Xbox One golf launch title Powerstar Golf didn't gel with me the first time I played it, but after seeing the depth of some of its systems last week I feel better about it.
Its RPG-ish leveling system and cloud-based competitive features sound like something I could really get into.
Powerstar Golf (Xbox One)
Developer: Zoe Mode
Release Date: November 22, 2013
In Powerstar Golf, everything has stats, and the level of customization is super deep. All characters have their strengths and weaknesses, and you'll modify what they can do for you with equipment choices. Each of the six characters have their own play style (long driver, accuracy putter, etc.), but through equipment choices you can tweak their abilities a bit. Characters also have their own special abilities. One character, Henry, has his ball splitting into five on the green, with the closest ball to the hole being the one he'll play from on the next shot. Reiko, another character, has the ability to magnetize the pin, which will have her shot drawing closer to the hole upon landing.
Even caddies help you modify your abilities with their individual special abilities. For example, one might let you preview putts before making shots. They all have perks, too. You might have a better chance of skipping your shot over water with one, while another might change the how greatly wind speed affects your shot. In a pinch, you can even borrow friends' caddies to help you out.
All of the gear in Powerstar also has stats, and with over 400 pieces to choose from, there is plenty of freedom when it comes to tweaking your stats. As you level, you're able to buy more gear, working to gain full gear sets. Sets give additional stat bonuses, too. Beyond this, some gear pieces are character-specific, giving huge perks when equipped.
If this all wasn't enough, there are also round-specific boosters to be added. You can choose boosts to help your XP or putting distance, for example.
With any golf game, you're up against the course as well as the environment. That's usually enough depth. But Powerstar adds so many layers of customization that it seems you could spend all day tweaking your character and gear.
I'm surprised at just how social and competitive Powerstar Golf is aiming to be. Even playing alone, through the game's Rival mode, you're up against the cloud data of your friends. In a match I tried, I found that I was constantly being updated with how my plays compared to others'. A long drive showed my ball flying past the previous record holder's marker, with his score and marker shattering to be replaced by mine. The records of all your friends are clearly visible on the course through these markers, and are updated instantly as you and your friends play.
If you're playing against a friend's cloud data, you'll see the game exactly as they played it. This means that everything from their shots and flubs to their outfit and club choice are shown. It's like you've rewound time and plugged yourself into their game. This means that you can enjoy competitive play at any time.
What's neat is that if you win, you'll gain experience. But, if you lose, your friend, even offline, will get experience for beating you virtually.
As we've covered before, the shot system is the standard three-point one we know from Hot Shots Golf, complete with the ability to add spin. The game offers absolutely nothing new in that respect. But the customization and special abilities are interesting, and the cloud-powered social connectivity has the potential to keep you engaged.
Again, I'm not a fan of the art style or presentation, but neither are going to hinder the fun to be had going up against friends' data. Being able to play competitively at any time sounds fantastic. And so does the price -- $20.
Powershot Golf will be available for download at Xbox One's launch.