E3 06: Wii Sports: Golf Hands-On

We tee off with Nintendo's simple and highly intuitive golf game for the Wii at E3 2006.

LOS ANGELES--Though much was made of the four-player game of digital tennis played by Nintendo's Reggie Fils-Aime, Shigeru Miyamoto, Satoru Iwata, and contest winner Scott Dyer during the Nintendo press conference yesterday, only short clips were shown of some of the other games that are to be included in the upcoming Wii Sports collection. One of those games was golf, which today we've had a chance to putt around with at the Nintendo booth. Though it wasn't the most subtle and nuanced game of golf we've ever played, the simple four-hole demo being shown here at the Electronic Entertainment Expo was definitely one of the more visceral video golf experiences we've had.

As with the tennis demo from the Nintendo pre-E3 press conference, the golf demo features simple and colorful visuals, with almost abstract-looking characters that look something like Playmobil people, complete with a plastic sheen to their hair and clothes. One noticeably missing trait, however, were the golfers' arms--instead, they had balls where their hands would've been, with nothing connecting them to the body, Rayman-style. It's something that could've been severely disturbing with the wrong execution, but it seems to work well here.

Playing golf in Wii Sports was, quite possibly, one of the most straightforward and intuitive gaming experiences we've had in a long, long time. Holding the Wii remote in both hands, you point it toward the ground while standing sideways in front of the screen and simply pantomime the motion of swinging a golf club as your onscreen avatar follows in turn. The demo began at the tee, and at the bottom of the screen was a power meter that had a series of dots spaced out along it, and at the far right-hand side of the meter was a bold line that went across the meter, which we were told represented the optimum power we needed to put behind our swing. The game gave us a handful of test swings away from the tee to give us a feel for how hard we'd need to swing to peg the shot.

Watching the blue power meter--which turned red and squiggly when it went past the bold line on the meter--as we swung, we stepped up to the tee and knocked one off. Unfortunately, the shot went too far, putting us into the rough just behind the putting green. But rather than making us chip our way onto the green, the demo reset us back to the tee. Interestingly, each of the different holes in the demo functioned this way, and each missed shot would strike off one of the three extra balls displayed in the corner. Thankfully, we were able to sink this mandatory hole-in-one shot on the second, try, taking us to a putting challenge.

The basic controls and interface were roughly the same here as they were back on the tee, though the key difference was that the bold line on the power meter no longer represented our optimum swing. Instead, there was a line between the head of our club and the hole, which had evenly spaced dots along it, and each dot corresponded to one of the dots on the power meter. So to find the right level of power, we had to roughly gauge how far between the dots the hole was and shape our swing to produce that amount of power on the meter. Though this mechanic wasn't obvious at first glance, once we saw how it worked, the putting became incredibly intuitive. We went through a couple holes this way unabated, until we found ourselves on a putting green that wasn't totally flat. We put in the right amount of power, but aiming straight at the hole saw our ball drift off to the left. We would've compensated for the uneven ground by using the D pad on the remote to aim slightly to the right, but by that point in the demo, we had run out of extra balls, effectively ending the demo right there.

Even though the presentation was simple and the gameplay was really little more than a new way to control a linear power meter, we have to admit that we were quite engaged by this piece of the Wii Sports package, though we're definitely curious as to whether the pass-fail nature of the demo will remain in the final version of the game. We'll have more on this game as it develops.

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I'm really excited for the Wii Sports game. It seems like it's an excellent bundle for the Wii, really showcasing the new controller. This also seems like a party game in the making! I can really see my buds and I playing this 'till all hours. The golf, tennis, baseball, etc., are all getting positive reviews, which is happy news. The possibilities for this controller are astounding to me: can you imagine playing a Tiger Woods golf game with the Wii controller? I'm equally excited about the price in comparison to the 360 and especially the PS3. Go Nintendo! You guys are one step closer to creating a real holodeck (yeah, I'm a geek)!


This looks soooo fun. Anyone who doesnt like Wii sports is just a lazy gamer who cant be bothered to get off the plastic covered sofa in his mom's basement - ITS THE NEXT ERA OF GAMING - JOIN IN!!!!


No one seems pumped about Wii Sports?? What the heck?? It's a golf game where you actually get to swing your controller! How freaking cool is that?!