It’s not as flashy as Forza or Dead Rising 3. Then again, it’s a golf game. Does it need to be?
Microsoft’s Xbox One launches in Australia this week. I’ve had some early access to titles for the purpose of review, although my own circumstances mean I haven’t been able to put quite as much time into each title as I would have liked. That’s not Microsoft’s fault — these things happen — but I may return and update this review upon further playtime.
Powerstar Golf: On the plus side
Gaming used to be about one thing, and that one thing was besting another competitor in a game of digital tennis. We’ve come a long, long way since Pong, though, but many would consider a mere golf game as something a bit on the boring, or dare I say it, casual side.
In the case of Powerstar Golf, they’d mostly be right, at least about the casual side of things. This isn’t a game pitched at the hardcore Call of Duty crowd, or even those (like myself) keen to get their ludicrous weapon hitting skills up to par with Dead Rising 3. Instead, it’s a golf game that’s one part Tiger Woods, one part Everybody’s Golf.
It certainly doesn’t mess with the core gaming formula that’s been part of golf games for the best part of the existence of golf games. There’s a three-click meter which you use to set power and accuracy of your shots. It’s quite a finicky creature for what’s ostensibly an arcade style golf game, and it’ll take some time before you get accuracy with it.
Where Powerstar tries to differentiate itself is with powerups; both you and your caddy have special abilities with limited uses that modify how your ball travels along each course. Again, this isn’t exactly a new idea — the Mario Golf games have had various unusual status effects, for example — but it’s implemented (for the period of time that I’ve had to play Powershots Golf, and to be honest and upfront it’s not as long as I might have liked) quite well at a strategic level.
There’s also a focus on skill levels and boosts, which can be purchased pre or post a round to improve your stats, payments and levelling XP as you go. It’s a reasonable encouragement to keep on playing, as is the always-online, always recording Xbox One aspect, where you constantly see the world record and your own records as they relate to drives, putts and scores. With a healthy enough community, this could grow into quite a decent competitive game, even with its casual roots.
Powerstar Golf: On the minus side
Want a game to show off the impressive polygon pitching power of your fancy new console?
Powerstar Golf isn’t it. Really, it isn’t. Everything is pleasant and jaunty enough in style, but I’m yet to see anything that’s had me muttering about the amazing graphical fidelity of the system, and I’ve seen more than a few trees and shadows pop into view. I’ve had a couple of shots bounce off trees that weren’t drawn in fast enough, too. Nothing that spoils the gameplay per se — hitting the tree was totally my fault, but not drawing it in was the system’s — but despite the name, this isn’t exactly a power title.
It’s also a title that encourages a lot of play, but also encourages the dreaded in-app purchases. As you play, you can buy new equipment, clothing and temporary boosts to make your golf game improve, and you earn cash to do this at (so far) a reasonably solid rate.
Or you can buy it. Again, that’s not a new innovation in the sports game space, but my issue here is that once things get really competitive, those who can afford the more pressing boosts will have an advantage, not borne of skill but of finances, over those who don’t. You could always play to an honour system with friends, but in the fierce online space it’s potentially a bit more open.
Powerstar Golf: Pricing
Powerstar Golf is a download-only title for Xbox One that will cost $19.99. Additional coin packs are available, but at the time of writing their availability keeps wobbling (I’ll chalk that up to pre-release jitters), so I can’t list their price here.
Powerstar Golf: Fat Duck verdict
Powerstar Golf is yet another golf game, for better or worse, and that’s pretty much all it is.
You probably already know if you like golf games, and if you don’t, there’s precious little here that’s likely to entice you.
It’s reasonably priced at a standalone level, and I can’t honestly say right now whether the IAP is going to become onerous or merely optional. For the sake of argument, if it isn’t, then it’s a fine game if you traded in everything to get an Xbox One, because then you’d have nothing to play any other golf game on. It’s hardly a system seller, but then it’s priced quite accordingly.