Custom Play Golf 2009

   04/11/2008 at 07:48       James       3 COMMENTS.
Custom Play Golf 2009 hands on

It's a long time since I bought a PC game. It's an even longer time since I bought a golf game for one. These days, my time hunched in front of a computer monitor staring intently whilst gripping the mouse feverishly with my right hand are for entirely different reasons.

The last golf game I really got into on the PC was EA's PGA Tour in the early 90s, and it was bloody brilliant. Four of us used to crowd round the office PC during our lunch hour (the rest of us were on Unix boxes) and attempt to play a full tournament in a week. The game had a very good 3-click swing system, allowing for draw and slice, overhit shots, and subtle approach play. Golf games have got prettier as the years went by, but no other golf sim on the PC has really captured the fun of those first PGA games for me.

And so here we are with Custom Play Golf 2009, from Lexicon Entertainment. This is a very serious golf sim, and as the name suggests, includes a comprehensive editing tool with which to create your own golf courses. There are quite a few game options too; standard 18-hole courses, Par 3 games, Pitch & Putt, Crazy Golf and the Driving Range to hone your skills on.

Players must create an identity to play the game, and this involves such tasks as selecting the clubs you want to include in your bag, down to the appearance of your character. Amongst all these choices is the option to select your method of swing. The old favourite 3-click swing is there, along with a 2-click option, and also the ability to use the motion of your mouse to swing the club, either horizontally or vertically.

And so to the game itself. I initially selected the 3-click swing method, and assuming that my dual-core PC would be man enough for a golf game, selected full detail graphics in the option menu. This turned out to be a mistake. Despite the fact that the graphics at this stage, even on full detail, look pretty basic, my machine was clearly struggling. This unfortunately translated to the swing system, as although the swingometer itself ran fine, the lag on my mouse clicks was so bad it made this swing method almost completely useless. Another huge problem with the swingometer is that there's no obvious explanation for where you have to click. The old PGA swingometer clearly labelled the top of your standard swing, marked the overswing area, and also the optimum point for the final click, and clicking either side of this would produce the sideways spin on the ball. Even if this had been included though, I suspect that the terrible lag would have rendered this pointless anyway. Reducing the graphical detail to minimum improved the framerate, but the reduction on button lag only served to illustrate further the lack of information on the swingometer, and so I switched to the vertical mouse-motion method.

This improved my game experience a hell of a lot. However, there is a fundamental flaw in the HUD, which is the lack of any 'maximum club distance' information. I know how far it is to the hole, and I know what club I've got, but I don't know how hard I need to hit it. This is not so bad off the tee, but when you're trying to chip a ball at less than full strength it's very difficult to gauge. Putting is also extremely difficult as there doesn't appear to be a wireframe mode to show you the contours of the green. That lack of 'maximum club distance' turns the putting into even more of a lottery.

This being a preview of 80% complete code means that there's still some possibility of optimising the graphics, and adding in the omissions such as the club information and the green contours. At the moment it all looks incredibly dated, and the flaws in the basic mechanics of the game make it hard to enjoy. Despite all that, and if these niggles regarding the swing are resolved, the customisation and net play would be a big draw for someone keen to avoid the showy glitz and more arcadey feel of EA's Tiger Woods. Even though the '09 iteration isn't available on the PC, the '08 version currently looks like being the best bet for the rest of us.

In summary, at the moment it seems that Custom Play Golf suffers from some serious 'handicaps', and if it wants to compete with Tiger Woods, it has a 'fair way' to go. See what I did there ?
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