When lockdown first started, I expected it to be the pubs and clubs I would miss most; a couple of beers on a Friday evening that turn into a spontaneous night out until 4AM, before crawling into a taxi, being careful not to drop whatever late-night snack I wasn’t in the slightest bit hungry for. But instead, I find myself missing mini golf with my friends far more than I expected. You can probably guess where this inane introduction is going now blah, blah, blah… Golf With Your Friends is about as good as it gets without going and doing the real thing.
However, instead of turn-based fun, Golf With Your Friends pits up to 12 players – both locally and online – against each other in simultaneous play. Add to this the default setting for a match – known as Classic mode – which includes a two-minute timer to complete the hole and only 15 seconds of free-cam usage to scout the hole out, and this means that golf has suddenly become a lot faster paced. Entire courses can be completed within 30 minutes.
This is only Classic mode though, and the beauty of Golf With Your Friends is that you can customise so much more. As well as the shot clock and amount of time for free-cam that can be changed, there can also be amendments to the number of players, spawn position for the ball, and whether you can spin the ball. There is even the option to add in powerups and increased gravity. With eleven courses currently to choose from – an additional course based on popular Team17 game The Escapists is under construction – that’s a lot of golf.
The courses that are available take on a wide range of themes including Ancient Egypt, space stations, pirates, volcanoes and more. Even classic Team17 game Worms has an entire course dedicated to it with sheep, Holy Hand Grenades and airstrikes all blocking your way. The variation within specific courses is excellent too: some holes will require 6 or more shots just to make par.
Some courses are more elaborate than others also. For example, the Museum course includes triggers that need to be hit to temporarily reveal a ramp or other helpful item, while the Twilight course includes a water section that you are required to navigate. Whilst none of the courses feel similar to one another, these added extras help further distinguish some from the rest of the pack.
Making par will not be the easiest, as Golf With Your Friends presents a formidable challenge. You control the shot power using the thumbstick but, with the amount of different levels and platforms, obstacles and hazards, precision is required in terms of both direction and power. Direction can be fine-tuned using RB button, but the same can’t be said for shot power, something that would be very useful.
This difficulty is further hampered by several minor issues. Firstly, the camera control and collision detection isn’t very good. If you are stuck against a wall, the camera will almost turn into a first-person view, one that makes it very difficult to see which way you are aiming. You can zoom in and out with the camera, but this doesn’t work if there is an obstacle between the camera and the ball, and you are in effect left with a blind shot, hoping for the best.
Then, when controlling the free-cam, anytime you push the left thumbstick forward to move the camera, this is also then applied to the shot power bar when you return to making the shot, usually maxing it out. This could catch less attentive players out, especially if they are running out of time to take a shot.
Further still, and on occasions the ball will bounce out of bounds and then back in bounds, with you thinking that finally your luck is in. Sadly, Golf With Your Friends treats this as still being out of bounds and puts the ball back where you just took the last shot from. Truly disheartening.
Then there is the issue that some of these holes are so complex and long that you simply don’t get enough time by default to complete them, whether that be thanks to the shot clock or the amount of free-camera time you get. Of course, in Custom modes you can correct this, but often I have been left questioning where the hole is in Classic mode, especially on longer holes with the very limited time to explore.
Away from Classic mode and there are a few other game types that are more fleshed out than you would initially think. Hockey mode introduces a puck instead of a ball and a goal to aim at, complete with a moving goalkeeper. Then there is also Dunk mode where the hole becomes a basketball hoop and you need to ‘jump’ the ball into it. At first these can be tricky to fully understand, but after a few holes you’ll quickly start to enjoy them as much as the standard Golf mode.
For a more relaxed pace though there is also an Explore mode where you can take any course in at your leisure and fine-tune those skills.
Complete a course though – regardless of your score – and you are awarded a random customisation item, and all without the pomp and prestige of a laborious ‘loot box’ opening animation that plague other ‘random’ drops in games. Instead a simple pop-up opens, detailing what you have unlocked. And then by visiting the Customise screen you can change your golf ball’s appearance to suit, with a huge variety of toppers, colours, streams and flotation devices. When there are 12 players all whacking balls in every direction, making yours stand out should be a top priority.
There are 36 achievements in Golf With Your Friends, but a quick word of warning for those playing locally – you are unable to sign in with additional Xbox accounts when playing in the same room, so only the host will be unlocking the achievements. For the actual achievements though, you will unlock one for each unique course completed – although bizarrely not the Volcano course – and then a further achievement is unlocked if you complete a course with a score of par or under. Good luck with those. Other achievements include playing the different modes, and cumulative ones for good scores on holes.
With a name like Golf With Your Friends, you know exactly what you are getting – taking on opponents across 18-hole courses, lowest score wins. It’s a very simple concept, but where this could be a simple golf-based game done many times before, Golf With Your Friends presents a new experience, letting us enjoy multiplayer golfing by bringing in simultaneous play and a ton of customisation options to make sure the fun doesn’t dwindle after only a few hours. A few minor problems exist, but with the promise of new courses to come and the fact that patches will no doubt be incoming, this should all make Golf With Your Friends on Xbox One a mainstay on your ever-increasingly precious HDD space.