Outlaw Golf 2
Whether or not golf is your thing, there’s no denying the place that golf games have carved themselves in the hearts of gamers worldwide. Ever since PGA tour golf graced the Megadrive all those years ago, one golf game or another has always sat up there on your games shelf, next to that obligatory racing game, fighting game, tennis game and football game, just in case a bunch of your mates pile back to your house after the pub and are in the mood for a bit of thumb twitching action. Sometimes of course you can’t be bothered to explain all the moves in whatever is the en vogue brawler to the uninitiated, and multiplayer racers can often leave the inexperienced driver eating dust on the start line, so it often pays to have a couple of pick up and play sports titles for that very reason. I certainly can’t remember anyone ever not ‘getting’ Virtua Tennis for example, and most golf titles are similarly straightforward; select a club, line up your shot taking into account the wind factor and then hit that ball using whatever swing mechanic the game uses. This can be anything from press to swing and press to hit, or hold down and release to hit, or do a funky flick back and forth with the analogue stick. Either way it’s pretty simple stuff, no matter how inebriated you are.
I’d like to ‘play a round’ with these two…
And this is where Outlaw Golf 2 comes in. Not content with being a simple post-pub pastime as it is, Hypnotix have developed Outlaw Golf 2 with the principal that the sport would be much more entertaining if they added a hearty dose of sex, violence and down right ridiculousness to the proceedings in the form of archetypal large breasted video game chicks, a Latino cheese-meister, a big-mouthed redneck, a hippie and an awful Eminem wannabe representing the white trash contingent. The big surprise however comes in the realisation that hidden under all this bawdy and let’s face it hit-and-miss humour lies a remarkably smooth and well designed little golf game which comes at a price that makes it decent value for money.
Outlaw Golf 2 improves on its predecessor in many obvious yet important ways. For a start while the original only had three courses, the sequel has a more substantial eight, although don’t expect anything too revolutionary in terms if their design. While the exteriors include American industrial plants, psychedelic alien landscapes and spooky haunted house courses (all looking like something straight out of a cheesy kart racing game from the old PSone days), the run of each course tends to feel like a decidedly traditional and linear affair. That doesn’t mean they’re all dull though – in ‘play testing’ the game (yes, with some drunk mates) many a laugh was had from the level with the big motorway flyover running through the middle of it, particularly if you forgo a swing or two to try and hit a passing truck.
Can you guess what you have to do?
But Outlaw Golf 2 isn’t one of those games where you end up trying to make your own fun as it has many engaging game types and mini-games to keep you occupied. In exhibition mode there are traditional rules like stroke play, match play, skins, and best ball, but there are also more adventurous games like baseball mode, for example, where your performance is unsurprisingly translated into baseballing terminology. Another alternative is ‘pick up sticks’; when a player wins a hole, he or she can eliminate one of the clubs from another player’s bag. In all there are a commendable thirteen different rule sets and while some definitely have more longevity than others, they all do a good job of keeping the game play entertaining.
Of course, no golf game worth its salt would be complete without a character driven tournament mode with unlockable goodies and Outlaw Golf 2 is no exception. As you win competitions you’ll unlock new courses, clubs, costumes and so on, which you can then use in the multi-player exhibition modes. Be warned, however, that some of these tournament competitions are somewhat trying as the game’s punishing AI does you know favours and without all the unlockable stuff the exhibition mode is quite limited, so be ready for your patience to be tried somewhat as you play through them all.
I’d like to ‘play a round’ with these her…
In terms of actual gameplay, it soon becomes clear that Outlaw Golf 2 isn’t leagues away from the traditional gameplay mechanic that golf games have utilised for well over a decade now, although a few little touches do catch your attention. The game uses the analogue stick swing like its contemporaries; pull back on either stick to raise the club then slam it forward to swing through and hit the ball. A power meter is provided on screen to help you to gauge how far a maximum strength hit will go and you’ll often find you do hit that distance since Outlaw Golf 2 is nowhere near as punishing as certain popular titles in terms of hooking and slicing. The horizontal sensitivity of the analogue sticks feel like it is set intentionally low, presumably to give the post-pub newcomers a bit of a fighting chance.
But things change massively once you get your ball onto the green as the putting engine for Outlaw Golf 2 is somewhat unique. Once there you’re presented with a target (as you’d expect) but since you can’t tell the lay of the land from the angle you’re presented with, it’s pretty hard to judge where the ball’s going to go. However, the game grants you three presses of the square button to reveal the true projected path of your putt, and this is where the fun really begins. You get your smart-arse golf game pro who lines it up first time (using gradient statistics and wind factor on screen to help their judgement) but the majority of us will take our best guess, press square to see how far off we are only to realise we’ve got it wildly wrong. And this is where everyone suddenly becomes an expert, especially after a drink or two. “A bit to the left, mate” or “That was obviously way out” is the norm; easy to say when you’ve already hit square of course. In fact on many an occasion you’ll use up your three guesses and still be none the wiser, much to the taunts and jeers of your fellow players. In the multiplayer games I played, the putting green provoked the most colourful language, but you have to admit it is a great deal of fun and certainly one of the high points of the game.
Who says tattoos and golf don’t mix?
Outlaw Golf 2 also introduces the novel concept of the Composure Rating, which affects your in-game character’s gameplay and behaviour. When your Composure is high you’ll find your character hits the ball cleaner and further and has outlandish celebratory cut-scenes to match. When your Composure is low the opposite happens; your drive feels shorter and your post swing cut-scenes involve your character having a tantrum. Of course the best way to gain Composure is to hit the ball true and play competently but there are shortcuts, such as hitting a ball at a spectator, hitting a personal record or simply beating up your caddie. And if that doesn’t make you feel any better, why not try taking the golf cart for a spin round the course? You don’t get a big boost in Composure admittedly, but it does provide an entertaining couple of minutes and it also gives you the chance to earn the coveted Perfect Shot, which will place the ball exactly where your aiming reticule pinpointed it to land without having to worry about power or hitting it in a straight line or anything. The cart’s steering is unfortunately very twitchy and you may give up after a couple of goes, but if you do complete the cart challenge it’s well worth it in the long run, so stick at it.
I’d like to ‘play a round’ with… I think you get the joke by now actually.
In terms of graphical performance, the original Outlaw Golf was only a little ahead of okay and the sequel doesn’t do much to improve upon that. As tends to be the trend these days, the character models and animations are sharp and smooth – particularly the swing animations and in all the cut-scenes – but the general quality of the environments leave a little to be desired. Graphical buzzwords like ‘aliasing’, ‘jagging’ and ‘texture bending’ leap to mind, but at the end of the day the real giveaway is the low quality of the trees and bushes, which look consistently flat. Aurally however the game fares much better. The soundtrack flicks between funky hip-hop and classic video game rock, but the stuff you’d actually listen to as opposed to the grating rally game music sort of thing. The commentator is also surprisingly entertaining as the duties have now been picked up by Dave Attell of The Comedy Channel’s Insomnia fame. While the stuff he’s reading out isn’t particularly clever, it’s always delivered with an amusing consistency, so it doesn’t strain your ears too much. Or at least it wouldn’t if there was enough of it; you’ll often hear the same phrase repeated many times which ultimately kills the joke. Still, it’s good while it lasts.
But perhaps the most surprising thing about Outlaw Golf 2 is the comprehensive online mode. Four players can now compete together online, either concurrently or simultaneously, and you can extensively configure the game to meet your needs, as you can in the offline exhibition mode. For a game that revels in its own crassness and only cost £20, that seems like a luxury and it is, but then again a great many aspects of Outlaw Golf 2 do take you by surprise.
Smack my bitch up.
At the end of the day we’re taught as children to never judge a book by its cover and that seems especially relevant here. For all its tits and ass and needless swearing, Outlaw Golf 2 is a surprisingly engaging golf game that’s great value for money and is perfect to appease those post-pub blues. Tiger Woods eat your heart out.
Seven out of ten