Of all sports sims, golf is the one that ought to best take advantage of the Wii’s motion sensor technology. The Wii remote, while admittedly much thicker than a standard golf club, can be held and manipulated just as you would your big bertha irons. Similarly, golf’s swing action can be satisfactorily replicated indoors with the arch and power of movement picked up by the Wii sensor. As opposed to a game like tennis, the subtleties and speed of movement are not as much of an issue when it comes to a golf sim. Unlike say Rockstar’s Table Tennis, where the speed of the game renders any movements your end meaningless, turning it into an exercise in flailing your arms around, golf is a far more sedate experience in which you can take as much time as you need to take that swing. When it comes down to it, the only things the motion sensor has to pick up are the speed of movement and any changes in the position of how the remote is handled.
With this in mind, it’s a wonder that there aren’t a) more golf sims out there and b) any really good ones to report of. Wii Sports golf game is really just about timing, with golfing’s subtle difficulties forgotten about. Wii Love Golf is, by all reports, a pretty good arcade game of the sport but nothing more. And in fairness, Tiger Woods’ previous incarnations have also come in for a fair bit of stick, both in terms of presentation and the control mechanism. However, this year’s effort from EA Sports finally rights all previous wrongs and produces a captivating, and highly entertaining simulation.
The presentation is pretty good, each of the 20-plus courses on offer looking better than expected on a console, which is regularly pulled up on its (lack of) graphics capabilities. The player animations, decent at first glance, are far less successful up close but then that’s a minor point. Sound is superb, especially the lack of any annoying music during gameplay itself, and even the dulcet tones of Sam Torrance add to the atmosphere. Gameplay is extremely varied, ranging from a round of golf as one of many pros on the circuit, working your way through the seasons in career mode, and the brilliant simultaneous online play mode, which ingeniously allows you to play opponents online with them hitting their shots the same time as you, so you don’t need to hang around for them to finish their shot before you step up.
Exclusive to the Wii is the multiplayer-only Golf Party Mode, fifteen mini games to challenge your mates at. Some are better than others but it’s a nice additional touch, although it’s by no means a reason to invest your hard earned in this.
The reason you should fork out your cash is down to just how close gameplay on the Wii gets to playing a perfect virtual round of golf. When it comes to driving and fairway play, the game’s ‘one to one’ swing dynamic really is as good as it gets. When you go for the backswing, so your on-screen mimics you, almost to the exact positions you’re in. The strength of your shot depends on the speed of your downswing and how far round you bring your backswing and the relationship between you and your in-game character feels responsive and intuitive.
Best of all is the Club Tuner feature in which you can affect how the Wii picks up your swing movements, adding fade and draw bias to correct any natural hooking or slicing you might have in your game. For the novice player, the All-Play feature, which gives the title that ridiculously long moniker this year, can be selected. All-Play’s gaming mechanic basically makes a round of golf on the game much easier to get to grips with, with details such as a shot’s trajectory included. This just makes the whole gaming experience more inclusive for everyone to get involved. For the more advanced player, fade and draw can be added by turning the Wii remote in the appropriate direction, while for the less experienced player fade and draw can be added manually for ease of play.
I’ve read quite a few user reviews on the web complaining about the putting aspect of the game, specifically that it’s far worse than in last year’s effort. While I can’t compare it to last year’s, having never played it, I have to say that I think it works absolutely fine here. Sure it’s the least effective part of gameplay as it doesn’t replicate putting in real life but I think pretty much every golf game I’ve ever played lets itself down on the greens. While it doesn’t have the same instinctive feel that playing from the fairplay does, I don’t think it warrants the complaints people have thrown at it.
For me, this is far and away the best golf sim the Wii has to offer. For the record, it’s also the best game I’ve bought for the Wii full stop. Mario Kart‘s good fun and Wii Fit is highly inventive but this is the first game I’ve bought for the console that I’ve not put down once since buying it. It really is that good.