2016 sees the launch of two wacky golf games in which the goal is more wanton destruction rather than sinking a birdie. The first off the tee is Dangerous Golf, the first game by new indie studio Three Fields Entertainment who take their experience working on the Criterion-era Burnout series and shooter Black to create this sports game which is more Santa Destroy than Saint Andrews. For all its destruction physics and stacking gimmicks, Dangerous Golf lacks the real anarchy or silliness that a game about blowing up petrol stations with a well-timed drive deserves.
Dangerous Golf feels like a lost launch title from the PS2 and Gamecube era, a resurrected game from the early 2000s that should have released alongside Cel Damage and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3. It even has that same visual style, menus with ridiculous WordArt headers and terrible puns to name many of its stages. It embodies that generation’s love of score attack games but brings it to the current era with long loading times, shonky online leaderboards and a destruction engine that is prone to massive slowdown on certain courses. It all kind of works but the presentation is akin to your lame dad buying a second hand sports car and putting a singular racing stripe down it to look cool. It’s functional and can occasionally go fast, but it doesn’t hide the fact that playing Dangerous Golf is really pedestrian.
The problem stems from the fact that unlike Burnout’s Crash Mode, which required you to drive into a moving turnpike or interchange at speed to cause utter chaos, Dangerous Golf starts from a place of stillness. There are no moving parts, no people to send flying into a priceless marble bust, every scene in Dangerous Golf is just waiting for you to hit the ball and start the destruction. Rather than coming into a room full of action and smashing everything with a very small wrecking ball, you’re setting off a crappy Rube Goldberg machine where it ends with the room being on fire. You’re smashing up a set, rather than actually causing havoc in a living scene. Dangerous Golf is sterile to play, it lacks that anarchic energy that was present in Burnout, where you’d drive full pelt at a crossroad and bounce delicately off tanker truck and hatchback as they drove into the crash and made it continue.
It’s not helped by the way you propel the ball, which lacks the build-up and pay off you’d get from actually hitting a golf ball. There is no moment of the golf club swinging back, the pause at the top before the driver flies down to thwack the ball across the room, you simply flick the Left Stick and the ball goes flying. Even having a Power meter would go some way to giving the launch of a ball some oomph. You do unlock an ability called the Pistol Tee later on, which allows you to aim the ball with a laser sight before shooting it off but it still feels weightless when you fire your projectile into a careful stacked display of wine bottles. Once you’ve actually fired your ball into the scene before you, you can alter its flight path through the use of the Smashbreaker, lovingly ripped off from the Crashbreaker found in Burnout.