For some reason, videogame golf has always been popular, despite many of the people playing the games having never picked up a club in real life. Now, with the sport's rapidly growing popularity, there are more choices than ever if you want to hit the virtual links. The Tiger Woods series caters to the more serious golfer, Hot Shots to the casual fan, and now there's Outlaw Golf 2, which is geared towards people that want the arcade-style experience, but with convicts and strippers, rather than Hot Shots' cartoony characters. For a $20 budget title, the game does feature a robust amount of gameplay options, characters, and even online play; but its repetitive presentation, sloppy controls, and slow pace of play remind you of why the game will only sent you back twenty bones.
Outlaw Golf 2's best feature is the sheer amount of variety of things to do. If you want to play a round of golf, you can play match play, stroke play, best ball, skins, timed golf, pick up sticks (you remove a club from your opponents bag when you win a hole), and many more. There's also a tour mode where you select a golfer and build up their abilities while defeating the computer in various challenges.
One of the most fun aspects of the game is the Outlaw Range. Here you can build up your character's abilities in mini-games that are designed to teach you some of the basics of the game. In the "Driving" mode you must beat a target score by driving the ball not only as far as you can, but accurately as well. The first scores can be beaten by pounding on the ball, but as you progress, you must hit targets on the ground in order to achieve the required score. In the "Accuracy" mini-game you have to use your irons to hit cows, donkeys, and geese. You get more points for a direct hit, and the smaller the animal, the more points you get for hitting them on the fly. Yeah, it sounds gruesome, but the game assures you that these animals are criminals and deserve to die, so you gotta figure that it's okay. There are also games to help you with your chipping as well as putting, and though they don't offer the option to blow up farm animals, they are fun as well as functional.
The one mini-game that misses is the awful golf cart driving game where you have to drive over people and through hoops. The main flaw with this game is the controls, which are not only backwards, but unresponsive and sloppy as well. It's quite frustrating to think you're hitting the brake button, only to find that it resets you to the beginning of the level. Sure you don't have to play it, but if you're trying to beef up your character, you're going to want to beat all the games, and sadly this is one of them.
New this year is online play, which is available on the PS2 as well as the Xbox. The menu layout and lobby interaction leave a little to be desired, but the game plays well online, which is really all that matters. You can play with up to four people at once, and the pacing here is nice and fast since you can play while the others are playing. Most of the content is locked to start off with and has to be unlocked in the single player mode, which is frustrating for anyone that doesn't want to spend their time playing alone.
The course selection has been improved considerably, and now features eight courses, versus the three found in the original (though the original three are still here in reworked fashion). The course layout is rather traditional, but the courses themselves aren't typical golf game fare. One course has an interstate running through it, forcing you to hit the ball under or over the road, and another takes place in the rain forest, where trees growing over the course force you to keep the ball down low. I wasn't a big fan of the gimmicks on each course, but many people will enjoy the added challenge.
The stars of the show are the game's over-the-top characters, of which there are now ten. Several favorites from the original return, but there are several new characters as well. There's "Ice Trey", who's a wannabe Eminem, a biker chick named "Harley", a hillbilly named "Clem", the convicted killer "Killer Miller", and many others. Most of the women are scantily clad, and easy on the eyes, which comes as no shock to anyone that has seen the screenshots of the game. Each golfer has a caddy that plays off their character type, and serves as an outlet for their frustration.
Eventually you'll actually have to do some golfing, which unfortunately is the game's weakest point. The controls are perhaps the biggest problem, as they are too erratic and unresponsive for a game that requires such precision. Swinging is performed by pulling the analog stick down, and then quickly moving it upwards. You want to complete your swing at the desired position on the swing meter or else your ball will go too far, or not far enough. The big problem here is that it's too hard to keep the stick straight. You'll often shank a ball that you thought you hit straight, and the game is very unforgiving of this, sending the ball far off your intended target. This isn't such a big deal in the mini-games, since you can start over easily enough, but when playing stroke play, one or two bad holes will kill your chances.
The game's putting system is also very erratic. You line up your putt the best you can, and then you can use one of your three "putt previews" to see exactly where the ball is going to go. After seeing this, you can adjust your line (but the preview goes away), and then you use your next preview to see how the new adjustment has changed the shot. Eventually you'll have a good idea of if your putt is going in or not, and you take a swing.
This mechanic is tough at first, but usually works pretty well – but not all the time. On several occasions the putt preview will show your ball as going close to the hole, so you make a slight adjustment, only to find that your ball is going to come far short of the hole. After moving the target again, you find that you're close, but not quite there, and moving it again leaves you several feet from the hole. You're then forced to just guess and hope that the ball goes somewhere near the cup. This, combined with the game's tough A.I. and propensity for having you shank the ball makes the game extremely tough.
One of the key additions to Outlaw 2's gameplay is the composure meter, which increases or decreases based on how you're playing. A bad shot will lower the meter, and a good shot will raise it, as will beating the tar out of your caddy. You'll want to keep your composure as high as possible since this controls how far you can hit a shot, and with the computer playing so tough, you'll need all the help you can get.
The game's pacing also leaves a lot to be desired. At the beginning of each match, you'll get an intro for each golfer, and then a flyby and hole description before every hole. There are also cut-scenes after the shots, and after the hole is finished each character has a routine. Many of these can be skipped, you've still got to sit through the game's horrendous load times. Even the pacing of the computer golfers leaves a lot to be desired since you've got to watch them go through their pre-shot animations and then slowly aim their shot. You can fast forward once the ball is in the air, but this doesn't keep the game from moving along at a snail's pace.
For a budget title, Outlaw Golf 2 features some nice graphics, though the PS2 version is vastly inferior to the Xbox port. The character detail is nice, and each person has their own unique style, which adds to their persona. The attractive women are actually attractive, and yes, there's a code to enlarge their breasts for those of you that aren't satisfied with DD's. There are a fair amount of animations for each character, but since they're so long, you won't want to watch them after a few rounds.
Like the characters, the courses look nice and each has its own unique theme and style. The textures aren't particularly sharp, but the courses are colorful and full of scenery, and the design isn't too bad. Like Hot Shots, the game just can't seem to pull off decent looking foliage, so be prepared for some lousy looking trees and bushes.
Another big change for the game is the addition of comedian Dave Attell, who's best known for drinking the night away on Comedy Central's "Insomniac." He plays the role of commentator, and at least for the first hour or two, provides quite a few laughs. Like the game's animations, even he grows tiresome after a while, and you'll probably end up turning him off. The same holds true for the chatter between golfers and their caddies – it's fun for a while, but there's not enough to keep you interested. The game features a rock-heavy soundtrack that fits the mood of the game, but will certainly fail to appeal to a good portion of people playing the game.
If the controls were just a little better, and the game wasn't so frustrating, Outlaw Golf 2 would be a really good game. For $20, the amount of courses and play modes is impressive, and the fact that it's online is an even bigger bonus. That said, there are simply better options out there for anyone looking to play online, or anyone looking for a game with good pacing and responsive controls. If you enjoyed the first game, then by all means go pick this one up, but even at $20 it's not for everyone.