The only golf sim you'll ever need, in theory
Golf games? How quaint," you may be thinking. "Do people really still make golf games?" Indeed they do, Mrs Rhetorical Construct - Powerstar Golf was one of Xbox One's quieter launch day thrills, let down only by a slight lack of online options, and now we have The Golf Club, an [email protected] title from HB Studios of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, which will theoretically keep you golfing till the end of your days.
Why till the end of your days? Because The Golf Club comes with a course generator that's capable of "infinite" permutations. You can generate a course in "four clicks", tailor top-level features such as the number of holes or bunkers, then share it with your friends either piecemeal or collectively in the form of a Tournament or Tour.Rather than a series of disconnected holes, the algorithm generates a complete course where all holes are part of the same landscape," note press materials on the developer's site. "When users play holes they can see other greens and fairways (and even other golfers playing live!) as they make their way through a round. This has the added benefit of having zero loading times between holes because the entire course is a single environment."
The algorithm isn't just designed to create an effective play space; it's also designed to create a beautiful environment. "For instance, more trees will grow where the soil is deep, but this will cause the light level to drop and grass won't grow so you will see a forest floor texture. When the soil isn't deep enough, the light level is high and so you get fields with flowers mixed in. If the terrain is very steep but with a low soil depth, then nothing will grow and you will see rocks and cliffs."
There's also a proper course editor, which allows the player to sculpt the terrain manually, arranging the greens and throwing down rivers, trees and buildings. Decorative touches include a homely and rather unrealistic selection of wildlife - foxes, wolves, bald eagles, rabbits and even crocodiles, who hopefully won't try to gnaw your leg off when you sock a ball into a water hazard.
A number of pre-fabbed courses will ship with the game, and there's four player local multiplayer support - backed by a "myriad" of stat-tracking options and asynchronous features, such as the ability to play against a friend's ghost in their absence. As regards the handling, it's said to be "more about feeling and fluidity" than your ability to hit a marker on a power bar. Theoretically, "the best players on the global leaderboards will be those with the best feel for the different golf shots and who are able to take into account ball lie, weather and terrain conditions."Producer Anthony Kyne wasn't able to say much when I contacted him for comment earlier this month, but he did offer a brief aside about The Golf Club's technical chops. "All platforms will be the same, although you need a pretty high spec PC to get the performance we're getting on Xbox One and PS4 at the moment." According to the site, the game offers "extremely realistic light scattering" and "dynamic realtime clouds" that "have dynamic density based on wind and then also cast realistic shadows based on their position relative to the sun". This trailer should fill in the picture.
So, games of golf till the heat-death of the universe, then. I'm no golfer myself, but the thought of a being able to conjure up a pleasantly realised sweep of manicured lawn whenever I tire of post-apocalyptic dungeons has a certain appeal. The Golf Club launches this spring. Worth a swing?