The talented folks at Criterion Games always had a penchant for all-out destruction. After all they were the studio that brought us Burnout, the acclaimed racing series beloved for its cringe-inducing car crashes. This passion even managed to spill across genres and was especially evident in Black, the 2006 first person shooter where players had more fun shooting up their surroundings than the enemies on screen.
With Three Fields Entertainment founded by several Criterion alumni, it’s no wonder their debut game, Dangerous Golf, is just as overly bombastic.
Before we tee off, it’s worth mentioning that this isn’t a sports title in any way, shape, or form. Sure, there are competitive elements to be found yet the main emphasis here on concentrated destruction, all in name of blasting your up the leaderboards, but it’s not really going head to head with other Golf games.
With no caddies, clubs, or khakis in sight, players are treated to an assortment of lavishly adorned locales, from grand dining halls to grubby repair shops. These environments are often reused, but each level has its own layout of objects and hazards to interact with.
Whether riding solo or playing co-op with a friend, the Dangerous Golf world tour has you bouncing from stage to stage, new ones appearing whenever you pass a score threshold. In order to achieve a bronze medal or higher, you’ll need to smash into as many objects as possible, all the while making sure not to stray from the final hole.
Each play is broken down into three stages. First, you’ll need to strike the ball from its tee, aiming with one stick and firing with the other. Depending on the power and placement of the shot, it will violently ricochet off walls, displacing any objects in its path. From pots and pans to paint cans, through to statues and suits of armour, there’s a perverse sense of joy to be had in watching these items topple and rebound using crazy physics.
Once the ball has settled, players can then trigger a “Smashbreaker” pelting it towards a second arc of destruction. This time around, however, you can gently guide the projectile using the left stick, directing it at specific points scattered around the environment. Given how most levels require you to hit certain objects, getting a grip on this mechanic is essential to getting those high scores. However, even with Dangerous Golf’s advanced inputs to adjust speed and bounce, you never feel truly in control. When combined with a slightly obstructive camera angle, players will find themselves narrowly missing their intended mark time and again, forcing them to restart the entire level.
Once the Smashbreaker gauge runs out, it’s finally time to putt. As mentioned earlier, you’ll want to keep an eye on where the flag is, especially as stages begin to open up and expand. With only one shot, failing to putt the ball home will slice your score in half, making the finish just as important as the destructive wave that came before.
This three-phase model repeats throughout Dangerous Golf, though a few tweaks are occasionally tossed in here and there. For example, glue shots will allow players multiple tee attempts instead of just one, pinging the ball from one vantage point to the next. Other elements such as hazard zones also begin to appear, slowly dialing up the difficulty as you move from one leg of the tour to the next.
Three Fields Entertainment may succeed in creating a variety of increasingly complex diversions, but the novelty of Dangerous Golf eventually wears off. After the first hour or so, you’re attention will turn away from the glorious ruination of these environments to finding the specific inputs needed to earn a gold or platinum medal.
It could really benefit from some kind of freeform mode in which players are able to let off steam and revel in the destruction around them instead of always focussing on a goal. That seems like the exact experience Dangerous Golf was made to simulate. However, with scores to beat and a ten-second loading screen between restarts, experimentation isn’t something the game really encourages.
In short sessions, preferably with other players, there’s still plenty of fun to be had in tearing through each level like a bull in a china shop. That said, the longer you play Dangerous Golf, the harder it becomes to overlook the game’s shortcomings. It’s a respectable debut from Three Fields, if one that doesn’t quite live up to its full potential.
Version Tested: PlayStation 4