the timing and/or direction of the shot and you will be punished. At first, you will likely encounter some frustrating moments, particularly on the greens, but put in the time and practise and you will see the rewards at the other side. The gameplay is deeper than it initially seems and in a sport that is about hitting that perfect shot, that is certainly not a bad thing.
This is one of the big questions coming into the 2019 edition. Is it worth upgrading so soon after the previous game. Given the PGA Tour license, I would say yes. The course creator remains a linchpin of the series and while it is available in previous editions, the same people who take the time to create the best courses will also be the ones that will upgrade to the latest version and not look back.
Despite the PGA Tour license feeling at little half-baked at present the series continues to move in the right direction. The course editor brings with it a lot of replayability and the career mode will keep you busy for a good amount of time. Golf is a game well suited to the gaming space and I am so glad HB Studios has taken the task of delivering a pure golf simulation and ran with it.