Powerstar Golf is a fun game elevated by extensive use of player data, social features
Powerstar Golf on the Xbox One uses the bog-standard three-click technique for each stroke; you know how to play this game if you’ve ever played any other golf game in the past. That familiarity is definitely part of the comfortable, inviting atmosphere of the game.
There are no wheels being reinvented here, but the joy of the title drives home the fact that the next-generation systems are just as service oriented as they are graphically focused. There is little here that couldn’t be visually done on current-generation systems, but the real fun is the amount of social data that came constantly collects, shares, and remixes to give you a game that constantly puts you in competition with your friends.
I have a number of other reviewers on my Xbox Live friends list, so their information was ready to go when I installed the game and played for the first time. I could see their scores for each hole, and I won XP for beating them.
There are visual markers that show you the length of each person’s drive, and once again you gain XP for beating them. Powerstar is filled with notes about how you’re doing, how you stack up against your friends list, and where you stand in the rankings.
You may lose a tournament, but the fact you smashed your friend’s putting record takes a bit of the sting out. Having the game give you so much feedback on your performance on both the micro and macro levels turns would could be a rote game of golf into a continual delight. You begin to get a sense of each of your friends: One person may not be great on the fairway, but they’re monsters when putting. Others may biff the close shot, but they know how to drive. The more friends you have, the more fun it is to see how well they do on each hole, and then try to beat them.
Each character has special powers that you can use a limited number of times to bend the rules in your favor, and you can cash in your XP to buy booster packs that could give you new outfits, better gear, or one-time use items that improve your performance.
You can also pay real money for this content, which gives the whole thing a little bit of a free-to-play vibe as this content can and will improve your score, but it’s easy enough to ignore, and I’ve had little problem collecting a good amount of content without putting in any additional real-world money. No amount of gizmos or good clubs in the world will help someone who doesn’t have the basics of the game down, and the game is still primarily skill based.
Rivals mode is another great use of the data the game collects. You can go up against your friends on courses they’ve played, and you’ll see how they swing, what caddy they use, when they activate their powers… it’s asynchronous multiplayer that feels close to the real thing. Here’s the fun bit: Your opponent will actually gain XP if they beat you, so your replays are out in the cloud earning you in-game currency even when you’re offline.
Combine all this with the capture capabilities of the Xbox One, every hole-in-one can now be stored for later viewing or sent to friends for communal gloating, and you have a golf experience that gets its hooks in deep.
Each hole of each course in each mode is filled with the best attempts of your friends, and it’s your job to do better. You won’t always succeed, but the game dangles so many carrots in the form of player data that it’s hard to walk away.