Winning Putt has the potential to be a must-play title for anyone looking for an engrossing golf video game, but a few rough edges detract from the overall experience in its current form.
It’s safe to say that the golf genre isn’t quite as prosperous as it once was; Mario Golf seems to have been relegated to handhelds, EA’s latest attempt at the sport wasn’t well-received, and the Hot Shots Golf series has now been dormant for five years. However, Bandai-Namco’s Winning Putt has some new ideas of how to push virtual golf forwards.
The game is free-to-play, but players can succeed without pouring money into the experience. Real-world cash will help you upgrade your character quicker and collect better gear, but you can also earn in-game currency by completing missions and playing well out on the course.
Anyone that’s played a golf game before will be pretty familiar with the way Winning Putt handles the sport — the game uses a three-click system that’s similar to the mechanic used in everything from the Tiger Woods series to Grand Theft Auto V. Golfers aim their strokes with their mouse, and it’s a very smooth, responsive method of control.
The simplicity of the core gameplay means that just about anyone will be able to play through eighteen holes. Moving on to an intermediate level of play requires a mastery of putting, and an understanding of how to use the approach phase to come in under par.
This is all fairly standard for the golf genre, but Winning Putt pushes the boundaries by situating all of its gameplay in a virtual golf club. Here, players can interact with one another, head to different vendors, or grab missions from the various characters lingering around the links.
It’s not a million miles removed from the social spaces of Destiny, and it’s clear that Winning Putt is attempting to offer a similar kind of experience, albeit with a completely different set of gameplay mechanics at its core. The game offers daily bonuses to players who return on a regular basis — and, indeed, it’s tempting to squeeze in a round just to see what if the reward is worthwhile.
The mission structure does a great deal to remove some of the frustration from a round of golf. It can be a huge disappointment to play through eighteen holes and fail to make progress in terms of breaking a personal best; in Winning Putt, players can fall short of that goal, and still make some progress on one of their active missions.
The game isn’t without its flaws, however. Between clubs, items, and missions, there’s a great variety of different things to keep track of, and the user interface doesn’t do a great job of making this easily digestible. It will likely be no problem for anyone who’s used to the intricate interfaces of MMORPGs, but there’s a fair bit more to consider than the standard golf game.
The sheer amount of available items — both cosmetic and otherwise — there are on offer can be rather overwhelming, also. It’s great that the game is packed with content, but the minor differences between various wedges and putters can sometimes feel like busywork.
Winning Putt is a golf game for 2016, in that it’s less about individual courses, and more about core gameplay mechanics and an overarching feeling of progression. It might not fill the same niche as something like Mario Golf in terms of being approachable and offering local multiplayer fun, but anyone that was disappointed by EA’s Rory McIlroy PGA Tour should definitely check it out.
With a few interface tweaks and a bit more polish, Winning Putt could become the go-to golf title on PC. The development team are already maintaining the game with a steady stream of patches and updates, so consider this one to watch for the future.
Winning Putt is available now for PC. Game Rant was provided in-game currency and boosts to facilitate this review.