Hypnotix's Outlaw sports series, which thus far has included Outlaw Golf and Outlaw Volleyball, has labored under the notion that sports with relatively limited appeal would be more engaging if they had strippers, extreme violence, and heaping helpings of dirty humor. This formula certainly has a way of tickling some of the more base impulses, but Hypnotix has been wise enough not to rely on naughty pubescent thrills entirely, and the resulting games themselves have been pretty well crafted. Outlaw Golf 2 doesn't meddle with this overall philosophy at all. So even if bawdy caricatures of rednecks and dominatrices don't sound immediately appealing to you, Outlaw Golf 2 offers a tight, challenging game of golf with some unique gameplay ideas, and it comes at a price that makes it a terrific value.
Outlaw Golf 2 expands on what the original Outlaw Golf offered in several significant ways. While the original Outlaw Golf featured a mere three courses, Outlaw Golf 2 bumps that number up to eight. Don't expect Pebble Beach or any PGA-caliber courses, because the most straitlaced courses are set among the freeway overpasses and industrial refineries of New Jersey or in secret nuclear testing sites. Other new course locations in the game are even more outlandish, including the mushroom-filled, psychedelic Psycho Sands course or the haunted house-inspired Spooky Hollow. Despite these bizarre locales, many of the courses themselves have pretty traditional layouts.
Outlaw Golf 2 also features a spectacular number of game types to choose from in the exhibition mode. You can choose from traditional rule sets, like stroke play, match play, skins, and best ball, but there are also more-adventurous games like baseball, where your performance is translated into baseball terms. Therefore, sinking a par scores you a base hit, and a birdie gets you a double. However, a bogey is an out, a double bogey is a double play, and so on. Another interesting game is pick up sticks, where, when a player wins a hole, he or she can eliminate one of the clubs from another player's bag. There are 13 different rule sets in all, and though some definitely have more lasting appeal than others, they all do a great job of keeping the gameplay fresh.
Outside of the exhibition mode is the tour mode, where you pick a character and work through a series of different competitions. Winning these competitions, which can be rather challenging (since the game's artificial intelligence is no slouch), will unlock courses, club sets, and costumes. Playing through each of the character's specific tours is a must, because the exhibition mode is pretty limited otherwise.
Aside from the dramatically increased number of courses, the other big addition to Outlaw Golf 2 is Xbox Live support, which allows up to four players to compete online. It comes with all of the standard Xbox Live trimmings, including voice chat support and an online leaderboard. You can tweak the rules for your game pretty extensively, and one of the features we found especially nice is the option to either make players take turns on each hole or play simultaneously.
The fundamental gameplay in Outlaw Golf 2 isn't that different from more traditional golf games, though there are a few specific details that spice things up. The game uses an analog swing mechanic that requires you to push down and up on the right analog stick, though it also provides you with a power meter in the lower right-hand corner to help you gauge what you'll get from your swing. The analog swing in Outlaw Golf 2 isn't as sensitive to lateral motion as Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005's analog swing, which makes it much easier to avoid hooks and slices in OG2.
Once you get your ball onto the green, the game's unique putting mechanic kicks in. You're presented with a large targeting reticle that you can move around, though there's no way to tell where the ball would travel if you were to swing toward the target. Pressing the X button will reveal the projected path of the ball, though moving the target causes that path to disappear. You can adjust the target's position and check the ball's trajectory three times per stroke, and once you're ready to putt, the game goes back to the same analog swing and power meter as when you're on the fairway. Actual putting in real-world golf is an exercise in instinct and guesswork, and it's a nuanced challenge that has proven difficult to re-create in video games. Putting is usually either unreasonably punishing (as in Links 2004) or ridiculously easy (as in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005), but the system in place in Outlaw Golf 2 strikes a nice balance between the two.
One of the more unique features in Outlaw Golf 2 is the composure meter. Your golfer's composure is affected by your performance on the links. If you land the ball in the rough or find yourself out of bounds, your composure will degrade. But if you drive a really long shot or sink a birdie, your composure will improve. Your golfer's composure ultimately affects how far he or she will be able to drive the ball, though if you find yourself all the way in the red, all you need to do to eliminate this composure deficit is to beat the tar out of your caddie. Before you take a swing, you can pull up a menu and choose to administer a frustration-relieving beating on your caddie, which basically boils down to a simple, rhythm-based challenge. This succinctly represents the internal struggle that is happening within Outlaw Golf 2. The composure meter itself is a nice, organic way to introduce the human element to the game, but beating your caddie to increase your composure is a move designed for some shock and a cheap laugh.
The original Outlaw Golf was a decent-looking game, and Outlaw Golf 2 makes some good improvements to that game's look, though the graphical fidelity is still a little uneven. The character models look really sharp, and their animations are incredibly naturalistic, both when they're holding clubs and during the interludes in between holes. The courses aren't quite as easy to praise, but they still look pretty good. Most of the turf textures look good, and the game actually renders individual blades of grass in the rough, making it look quite realistic. The area surrounding the courses feature some nice detail, which gives them a grounded feel, though the textures outside the immediate course can look rather muddy. The game is also apparently incapable of making good-looking shrubs or trees, because they consistently look flat and extremely fake. It's nice to see a gallery of spectators on the course, which is something you won't find in most other modern golf games, though their extremely blocky looks make them stick out a bit.
Outlaw Volleyball, as well as the original Outlaw Golf, made rather embarrassing use of Steve Carell, who is probably best known as a correspondent on Comedy Central's The Daily Show. Here, Outlaw Golf 2 replaces him with stand-up comic Dave Attell, who is also the headline star of Comedy Central's Insomniac with Dave Attell. If you're familiar with Attell's consistently crass, whiskey-soaked sense of humor, then it shouldn't be surprising to find that he is a far better fit for the overall tone of Outlaw Golf 2, and though the material he's reading isn't always especially clever, his delivery is consistently sardonic. Worse than some occasionally strained humor, though, is the way that there just isn't enough commentary from Attell, so you'll end up hearing bits repeat much too often. The music in Outlaw Golf 2 feels kind of bipolar in that it alternates between funky hip-hop instrumentals and straight-ahead modern rock tracks. It's all pretty good music, but it just doesn't mesh that well, though you can customize which songs actually play. If you don't find any of it to your liking, you have the option to use your own custom Xbox soundtrack as well.
Whether or not you think modern men's lifestyle magazines are entertaining and informative should serve as a suitable yardstick for determining how favorably you'll react to the overall attitude of Outlaw Golf 2. It is, undeniably, an integral aspect of the game. But even if the game's sensibilities don't appeal to you, the other positive qualities--like the $19.99 price tag, the online play, and the well-executed gameplay mechanics--may still make Outlaw Golf 2 an attractive package for you.