I've been waiting for the right moment to post the message about TGC 2019, and that moment came late last week when the Producer of the game indicated that the XBox One X version of the game would get 4K support. On the downside, it will be locked at 30 FPS for 4K res. However, nothing was said about intermediate Quality/Performance options, as we are starting to see more and more of with XBox One Enhanced games. I'd like to think we would have at least one other option for performance, like maybe 1440p @ 50 FPS, or just a high quality graphics detail 1080p @ 60 FPS option... or both? Anyway, on to the game and what I know and can share about it:
HB Studios has signed a license agreement with the PGA TOUR for their forthcoming golf game, now titled The Golf Club 2019 Featuring PGA TOUR. From all that I've read and seen, TGC 2019 was already shaping up to be a great golf game on its own, but this license might very well give the franchise more street cred and ups its ante in the marketplace.
I've owned the PC and both console versions of each of the prior releases of The Golf Club (The Golf Club and The Golf Club 2) and have enjoyed them both, although I can easily say that The Golf Club 2 has more enduring gameplay, thanks to its implementation of a swing tempo component in its thumbstick swing interface. It requires more feel and intuition from the gamer to manage the tempo and affords the opportunity for a greater shot dispersion. The tempo component is a bit simplified, as it calls for the player to match the backswing and downswing speed in a 1:1 ratio, with there being a game selected ideal for what that speed is to attain "Perfect/Perfect" tempo. Even at that, it's still refreshing to have another variable to manage with the stick input, as it does add another dimension to the feel of the game.
As for TGC 2019 Featuring PGA TOUR, HB Sports is planning to build on the tempo swing with one that can yield a higher array of shot outcomes, such as a pull/fade, or a push/draw. It looks pretty compelling based on the alpha version preview demo they showed on their official You Tube Channel. TGC 2019 will also implement SpeedTrees into the game for the first time, which will allow for GUI instancing, making the game run much more efficiently. HB Studios is looking into the possibility of offering a 4K/HDR version of the game for XBox One X and PS4 Pro, and I think SpeedTrees will be an asset that could make that become a reality.
One other new feature of TGC 2019 that I think will appeal to a lot of golf gamers is their inclusion of Online Matchmaking and Private Matchmaking. Which are described on the official website as follows:
brings a new streamlined experience to The Golf Club franchise for competitive play. Compete on any of the approved and official courses in a round of Head to Head Match Play, 2-4 player Stroke Play, Alt-shot or Fourball Team Play, or put your virtual currency on the line in wager matches featuring Skins. (PSPlus and Xbox Live are required for this feature)
allow the player the full benefits of Matchmaking with the control over who is invited to play, the course played, round format used and additional conditions for each match. (PSPlus and Xbox Live are required for this feature)
The previous TGC titles did not utilize XBox Live and PSPlus and the gameplay actions of your opponents lagged anywhere from 2 to 7 seconds behind their actual occurence, making it feel awkward and out of sync. They also didn't have any online matchmaking capability or ability to invite players to a match until you were on the first tee. I think the new approach is going to feel a lot like Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2010 through 2014's approach to online matchmaking and execution.
I was able to play a total of 108 holes of the pre-beta version of TGC 2019 Featuring PGA TOUR a few weeks back during the three day 'Stress Test' closed beta. HB Studios was primarily interested in testing the game's ability to cope with its new real time, online multiplayer interface, but they also asked for testers to provide bug reports and feedback on the new swing interface. Only two fictional, yet realistic courses were available for play and they were conversions of two TGC 2 courses: Faxon Park and Weymiss Bay Golf Links. We didn't get to see any of the six licensed PGA TOUR courses in the test, but we may get a at least a glimpse at them this week at the 2018 Electronic Entertainment Expo.
Overall, I was pleased with what I saw, even though the pre-beta was pretty bare bones in terms of tailoring your player and making club type choices, but again, the emphasis was on stress testing the servers for multiplayer play and connectivity. I only encountered one, very minor hint of network lag, in the from of camera pan lag, coming from one specific player in a live, alternate-shot match I played, but I had to be looking for it to really notice it was there. I tried both the online, ranked matchmaking, which for the test only had stroke play, in simultaneous... ie. not turn base play mode. It was smooth and reminded me of the online matchmaking in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 through 14.
I also got to try out the Private Matchmaking function, which did enable match play, skins, alt-shot, stroke, and fourball. Turn base play based upon the 'order of play' rules of golf is in effect in the non-stroke play there, and is an option in stroke play. This play option delivered smooth game play and I did see some hints in the help files that there will be a dedicated voice chat facility built into TGC 2019, although it wasn't enabled in this pre-beta version.
What impressed me the most about TGC 2019 was how much more realistic both the chipping game and playing shots out of the rough are now. I've seen nothing to compare to the realistic difficulty, feel, and execution each presents. Every chip shot I played (30+) in the demo portrayed a believable trajectory and roll-out. The execution of chip shots was not as easy to control, as the interface seemed to be more realistically scaled to push, pull, scuff or pop-up based on both your swing path and tempo. You can also take your real life golf mindset into the rough with you, as both the distance and the control affect are proportionally related to the density of the rough and the slope of your lie.
It's also worth noting that for the first time in controller based computer and video game golf gameplay, I actually executed swings that resulted in a push hook, and a few that resulted in a pull fade. The swing feedback meter gave me telemetry to illustrate why this happened, and to the credit of the raw interface itself, I could already feel some hint in my left thumb (you can opt for a left or right thumbstick swing control, but I've always preferred left). The tempo factor seems to be more varied and granular in TGC 2019, than TGC 2, but the severity for fast tempo errors doesn't seem to be as punitive at this point. I think some work is needed in the interface tuning there and fed that back to HBS, as did others.
Some really good gameplay video was released last week on You Tube. The first one shows an 18 hole matchplay match, featuring TGC 2019's new real time multiplayer support. I find it to be far more atmospheric now that they've tweaked the SpeedTrees to look so natural looking, and free of pop-in. I also really like the offset views of your playing companion from slightly behind them. It makes it feel like you are more independent of them, and not "in their huddle" as they play their shot. This video caps out at 1080p, but it still looks very spiffy, IMO.
If that wasn't enough, Sports Gamers Online released several holes of gameplay video from the PGA TOUR Career mode. This one can be viewed in 2160p, and it looks fantastic at that res!