Reviewed: December 2, 2002
Reviewed by: Mark Smith
Simon & Schuster Interactive
GameCube owners rejoice! You can now enjoy the same great golf game that Xbox owners have been playing and raving about all summer long, and you will be pleased to learn that nothing was lost in the translation of Hypnotix and Simon & Schuster’s mischievous Outlaw Golf.
I had the pleasure of playing Outlaw Golf at this year’s E3 show, and even at that time I knew S&S had a hit on their hands. You really can’t go wrong with a good golf game as long as you have great graphics, realistic physics, and a good variety of courses and characters. Outlaw Golf may be a little light in the course selection, offering only three 18-hole courses, but the cast of ten wild and zany characters more than makes up for it.
In addition to the three wonderful courses you also get a putting green, driving range, and a chipping challenge. Each of these areas offers many challenges and successful completion of each rewards you with points that you can use to increase various player attributes. This RPG-like stat system is a great feature that allows you to customize each golfer before taking them out on the Tour mode to compete against the rest of the cast.
The game is designed to be played all the way through with one character at a time. As you progress through the tour you will unlock new equipment like special clubs and balls, as well as new golfers that you can then take through their own tour. Most of the golfers are locked when you first start the game, so the more you unlock in tour mode the more will be accessible when you want to play the multi-player games.
While there is an excellent golf game lurking beneath the surface of Outlaw Golf, the creative character designs are what really sell this title. All of the characters feature their own unique personality and backstory along with several costumes and their own special caddy. Anyone can make a golf game these days, but it takes a creative genius, or a team of them, to gather together a biker chick, rapper, stripper, dominatrix, ex-con, and all sorts of other "outlaw golfers" and put them in the same game.
Outlaw Golf is first and foremost a great golf game that would hold its own even without its cast of misfits. It features an excellent physics model that replicates real-world physics and reproduces the game of golf to near perfection. While most console golf games have you push a button two or three times to swing your club, Outlaw Golf uses a more realistic approach similar to the “True Swing” mode found in the Links games for the PC. Instead of using a mouse, you recreate your golf swing by pushing down on the C-stick then forward, essentially creating your back swing and follow-through. The power of your stroke is determined during the back swing by a power meter and the follow-through determines how straight you hit the ball. Any deviation to the left or right will result in a hook or slice.
There are several visual aids to make the game just a tiny bit easier. You have a trajectory arc that will show you approximately where the ball will land if you hit it at the current power setting with the selected club. This arc will change from yellow to red if your path is blocked by a tree or other obstacle. You also have the traditional grid overlay for the green that shows the break in the terrain. One of the nicest visual aids is the “putting preview”. This allows you to display the current line your putt will take based on your current target and power setting. You get three peeks per hole so use them wisely.
Perhaps one of the most ingenious aspects of Outlaw Golf is the “Composure Meter”. Anyone who has played real golf knows just how frustrating the game can be and how your anger will often affect your game. In this case you have a meter that starts off in the middle and will decrease with each bad shot and increase with excellent shots, birdies, etc. Your composure actually affects the accuracy and distance of your shots, so you will always want to keep this on the positive side of the bar if possible.
Your caddies can help you maintain your composure by serving as targets for your aggression. At any given time, provided you have a “Beating Token”, you can proceed to beat the hell out of your caddy. The better the beating the more composure you gain and a perfect thrashing will result in a full meter that will put you “In the Zone”. These beating take the form of a bar with a sliding square that moves from right to left. You must press the A button whenever the square passes into a randomly determined zone on the bar. It’s all about reflexes and the more consecutive hits you get the longer the beating and the more composure you regain. You start each game with one Beating Token and can earn others by getting Birdies, Eagles, etc.
While most of your success on the links is based on your skill with the controller along with your knowledge of club selection, your players can assist you by earning bonus equipment like special drivers, putters, irons, and balls that will increase your accuracy and distance. These items all supplement your character's stats that you build-up through the mini-games.
There is even a bit of challenge in how you approach the mini-games. Some challenges like the driving and chipping games cannot be completed with standard equipment. You will have to revisit these challenges after you have earned better clubs and balls. This keeps you from maximizing your player’s attributes all at once and devastating the competition.
There are all sorts of game options including many multi-player modes for skins, stroke, and match play. The tour mode is the main single-player offering that takes each character on nearly a dozen games on each course. These range from major tournaments against the entire cast to one-on-one challenges to unlock a particular character or special item.
Outlaw Golf is the best looking console golf game released to date. It very nearly beats out the Links games on the PC, but Microsoft has pretty much nailed photo-realism with that series and Outlaw Golf never pretends to be “real”. Even though, you will marvel at the wonderful colors, sparkling lakes, clear blue skies, and all sorts of random course-side objects.
Two of your courses are your typical style country club with lots of greenery, although one course features much more colorful trees since you are playing in the autumn. The third course takes you to the desert with plenty of sand and cactus to get in your way. They all offer their own unique challenges and gorgeous scenery.
There are some wonderful special effects like a mini-fireworks display after a birdie or eagle, and when you hit a good shot the ball will glow white or yellow and leave a comet trail behind it. There are all sorts of excellent camera angles and replay modes to choose from, and you have full freedom of camera movement before each shot to explore the hole or check out the various golfers from perverted camera angles.
Of course the character designs are what really shine in this game whether you are playing the sexy stripper, Summer, in her ripped jeans and skin-tight t-shirt with sassy caddy, Autumn, in her spunky cheerleading outfit, or the devilish Mistress Suki, in her black leather and her whipping boy/caddy, Puddin’. Sexy women are only half of the cast. You have El Suave who fancies himself as the Casanova of the golf course and Ice Trey, the wannabe rapper from Beverly Hills.
If you think these characters sound crazy you should see them in action. Each character has a library of reaction animations based on whether they are glad, mad, or sad. Summer will writhe around on the ground or do a stripper-spin around the flag pole after a good shot while Mistress Suki will pummel her caddy into submission when she shags one into the water hazard.
The interface is clean and concise with everything you need to know about the player and the hole all displayed on the screen. My one and only complaint is that the power bar percentage is shown in a very dark blue on a black background. This makes is very hard to see on a properly calibrated TV, and you will often have to stick your nose to the screen to see if you should swing that club 30% or 80%.
Musically, there isn’t much to Outlaw Golf. You have a killer opening tune that plays along with a bunch of introductory animation for the players. Aside from the menus, opening and closing credits, the rest of the game is left to sound effects and speech.
Sound effects are pretty standard with clubs swinging and balls splashing in water or dropping into the cup. There are some nice subtle effects like birds, wind, and even the flag flapping in the breeze.
Once again, the characters steal the show. Each character has a respectable library of one-liners and quips they will deliver throughout the game. My only complaint is that by the time you have taken any one character through about a third of the tour you will have heard everything they have to say. The caddy beatings are especially repetitious.
Another great feature is that each hole is introduced by each of the cast members. This is often more fun than informative as many of these players don’t have the slightest idea on how to play these holes. Trixie will start to explain the 300-yard dogleg to the left then end up talking about getting her nails done at the mall last week. Scrummy O’Doole has the best descriptions if you can imagine getting instructions from a cross between Shrek and Fat Bastard.
And golf just wouldn’t be complete without play-by-play commentary. Steve Carell, best known for his reports on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show”, provides the color commentary for all of your games as well as hilarious player introductions. His comments range from spot-on to totally random and always funny. He even comments on the caddy beatings.
My only complaint with the sound is that there just isn’t enough of it to go around. Outlaw Golf is just so darn good and you will play it so often and for so long that you will exhaust all of the dialog in the first few days. Pretty soon you will find yourself skipping the player intros, the hole descriptions, the post-shot reaction animations, and anything else just so you can take your next shot and get the game moving.
Despite the limitations of only having three courses and a few sections designed for mini-games, there is plenty of fun to be had with Outlaw Golf. It took me about 30 hours to finish the entire game with one character. When I say finish I mean winning every match in the tour mode, as well as completing all the mini-game challenges and maximizing all of my character stats and unlocked all of the special items I could.
There are still many more items and players to unlock but at 30-hours per tour it will be quite some time before I can find the 270 hours it will take me to totally complete this game with all ten characters, especially since you have to totally start over with each new character and replay all the mini-games to build-up those stats.
Honestly though, the lack of courses does hurt this title in the end. No matter how many variations of golf you play, no matter whether you are playing the back nine, front nine, or holes selected at random, you are playing the same 54 holes over and over and you will get tired of it long before you have completed the game.
Outlaw Golf is one of the best golf games I have ever played on the GameCube or any system for that matter. It’s fun and realistic with a wonderful cast of wild, crazy, and often naughty characters. It comes in second only to Links for realism and visuals, but as far as console golf games go, this one sets a new high bar that should last for quite some time. Don’t even waste your time with that Tiger Woods golf game. This is the one you want to be playing.