In the midst of the Hampshire countryside, with perhaps the most placid and picturesque studio view I’ve ever seen, you’d be forgiven for thinking Three Fields Entertainment were working on something a little more peaceful, a little more… zen. Instead, they’re making something arguably far more exciting.
Since its incorporation in early 2014, Three Fields have been working tirelessly on Dangerous Golf. It’s as much of a golf game as Burnout is a driving simulator. There’s no fiddling around with five irons here – just a massive injection of relentless destruction and purified fun into a genre begging for rejuvenation.
Those familiar with the Burnout series will immediately feel right at home with Dangerous Golf. Think of it as Crash Mode but with golf balls instead of cars and everyday objects instead of traffic. Whilst admittedly on a smaller scale than a six-lane intersection filled with timber lorries, Dangerous Golf’s environments are intimate, realistic, and absolutely packed to the gills with seemingly very fragile things.
Right from the off, Dangerous Golf starts in a truly irreverent and typically British fashion, setting the tone for the rest of the game. In the first of a series of truly delightful puns, players will encounter the Smash Nav – the dashboard for getting around Dangerous Golf’s various modes—all of which take place in four key locations: an immaculate palace ballroom, a fully-stocked hotel kitchen, a medieval castle, and a classic gas station. All four locations are impeccably styled; bathed in gentle, natural light, each exuding individualistic character and charm.
My first encounters were in a glittering ballroom, carefully prepared for a state dinner, I’m sure. Tables were stacked high with silver goblets; magnums of champagne littering the room, priceless heirlooms at every turn. You can’t help but be awed by the sheer level of detail and density here. A fleeting sense of guilt crossed my mind, as a flag popped up in the distance and I was presented with a golf ball blazoned with “Three Fields Entertainment”. But this soon passed, as I thwacked my ball into the towering goblets – it’s Direct Line’s problem now.
Each and every object in the room is real, carefully designed to break down in the most authentic and satisfying way possible. Even the surfaces, which Three Fields refer to as “materials”, are designed to behave exactly how you’d expect them to: physically, visually, and aurally. In one particular stage, lovingly named “The Vase and The Furious”, the glass behaves exactly how you’d expect it to upon meeting a high velocity golf ball. Smashing up state ballrooms has truly never been this realistic.
Smashing up state ballrooms has truly never been this realistic.
In order to achieve this degree of authenticity, Three Fields are utilising highly advanced technologies from both Epic and Nvidia to deliver a game that pushes physics harder than most. Each and every object has realistic physics data associated with it, based on real-world equivalence, which are then processed in-game upon impact. This was particularly noticeable in the hotel kitchen, where a selection of lovingly prepared fruit tarts lined the worktop. Ingredients were stacked up tall underneath; utensils, pots, and pans everywhere else. Needless to say, it was left in an utterly tragic mess after I was done with it.
When it comes to tee off in Dangerous Golf, there’s no club, no angle or elevation to worry about. Just smack the ball wherever you want. Players must make sure, however, they destroy the necessary number of objects with their first shot in order to get… you guessed it, a SmashBreaker. This is the moment the ball transforms into its final form: a molten sphere of rage and destruction, relentlessly decimating anything in its path as it gets hotter and hotter and hotter. At this point, nothing stands a chance. Petrol pumps are blowing up, grandfather clocks disintegrating, and bookshelves collapsing in on themselves. There’s beauty in this destruction.
In the midst of all this mess, I couldn’t help notice a lone flag in the distance. This is still a golf game, after all, which evidently I had forgotten following my momentary rampage. Keeping with the game’s philosophy, you don’t have to be a golf aficionado to complete the shot, pot the ball, or whatever it is golfers say. Roll it in, shoot it with a trail of fire, or whack it blindly into the air, pulling both triggers to smash it down into the goal – just make sure you come out of it looking as slick as possible.
There’s beauty in this destruction.
One of the most surprising parts of Dangerous Golf is its turn-by-turn co-op offering, where players must work as a team to rack up the points – or alternatively, risk success by one-upping your partner’s score, leaving them in a tough spot with nothing left to destroy when their turn comes around. Risk and reward is carefully balanced, with huge team bonuses available for successful shots – and almighty penalties for failure. Giving your buddy just enough slack to pull through, whilst being careful not to let them encroach on your massive score, is the strategy here. Competitive co-op at its finest.
It’s only after a while you discover how much deeper (and crazier) Dangerous Golf really is, compared to its earlier stages. Later on, things start to get pretty insane. Everything from laser targeting, sticky bombs, and perhaps the most dastardly modifier of them all: wheelie mop buckets, become essential, tactical tools in the player’s arsenal to reach those dazzlingly high leaderboard positions. This isn’t some casual facelift of Burnout’s crash mode. Dangerous Golf demands thought, tactics, and a complete disdain for personal property.
Dangerous Golf is one of those games that nails everything: it’s stunningly beautiful, it’s an unprecedented technical marvel, and it’s just pure fun. In a generation where fun has taken a step back behind technical excellence, it’s refreshing to see it back in full force, kicking and screaming. As Criterion sought to reinvent some of gaming’s most notable genres, so too are Three Fields Entertainment. They’ve managed the impossible. They’ve made golf fun.
Dangerous Golf hits Xbox One early this June.