The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
I don't get too wound up about my golf game, and it's a good thing I don't. Otherwise, long ago I would have thrown myself in the nearest water hazard along with my clubs. Enjoying a nice day on a gorgeous course is enough. The Golf Club captures this essence in both the challenge of perfecting your swing and the pride of being able to create your own gorgeous courses. But, is that beauty enough?
The game's course creation tools are impressive in their ability to not only let you build detailed courses, but the scalability of the tools themselves. You can apply some macro-levels rules to shape your course with simple min/max sliders – like if you want your course as a whole to be hilly or have lots of water – or dive into placing individual trees, objects, and even whales. The menu presentation is straightforward, but there are times like placing water, for instance, where the macro and micro tools can cause confusion on how to exactly get what you want. Regardless, the game puts a lot of power in your hands, and with a little tinkering you soon learn how to efficiently work with the tools and start making some sweet courses.
I was really impressed with the naturally adaptability of your holes in the broader context of the world's environment. Moving a hole en masse, rearranging holes' order, adding/subtracting holes, and even switching out the overall theme of the environment (you can choose from desert, autumn/forest, rural, alpine, and the wild Scotland-like links terrain) is well done.
You can also dive in and playtest your hole at any time; dropping your ball in a specific location or playing the whole thing. Finding and playing other people's creations is easy as well, and you can use them to put together your own tour of courses.
The golf gameplay itself is challenging and satisfying. The right analog swing requires precision, especially when applying draw or fade, and a minimal pre-swing HUD is hard at first. Gauging your swing power while putting, in particular, takes getting used to, but it won't take long to develop a rhythm and feel to your swing.
As well-crafted as the game is, it's missing a sense of progression that drives you forward. While creating the course of your dreams (or someone else's nightmares) feels good, I missed a larger structure. Visual or physical golfer upgrades, an overarching rewards system tied to your stats, or even a career shell are missing and there's lost momentum within the game because of it. Seeing what kinds of courses I and others could come up with and the challenges therein is motivating, but the sustenance it provides is impermanent.
The Golf Club delivers as a course creator, and it's no slouch swinging the clubs, either. What's missing is the personality: the larger career structure and personal investment in your avatar to spur players on and elevate the experience from a nice set of features to the complete package.
Email the author Matthew Kato, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.