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I'm a regular Jack Nicholson at Winning Putt

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New golf MMO from Bandai Namco

Bandai Namco had us drive all the way out to San Francisco's Presidio for its latest game announcement this week. That's the National Park at San Francisco's northern tip overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, which is red, actually. It was also a military base for over 200 years. Now there's a golf course. 

And so, of course, the announcement was for Winning Putt, a free-to-play golf MMO Bandai is publishing in partnership with Korean developer Webzen Onnet. Having grown up very poor and mad at golf courses in the abstract (acres and acres of land for rich people to hit a tiny ass ball around, chase it down, and hit it again!?) you may not think I am the perfect person to preview a brand new golf game, but I was actually just playing Hot Shots Golf through PlayStation Now last week and played a lot of Mario Golf. Digital golf is the only ethical golf.

First, remedying a legitimate problem I had when I was just playing Hot Shots, Winning Putt has an incredibly in-depth character creator, as often seems to be the case with Korean games (their regional MMOs, at least). Aesthetics aside, you also choose from two classes: power and accuracy.

Beyond the character creator, Winning Putt leans into the MMO classification with tons of stat-heavy gear and clothing. Different balls produce different visual effects, but also affect things like shot distance. You basically, "craft, enchant, and reinforce" gear picked up from digital pro shops accessed from a town square sort of area you can chill in, talk to other golfers, or start a round from. You can even create guilds, nab private guild quarters to post up in (some proper country club exclusion!), and earn guild-wide bonuses.

The actual golfing is straight forward and mostly realistic (made in CryEngine) and "faithful to all the rules of golf." Click the mouse to start a meter, try to click it at 100% (without going over, resulting in a bad shot), and then try to click again for accuracy to avoid slicing the ball. There's also a Stamina and Mentality meter that drains as you play, but particularly when you use skill shots. The Fade Shot, for example, is good for curving your shot around obstacles (like trees). Using these shots eats at those two meters, and also makes them more difficult to execute by, for example, speeding up the power and accuracy gauge.

Taking advantage the minimal boost things like skills offer will probably separate dedicated and casual players (and a stroke or two off handicaps). Every swing nets you experience, which levels your character. Gold (for buying things) and experience are also granted for doing certain "missions," like shooting for birdie on a particular course. And things get granular when you talk about expanding inventory slots in your golf bag for more consumables, applying patches to clothing for additional stat boosts, or upgrading clubs for benefits like a slower meter or wider accuracy range. Paying gold will permanently increase base stats and I imagine that's a big part of the monetiziation plan as the team promised unlimited play.

Having never played a golf game with a mouse and keyboard, it felt a bit wonky switching between the golfer's view and GPS view (to estimate where your shot will land), but the golfing itself is all solid. The MMO elements don't appeal at all to me -- I prefer antisocial golf that's 100% skill-based rather than mired in RPG/experience trappings -- but it seems like it'll function as a free, easy to jump in golf game for anyone who just wants that, too.

Winning Putt will launch with seven courses at the start of today's open beta, four of which will need to be unlocked. You can also specify how many holes you want to shoot or time of day. The team was particularly proud of an upcoming course that's set on an alien planet and even has weird mechanical platforms to tee off from and small trash drones wandering around cutting grass and whatnot. There's also an "instanced speed run" mode where multiple players play the same hole in real time and you see shot arcs for all the other players while you're shooting in a race to finish the hole first, which is a neat idea.


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Steven Hansen
Steven HansenContributor   gamer profile

Steven watches anime & sports, buys meat out of trucks, dates a Muppet, and is only good at cooking. He stands before you bereft of solace and well on the road to perdition. ('^ω^) more + disclosures


 



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