The word ‘golf’ may conjure up images of white middle aged men in round neck and jumpers and polo shirts looking like wannabe 1970s street pimps- not exactly the best selling point for a new sports game. But Outlaw Golf 2 strips the game of these sartorial stereotypes (quite literally) and puts a whole new spin on a previously unhip and dowdy pastime.
The Outlaw Golf series follows the Golf Punk route, placing strippers and lap-dancers on the course, but OG2 is not a one trick pony - it combines this unusual apparel with a surprisingly multi-layered gaming experience. There are eleven different characters and eight courses to play on - from motorway underpasses to haunted houses and giant psychedelic mushrooms, each with its own distinct weather conditions. Despite the courses’ unconventional locations and environments, their layout is relatively traditional, with none of the ramps or windmills of the crazy golf realm.
There is also an impressive number of game modes to choose from, thirteen in all, including a Net Play option in which up to four people can play in one game. In the Tournament mode new outfits, courses and clubs can be unlocked. This process can occasionally be overly challenging and eventually tedious.
One of the wackier modes, baseball golf, is great fun - converting your golf score into baseball shots. One problem in all the modes is that the gameplay’s quite slow. There is a long load period between each hole, and during the shot there are constant animations and cut scenes. This is annoying and intrusive, and even though they can be skipped or fast forwarded, it all takes time.
To those unfamiliar with golfing jargon, the game takes a little while to master.
One can take a long time deciding whether to use a 4 iron, a wood or a chip on a double bogey from a bunker. But once mastered, the controls are intuitively handled because of good placement. The swing action could easily have been too sensitive or unresponsive (a common problem with this type of game) but is easily controlled by moving the analogue control back and forward in a straight line. Putting can however be a challenge, not aided by the unrelenting and glib comments of the commentator.
A new feature on Outlaw Golf 2 is the “composure bar”. A player’s composure affects their golfing ability, so that ‘low composure’ causes you to find shots difficult while ‘high composure’ allows you to make excellent shots with little effort. Composure can therefore affect the outcome of the game greatly. Luckily, if after a run of bad shots your composure plummets, there is a fantastic way of raising it - simply beat up your caddy. This is in funny contrast to the golf. If you think it sounds tasteless, perhaps Outlaw Golf isn’t for you. It’s completely built around this kind of ethos.
Although the game doesn't try to be wholly realistic, its graphics are largely very good. Only close up surfaces sometimes look flat. Music is an unobtrusive mix of hip-hop and rock and can be customised to play the tracks you want to hear. Ultimately, Outlaw Golf 2 combines the ethic of a men's magazine with the competitive vibe of The Masters tournament. This proves an unusual but successful fusion of two opposites, which work well together and create an entertaining and original game. Were it not for a few small snags, this game would be a hole in one.