Review: Ace Golf
Posted 22 Jan 2003 at 23:20 by Andy
Whether you love it or hate it; golf, that tradition of donning your worst knitted jumper and equally silly trousers, has been with us for many years now and is undoubtedly here to stay. It's always been a firm favourite for developers too as a decent golf Sim can sell a considerable number of units to the more mature gamer. I was lucky enough to get a preview of this title some time ago at a trade show and although it looked promising there were some minor gaming aspects that needed attention. Hopefully that's all been rectified now and ACE Golf should deliver a pleasing outdoor sport for all us gamers who don't actually wish to venture outside to play it. Graphics:
The first thing that will strike you about the visuals is the Japanese feel to the characters and the fact that all the various players have bold cartoon features. Obviously there's minimal animation here as golfers simply swing at the ball and do little else. The courses are varied and well designed and, especially those with extensive use of water features, offer a real challenge to gamers. The highlight though is the weather. Hitting one of the Pro Tournaments can deliver some highly unpredictable conditions with the rainstorms actually making you feel cold and miserable.
Every section is accompanied by an ambient, and suitably themed, soundtrack to no doubt stop you from throwing your controller against the wall after yet another 'out of bounds' shot. This actually works well and allows the sometimes rather comical voice samples to shine through so you hear people complaining about the weather or the more typical 'go on, get in' when you're on the putting green. Sound isn't really much of an important aspect in a golf Sim but it's nice all the same.
ACE Golf initially allows you access to three different areas - Tour Mode, Mini Games and Practice Mode. It really is worth hitting Practice Mode first just to familiarize yourself with the more complicated aspects of gameplay and then move onto Mini Games to fine tune your newfound skills. This section is divided again into three very different sections allowing a break from the more intensive eighteen hole bouts. First up here is Mission, which challenges you to get three holes in one or simply get a ball within a certain distance of the flag. It's actually a lot more challenging than it sounds and really will help you later on in the game when you're in a tight spot. Survival is simply a sudden death game so try not to drop too many shots. Finally there's Near Pin, which is for one to four players and rewards the golfer closest to the flag over a nine-hole course.
The control system may be a bit of a departure from what you're used to and rather than utilising a 'swingometer' approach (allowing the player to decide how much power they wish to put into a swing) ACE Golf instead uses the 'C-Stick'. This is a little complicated, not to mention frustrating, at first as pulling down followed by pushing up quickly will result in a significant number of 'bad shots'. It does become second nature after a few rounds though and in some respects it gives you far more control than other golf games. Obviously there are other aspects, like the weather, to consider and the wind and rain will have more than a few shots straying off the fairway or hitting a tree only to bounce back to the original start position. Generally though this control system appears to work just fine and you should almost always get to the green in the required number of shots. Once there however you may become incredibly frustrated when even a seemingly simple shot refuses to go in the hole. A considerable amount of practice was needed before we realized just how the games physics engine worked but not before we'd thrown endless amounts of points away on the final hole.
Not all of ACE Golf is available straightaway and the various other levels and courses need to be unlocked by earning stars. These are awarded for your performance in a variety of different modes and the better your score the more stars you'll earn. Obviously your main aim is to come first and so earn the maximum of three stars but you may also wish to try a 'head to head' with another player. This allows you to battle it out with one of the many available characters, trying to beat them on each hole with the least strokes. Success here not only awards you with two stars but also makes your opponent available as a selectable player at a later stage. Typically a mere 15 stars will allow you access to the next level, and so more courses, but as the competitions get less forgiving you may find yourself replaying some earlier courses just to earn that much needed extra star. All of this earns you better equipment, which greatly improves your chances of success especially against the pros.
B: Switch Shot.
X: Lower Camera.
Y: Raise Camera.
L: Change Clubs.
R: Switch Clubs.
D-Pad: Change Impact Point.
Control Stick: Move Camera.
The main thing that makes ACE Golf so playable is the fact that it's deadly simple. Most gamers will be flying around the first 18 holes in a matter of seconds. It is also nicely balanced with a variety of challenges so anyone who simply doesn't have time for a full game can always sample some of the mini-games. It won't be for everyone however and some players may take a strong dislike to the new analogue control system so be warned.
Seemingly endless. There's more than enough to keep you occupied before you even venture into the multiplayer sections. In addition the fact that much of ACE Golf is 'locked' initially gives you a real incentive to keep improving your game to win those all-important stars.
With the selection of golfing titles on the GameCube hardly plentiful at the moment this is definitely the best bet for all you couch bound sports fans. The overall simplicity may annoy PC golf enthusiasts looking for a more immersive experience but this is a console version, which really 'does what it says on the box'. A simple, no frills and what's more important, a very enjoyable little title.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Far from 'a good walk spoiled' and actually quite a pleasing golf Sim.
Imaginative Course Design
Taunting Other Players