This course ain't big enough for the two of us...
As a GR reviewer (and, by default, a person of the highest moral integrity), I get lots of hate mail. Usually the mail comes from one of two camps: the L337 Camp or the Wrestling Camp. L337 flames are usually in response to my lambasting some exceptionally geeky game, and often go something like "Dud, Ill r0x0r yur MoM, biznitch! U sux0r!" Wrestling game fans, on the other hand, send hate-mail to anybody who's reviewed any game they've ever played, usually saying something like "Bonker Jerks is awesome you suck &%*%$# you stupid monkey *#%$&!!!"
Before I actually played Simon & Schuster's arcade Outlaw Golf, I assumed I'd get all sorts of mail from wrestling game fans once I wrote the review. But having played Outlaw Golf, I'm not really worried anymore, as I doubt most wrestling game fans will be able to figure out this surprisingly technical game, what with their teeny brains and lack of opposable thumbs. [And you wonder why you get hate mail. - Ed.]
Outlaw Golf is very much in the vein of arcade golf titles like Hot Shots Golf. There are a few ways to play: Tournament Mode, Exhibition matches, or you can hit the range to gain better stats for your players. The Exhibitions are more entertaining as they offer more variety than the Tournament; for instance, you can play a Skins match or try to finish holes in as little time as possible.
Unfortunately, the fact that there are only three courses, none of which particularly rock, negates the coolness of the myriad of Exhibition matches. It's also inexcusable in this day and age to only offer three courses.
Outlaw Golf takes golf from the beautiful deserts of Arizona (rife with players of nobility and money) and sets it in cultural armpits like Fresno or Stockton. The players are constellations of white-trash culture, also known as horrible racist/sexist stereotypes. You've got your biker-dyke, your Latin American lover, your Asian dominatrix with fat S&M side-kick, and a porn star, who is, of course, a lesbian.
I guess this gives the game its 'attitude', but frankly, I would gladly trade attitude for gameplay any day of the week. Maybe they should have worried more about the courses and less about the lesbians.
Outlaw Golf uses a control scheme that allocates shot placement to the left analog stick and swinging to the right stick. Pulling back on the right stick charges a little meter (0 to 100% power) and pressing forward swings with whatever might was charged up. This system works well - if you charge up too much, the power meter gradually recedes, giving you time to press forward at just the right moment.
The control includes classic arcade golf features like putting spin on the ball. This is a very nice feature and makes Outlaw Golf playable on a finer level than you would think possible for a game in which you regularly pimp-slap your caddy while calling her things like a "slut" and a "republican."
Putting is handled similarly, except for a few extra camera angles and a nifty putt preview. There's a movable target on the green that supposedly indicates where the ball will go. But in reality, it doesn't represent any such thing, which is why putting in Outlaw Golf is completely counterintuitive. Moving the cursor left to right affects the path of the ball and moving it closer and farther affects the hypothetical power you're about to hit the ball with. Pressing 'X' gives you a preview of what the ball will actually do if you hit it with a given percentage of power. You must use the cursor and previews in tandem if you want to accurately putt the ball, as the values and trajectories attributed solely to the cursor on the green seem arbitrary and, at times, completely insane.
As a game that allows you to enhance your players' attributes through trials, Outlaw Golf starts you out with some awful characters with terribly low stats. These lead to plenty of random mishaps, such as hitting the ball directly into the water on the right when you were aimed straight down the fairway. So comes into play composure, or your player's lack thereof.
Composure is a meter that goes from "Smokin" (suburb-speech for Good) to "In the Gutter" (incidentally, where wrestling-game fans live). Good composure means your character will screw up less often; bad composure means your character will screw up all the time. Mix bad overall stats with bad composure, and you will never hit a straight ball again.
The whole composure concept is very intriguing, but it's a little uneven. Hitting an ace shot right onto the green when you have awful composure will take you a whole half-centimeter up from 'wretching violently into your club-bag' to 'simply puking on your shoes.' But if you have awesome composure and your ball barely rolls into the rough an inch from the fairway, you'll lose all composure completely, and be back to puking everywhere from nerves.
In order to recover lost composure, you're awarded 'Beating' tokens, which you can cash in and break open a can of you-know-what on your caddy. This really just amounts to a simple timing game that wears thin, although I admit, watching each player's beating for the first time is kind of fun.
Graphically, Outlaw Golf is less than I'd expect from a Xbox game. Some of the animations are good, but the water effects are cheap, the characters seem blocky, and there are framerate issues when the computer is thinking about what shot it wants to take.
The game features the most offensive announcer ever. Steve Carell from The Daily Show lays on the abuse pretty thick, yet is never actually funny. His awful impersonations of blacks and Latinos serve no purpose and are totally cliché. I can barely believe it's actually him doing the commentary; he's hysterically witty on The Daily Show, but is just pathetic here.
Outlaw Golf is a very mediocre game. The actual play mechanics are solid, but the abundance of white-trash gimmickry gets in the way. They clearly spent more time on the characters than they did on the courses, which isn't a great design choice. Rent it if you must, and then go get your mom to buy you a forty.