.By – John Williamson

Perfect Golf Review 1

Back in the early 2000s, there was a golden age of golf games as epitomized by the highly acclaimed Links series, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 and PGA Championship Golf 2000. Over a decade later, the traditional standalone offline golf scene has been rather barren with EA making the Tiger Woods series exclusive to consoles on the basis of unwarranted piracy concerns and an outdated notion that sports games require a large TV and wireless controller. Furthermore, it’s difficult to forget the abomination that was Tiger Woods 12: The Masters which resembled a incredibly basic web-browser game. Thankfully, there is some hope for golf enthusiasts due to the development of Perfect Golf from indie studio Perfect Parallel Inc. Despite being in Early Access and lacking competitive tournaments, they have a wonderful foundation to create the most realistic golf sim to date.

Perfect Golf adopts a real time “emergent” physics engine which allows the ball to alter its flight path in response to varying wind speeds. Traditionally, golf games use a meter and have a fixed wind rate per stroke. This constant wind speed while giving a clear indication of the wind’s effect is unrealistic and simplifies the ball direction in a negative way.  In Perfect Golf, the ball has an unpredictable path and deviates depending on a constantly evolving weather system. Furthermore, live statistical data is updated from various weather sources which provides an accurate representation of each course. When compared to other sims, this is a revolutionary step and offers an unprecedented feel when gauging the ball’s aerial movement.

Imparting any degree of spin has an instantaneous reaction upon impact and determines the distance, trajectory and accuracy of your shot. As a result, slice, draw, hook, push, pull and fade strokes are recreated perfectly and even an acute adjustment in the ball strike will affect its final position. While this seems like a standard feature, it’s rarely executed in an accurate way because most golf games fixate on backspin/topspin movement when the ball lands. The combination of dynamic real time spin and wind variation makes for an ultra realistic physics engine that relies on practice and honing your skills to adapt on an evolving course. There is a greater onus on ground lies as landing in the rough or a bunker severely reduces your ability to predict the ball’s final position and being able to hit the sweet spot. It’s a real challenge to recover after a poor shot which makes the experience more immersive by reinforcing the need to hit every fairway.

Perfect Golf Review 1

Another vital aspect of the physics engine is putting. Managing to complete a mid to long range putt is incredibly satisfying and encourages you to play on and improve. I do feel the putting physics are too forgiving and it’s fairly easy to successfully putt over a distance of 10-20ft. As a result, if your approach shot is decent, then you should finish off the green in one stroke. This is mainly because the greens are quite easy to read and don’t veer off line too much in response to the actual contours. While you do need to make adjustments on certain slopes, it seems less than I would have predicted. As such, it’s very easy to overshoot these changes during the few first rounds.

Overall, the physics engine is utterly sublime and a challenge to seasoned golf players even with the easy putting system. It wasn’t a rarity in games like Tiger Woods 2004 to achieve a ludicrously low score of 60 on a par 72 championship course. Perfect Golf’s gameplay evokes a sense of authenticity as finishing a round with 67-68 is an achievement. The core gameplay requires a measured and consistent approach and birdies on Par 3 holes are quite hard to attain. On certain Par 5 holes it is technically feasible to reach the green in two shots, but this usually involves a high degree of unnecessary risk over water hazards.  In this game, pushing the boat out and being too aggressive is a perilous strategy as birdies are quite hard to come by. This means recovering from a double bogey hole is difficult and adds pressure to every shot.

The control scheme is relatively straight-forward and revolves around a 3-click meter. On the left, there is a display showing the remaining distance to the flag. You need consider this figure and look at the maximum yards for the club selected. This is more difficult than you might imagine since there isn’t a percentage rating on the click dial. Carefully judging precise amounts is a trial and error process so I would recommend being patient and using mulligans to master specific shot types. The sweet spot is rather punishing so if you mistime the downswing, then the ball dramatically goes off line. This has a much greater effect than you usually see in most golf titles. For the less experienced player, you can adjust the sweet spot size and alter the snap penalty reduction assist. I would recommend setting these to maximum when you first start to become familiar with the feel of each club.

Perfect Golf Review 4

In addition to the traditional 3-Click meter, you can opt for motion controls that adjust the power depending on the force applied. This is virtually unplayable with a mouse and should only be considered with a controller thumbstick. I’ve always preferred the accuracy of a mouse on the 3-click system so this particular control method wasn’t to my tastes. However, it does work in a seamless way with the controller and it’s possible to make fine tune adjustments in a more tactile manner.

Currently, there are a number of geo-referenced courses including Crystal Pines, Florida Glades CC, Illinois CC, Massachusetts CC, Shadowlands, Southampton Links and Willow Heath. Each course is beautifully modelled and implements an accurate 24 hour lighting cycle. This means the sun will rise and set based on the local course time and have identical playing conditions, In terms of detail, I cannot emphasise enough how lifelike they are and easily the best reproduction I’ve seen in any golf game or software.

You can even take in the sights and picturesque scenery using the course exploration camera which pans across each hole. This has a practical purpose of learning each hole and planning your approach. The courses are quite customizable and you can select between Championship, Tournament, Back and Member Tees, alter the Pin difficulty and even adjust the surface firmness. Your round isn’t determined by a ruleset governed by the PGA so it’s possible to play your favourite 9 holes even if it involves 3 in the front 9 and 6 in the back 9.  Perfect Golf is still in an early development stage meaning the physics and realism has taken priority over game modes. At the time of review, there is no character customization, tournaments, career or even AI golfers. You can play a solo round across the courses mentioned above or perfect your skills on the practice range.

Perfect Golf Review 1

There is some indication of the developer’s future plans as you can cycle between Strokeplay, Matchplay, Skins and choose between a wide array of different criteria. This is a dream for golfing fans and something I cannot wait to see when AI opponents are added. On a personal note, I am glad Perfect Parallels refined the exemplary physics engine because that’s what matters most. Playing alone on an 18 hole course is a blast and never feels repetitive. There are enough courses included at present to keep you interested and only whets your appetite for the final release.

There is a multiplayer aspect embedded into the game and allows up to 8 player contests. As you might expect, the player base is rather small due to the nature of early access and most people are leisurely playing the solo mode. Usually, there is around 45-100 players in the hub but this includes everyone who is currently playing the game. I tried on a number of occasions to host a match and find other players but there was only 3 people prepared to play alongside me. However, when you finally get to connect, the netcode is good but there have been some strange bugs where the game would display 777 yards to the pin. Thankfully, the latest patch has resolved this issue. I will say though that it can be off putting on a public room where other users can randomly join your match. As such, there are a few private contests which you are unable to join.

From a graphical standpoint, Perfect Golf is easily the best looking sports game I’ve ever played. The foliage detail, water effects and blades of grass show the attention to detail throughout. Built using the Unity engine, the texture quality on maximum settings is nothing short of sublime. I played the game at 2560×1440 on the Ultra High preset using an i7 4770K, 16GB RAM and an Overclocked GTX 980. Prior to the latest patch, I experienced some issues with optimization and the performance could drop from 70 to 40 fps on my rig. Things have improved since then and I can get an average fps of 90fps and maximum of 110 fps on my 110hz monitor.

The options menu features a Windowed mode, 16:9/16:10 resolutions, VSync, AA, Bloom, Vignetting, God Rays and Draw Distance for various objects. One omission is Anisotropic Filtering but this makes sense when you consider that your FOV would be unrealistically high. Disappointingly,  the AA can only be turned on/off. I would like to have various forms of AA so you can select something like MFAA.  The sound effects are excellent from the birds tweeting in the trees to the sweet hit from a long drive. Currently, the effects are fairly limited and there isn’t any introductions, crowds or other forms of audio. However, this is probably due to the solo mode and I hope tournament play in the future alleviates my concerns.

Perfect Golf Review 2

Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?

Perfect Golf lives up to its name. It is the best golf game I’ve ever played despite being in such an early stage of development. The physics model is magnificent and accurately recreates the ball path in real time. Additionally, the authentic weather cycle and extraordinary detailed courses are a sight to behold and makes for an enthralling experience. At this time, the game is lacking in content and the menus need some polish but the core gameplay will still hold your interest. For a mere £14.99/$19.99, you can get your hands on a masterpiece that is only going to keep improving with each update.

Perfect Golf Technical Summary:

Perfect Golf Review Sum

  • Time Played –  11 Hours
  • Widescreen Support – Yes
  • Resolution Played – 2560×1440
  • Windowed Mode – Yes
  • 5.1 Audio Support – No
  • Bugs/Crashes – None
  • Control Scheme – Keyboard and Mouse, Xbox 360 Controller
  • DRM – Steamworks
  • System Specs – Intel I7 4770K, 16GB RAM, Gigabyte GTX 980 4GB
  • Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy
  • Demo – No
  • Availability – Steam
  • Game Save Location – /steam/steamapps/common/perfectgolf
  • Version Reviewed –
468 ad
  • ColdCollect

    You are a really talented writer John, and it’s great to see you review more games.Many reviewers on other sites don’t go into as much detail as you and that is a great shame.Please God keep giving this reviewer more games so I can get a good representation of what the game is like and not just a small summary.Thanks again

    • John Williamson

      Thank you so much for the kind words, that means a lot! I’m always dismayed with how short most reviews are and lacking any sort of critical detail.

    • AdamAmes

      John is an important cog in our PC gaming machine. We have always had great pride in our ability to provide detailed and in-depth articles. Especially on the PC gaming side of things. They are not many places who can provide such coverage.

  • trincetto

    I agree with ColdCollect, great article as always! While I enjoy your hardware reviews and usually read them even for stuff I’m not interested in — because of the amount of dedication and detail you put in them — I’d be glad to see more games writing for you. Mostly because I can afford to buy more games than hardware…

    Speaking of the game, I’ll keep an eye on it, it looks very promising!

    • John Williamson

      Thank you so much! I really enjoy doing both. Hopefully, I should be reviewing GTA V, Project Cars and many more!

    • AdamAmes

      Thanks for the comment. John is a great writer and we are immensely happy he is on our team.

      Plus, he is the only one here besides me who understand sports and racing games.

  • SNHS Sam

    This game has a LONG way to go. Ball physics are still nowhere near realistic, mouse swing isn’t real-time, graphics are OK not great. There is a reason this is a pre-release (aka alpha/beta). Lets see where it is in 6 months.

    • John Williamson

      Oh don’t it get me wrong, it still needs a lot of work, but I was really impressed with it from what I’ve seen so far. At 2560×1440, the graphics are pretty good, especially for an indie title.

  • DeKadt

    Impressive!! Very impressive! I say, this could really go all the way in golf-sim world. What a fantastic engine this game has. I’ve played some rounds now with the motion swing, a ‘realtime’ swing (-not: the animation is not yet connected to the swing engine), but you can shoot any shot out there, as soon as you know what you are doing, that is. Going to the drivingrange is good advice and learn the basics.. This game is in a class of it’s own I think. It just needs more tweak ‘n polish, but when that’s done, this is going to be a monster! I’ve never seen such looks and feel in a golfgame before. Only Links ’03 came close, but this is a major league golfsim in my book. Hat’s off to the dev’s. Can’t wait for the finished product!

    • AdamAmes

      I have personally been waiting for a golf game like this for 10+ years. I played more Links 2001 and Golden Bear Challenge than anything else. I also thought TW 04 was not too bad. However, in terms of simulation, Perfect Golf seems to rank up there with the best.

      • DeKadt

        I agree. I too played ‘GBC’ before switching to Links. It’s funny how one thinks ‘this is it’ and then moves on again. I thought back then that GBC was so good. But then Links came along with the Real Time Swing and I was hooked. For life I thought. I played Links from 2004 to now and still think it’s really up there. Especially with the 1.07 mod upgrade. And the stellar courses available. But with PG on the horizon I have to admit, this is the next step. Definitely. Shure, TW04 looked to be great too, but I lost interest along the way. It wasn’t for me.

        Now, with PG, I’m having the time of my life trying to get to grips with it. Although I still play Links every week, PG is slowely pulling me in it’s net. This game is the closest I’ve experienced to the real game till now. It’s not finished by a long shot, but the fundamentals are there. I still have some issues graphics wise and some troubles with getting the swing engine running smooth, but that’s just a question of tweaking etc.

        • AdamAmes

          I am really interested to see where the game goes after the base gameplay is finally nailed down. Sky is the limit at that point, I believe.

  • Dominic Graziano

    Perfect Golf may be good when it’s finished, but as of right now it’s not even in the top 10 of the best golf games I played. It might one day be the best, but calling it the best right now is beyond ridiculous. I have every confidence in the development team, but I do not rate games on their potential.

    • John Williamson

      That’s interesting to hear, what then would you consider to be in the top 3? I’m always open to other views. I can only speak from my own personal experience, and in terms of physics, this is my favorite golf game and while the review isn’t based on future prospects, I do take them into consideration. Thanks for the comment.

      • Dominic Graziano

        To be honest, you pretty much mentioned a good top 3 in the first paragraph. TW04 was perhaps my favorite, but I am biased as I was one of the guys who ran the TWC website. I was not a major fan of the Links series, but the APCD made it a great value. PGA Championship had some wonky physics in my opinion, but I personally find PG’s ball physics to be sub par. It still seems like the ball is floating instead of having friction with the ground. Golden Bear was extremely fun for me. I think The Golf Club is a better game than PG right now. I think PG has tremendous potential, and I am confident it WILL be the best. But it is not there yet. I won’t give the game the crown based on potential.

        • John Williamson

          I think that’s a very fair and valid comment. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to play The Golf Club as we did send a press request but didn’t get a reply. Hopefully that will change soon.

          • Dominic Graziano

            I think PG will be a better game than The Golf Club. But TGC is very fun for me to play. One of the best things about TGC is that when you create a course, it is available to play on PC, PS4 and Xbone. It isn’t big on features, but it has fun gameplay.

        • The Mothman

          Not liking Links makes it difficult to credit your opinion.