*Disclaimer* A copy of the game was purchased by the reviewer for this critique.
Golf is a sport that requires patience, precision, and dedication to master. Without these skills, it’s difficult to really make any sort of progress. As someone who has tried to play golf on a handful of occasions, I find myself being drawn to video game versions of the sport since I have a better chance to succeed. I’ve played countless golf games throughout the years, but arcade styled versions of the sport are my preferred types of game to play. As a huge fan of the Burnout franchise, hearing about Dangerous Golf was exciting because of the talent behind the title. It’s a game that was developed by ex-Criterion members and it even features a mechanic that is similar to the Crashbreaker ability found in Burnout.
The concept behind Dangerous Golf is that the player must hit a golf ball and cause as much destruction as possible. You can even explode your ball and guide it around environments in order to break objects around you. On paper, all of this sounds fantastic, but the end result is a muddled and forgettable mess that is ultimately not fun to play at all. That’s not to say that there aren’t some great mechanics within Dangerous Golf, but as a whole, the package is underwhelming and a disappointment. Let’s start with what works in the game.
Dangerous Golf shines brightest when it comes to the game’s audio and visual aspects. Using Unreal Engine 4, Three Fields Entertainment made a game that is pleasing to the eyes. Specifically in the first few levels, the environments are eye-popping and pretty realistic. When the destruction begins, watching things explode and crumble is pretty cool. In the audio department, hearing the ball crash into glass and other items sounds wonderful and it perfectly amplifies the sound of a room full of objects being destroyed.
Fans of the Burnout franchise will also like the Smashbreaker mechanic. Much like the Crashbreaker ability in Burnout, this function allows the player to make the ball explode. After Smashbreaker is activated, you can steer the ball with both analog sticks and you can even adjust the intensity of the ball’s movement with the left and right triggers respectively. Burnout fan’s that are missing the franchise will feel right at home with Dangerous Golf. Unfortunately, these aspects are the only compliments that I can give the game because everything else just doesn’t work.
One of the biggest problems with Dangerous Golf is the fact that the game is more frustrating than fun. For every cool gameplay mechanic that is implemented (golf balls that can become bombs, glue balls that stick to different parts of the environment, teleportation) and every fun gametype that can be attempted (regular courses and putting challenges), there are moments that are just plain frustrating. Certain missions that involve hazards are infuriating. This isn’t because the hole itself is difficult, it’s because the camera is atrocious.
When a ball is hit, we can’t move it until enough damage is accumulated. Without the minimum amount of damage achieved, Smashbreaker cannot be used. Once we can use this ability, the camera becomes an obstacle in itself. There were multiple times where I hit an item and the ball kept bouncing back into a wall because I couldn’t steer the ball correctly due to the camera. This happened on multiple environments and this took me out of the experience. It got so bad that I actually thought of quitting multiple times out of sheer frustration.
Putting is always the toughest part of any golf game, and while it’s easier in Dangerous Golf, that doesn’t mean that this mechanic is good. When your ball comes to a complete stop, the ability to putt becomes available. Players can ricochet their ball off of various walls in order to get it in the hole. For the most part, you’ll always make it in (I rarely had to try and sink the ball in the hole), but on the off chance you miss the shot, the result will be detrimental to your overall score. The problem with putting is that many times when you miss it’s because the destruction gets in the way of the hole. More often than not, these situations seemed rather unfair instead of doable. There were some shots that I believe were near impossible to make. Most mechanics in the game seemed more broken than refined.
Besides the gameplay, another problem in Dangerous Golf are the loading times. For a game that wants you to retry levels in order to beat your score, the loading screens sure prevent the player from doing so. There are so many titles that almost instantly reload a level when attempting to retry it. With Dangerous Golf, players are greeted with a loading screen before each attempt that just drags on and on. By the halfway point in the game’s career mode (which is made up of just various levels) I didn’t even care about beating my score because I would have to suffer through more loading screens.
There is a multiplayer mode online and it’s actually somewhat fun with friends, however these modes don’t have lasting power. *note* There is a co-op campaign, but I didn’t have anybody to play the local campaign mode.
When I heard that some members of Criterion made their own studio and were making a golf game, I was instantly happy and intrigued by the premise of the title. That excitement quickly faded away after the first few holes. Dangerous Golf feels more like a novelty that wears out its welcome far too soon. It’s a shame because there is some serious talent behind this game. There are some cool elements in the game including the various power-ups that can be obtained, but unfortunately I don’t think many players will make it far enough into the game to see what Dangerous Golf has to offer.