|On Dangerous Golf, and the danger of expectations.|
An intricately decorated ballroom. A pristine kitchen filled to the brim with fresh food and clean cookware. A bathroom. You wouldn't expect the first game from some of the minds behind the legendary Burnout series to take place in these locales, but Dangerous Golf is a fairly surprising game.
There were many things to love about the seminal racing franchise (the blistering speed, the precise controls, the unadulterated exhilaration of the takedowns), but the crash mode was perhaps the most creative invention of all. Making a puzzle game out of the racing genre, with the goals of making the most wonderfully destructive car wrecks we've ever seen in a game, was an ingenious idea that was supremely enjoyable to play. With Dangerous Golf, Three Fields Entertainment attempts to bring that sort of chaotic fun to the game of golf. Unfortunately, this game falls short of those aims.
Dangerous Golf never attempts to hide where its influence comes from. The game has the graphic excellence typical of vintage Criterion games. If your golf ball hits enough objects in the environment, you unlock a crashbr- I mean a smashbreaker that creates a small explosion after it is activated and gives you more control over the ball so you can rack up the points. There are level-specific signature smashes that are commemorated with a photograph. Hell, one of the fonts used on the UI is straight out of Burnout 3. The game evokes the nostalgia of its spiritual predecessors (Three Fields Entertainment was founded by former Criterion developers). But nostalgia can be a double-edged sword. The history of the creators surely brought this game more attention, but it also reminds of how their previous games were better.
The game's issues are evident from the offset. The game's controls are shown during every loading screen you see. That screen quickly becomes vital, since that's the only place where the game showed me how to play it before I played the first hole. The controls are explained more clearly in an optional menu, but it's strange that Three Fields Entertainment couldn't come up with a more elegant way to explain the skillset of Dangerous Golf without throwing you in the deep end and watching you learn how to swim.
But the obfuscation of the game's controls may be a response to the fact that Dangerous Golf just doesn't feel that good to play. The way the ball deflects off of the dozens of objects seemed very random, and the detached distance of the camera made me unsure of how or why I was getting the points at times. It all feels weirdly imprecise.
My expectations may have been too high for this game. The Burnout franchise is one of my favorite game series of all time. Half of the reason I still have my Xbox 360 plugged in is so I have easy access to the Burnout franchise for the few times each year that I remember that there will almost assuredly be no new Burnout game for the foreseeable future and get really sad about it. I was sold on the game as soon as I heard that this was the next from the minds that created those masterpieces. If I didn't know the pedigree of the people making Dangerous Golf, I would just think it was a slight downloadable game that I wouldn't think about much in the future. But that pedigree does raise hopes and Dangerous Golf doesn't do enough to meet them. Hopefully, they have the resources to make another car game. That seems to be what they’re best at.
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