With the advent of the Wii Remote and Wii MotionPlus, older golf games may seem obsolete by comparison, but a few exceptions are still worth checking out for the extra content they bring besides just golf. One such exception is Outlaw Golf with its irreverent take on the subject. Is it an honest parody of the sport or a game so bad it should be outlawed?
Although not generally known, the reviewers here at Nintendo Life belong to many golf clubs: "The snootier the better" is our unofficial motto. Because of this, we are more than familiar with the rules typical in such clubs: dress code - typically business casual; cell phones - leave them off. Taking out your frustrations by whipping your caddy - fine, just make sure he meets the dress code. At our snooty golf clubs, caddies must wear shirt, shoes and no gimp mask. And this is where the rules of Outlaw Golf take a sharp slice in a different direction. If you are a snooty golfer like us, you will find Outlaw Golf’s unconventional and politically incorrect take on the sport off-putting and juvenile. But in hindsight, it's the reason this game will outlive most of its competition from the pre-Wii days.
Designed very much like a conventional golf video game, the game features a large selection of golf courses from off the beaten path (in one case with a highway overpass running through the course) all in glorious 480p. The graphics are not on par with the latest Tiger Woods releases on the Wii, but they are average for the GameCube, and even good when taking into account that this was a budget title back in its day. A noticeable flaw is in the way water is depicted, looking very plastic and unrealistic compared to the rest of the course, but the general animation style is more cartoony than realistic, so most players will not be bothered by this.
If graphics are only slightly behind Wii standards, the controls are positively ancient. Using the GameCube controller to swing instead of a Wii remote is a big reminder of how far gaming has come in just a few short years. Although retro games are judged partially for what they were, if they are obsolete now then it’s hard to recommend them even for nostalgic value. And although other golf games on other consoles still retain last-gen controls, the controls found here are a step backward even from those clunky controls. Unlike the more precise dual analogue controls found in Tiger Woods golf games on non-Wii consoles, the controls here are somewhat simplified in that you primarily use the left thumbstick for everything from swinging power to slice and hook. The yellow C-stick may be used to influence the results of your swing as well, but it has decidedly less influence and most of the input comes just from your left thumb. This means that if you don’t have a thumb of steel, your swing will constantly miss wide to the left or right because your thumb was slightly angled when all you wanted was to aim straight in a straight line. This makes the game more difficult, and not in a good strategic way but rather in the bad wrestling-with-the-controller way. Worse, chipping and putting is atrociously oversensitive: it's far too difficult to figure out how much force is required in your swing, and all too often you will overshoot your target, back and forth ad infinitum.
The main show in Outlaw Golf is the attitude of the characters in the game. Intended to be extreme and in-your-face, all of the characters have some horrible character flaw that would get them banned for life from our golf clubs, but here their boorish behaviour is celebrated. The Dominatrix and her Gimp, the Southern Belle and her lesbian Caddy, and most of the others all seem to play into the basest juvenile stereotypes that will appeal to everyone who happens to be a 14-year old boy. Unfortunately, their humour (and it is supposed to all be in good fun) tends to fall flat. The one or two jokes afforded to each character run thin by the end of a single round of golf, and the rest of the game's humour is bland and repetitive as well. Some may chuckle at the hip-hop inspired announcer introducing a new course, but that joke is, at best, funny only once: every time thereafter it's just pure tedium. The one satisfying aspect is the occasional option to beat up your caddy, but this is little more than an active timing cutscene and isn't worth seeing a second time.
Although the premise wears thin fast, Outlaw Golf is still a passable controller-based golf game with a unique spin on the subject matter. While the poor humour may not do enough to encourage repeat play, Outlaw Golf does reward you for your time served as the game features a large number of unlockable characters and courses. If nothing else, the non-traditional course layouts are worth giving the game a rental. The general rule of thumb with all sports games is that newer is better, but a game like Outlaw Golf is still worth checking out by those looking for something quirky and different, as well as those who cannot play at a snooty golf club on account of the "no gimp mask" rule.