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Turbo Golf Racing early access review: a great new motorsport takes us one step closer to the car olympics

Fore stroke engine

Is it lazy to describe Turbo Golf Racing as ‘Rocket League if the cars were playing golf instead of football?' A bit, yes. But it’s also largely accurate. Up to eight players race across a track, ramming their boost-enabled car into their huge futuristic golf ball to send it flying forwards until (depending on your skill or luck) it flies/rolls/plops anticlimactically into the big hole at the end. It’s golf, sort of, but fast, demanding, and often unpredictable. You don’t even have to wear silly trousers while playing it, but that’s just my personal choice.

Of course, it’s not quite so simple as hitting your ball forward and relying on the videogame gods to deem your ball worthy of reaching the goal before everybody else’s. There are 30 courses of varying length and complexity, and none of them are a simple drag race to the end. There are ramps, twists, turns, and plenty of obstacles. While the very shortest courses are pretty frictionless (I’ve won a few in under 20 seconds), the longest ones are practically begging you to make agonising mistakes.

This game has made me hate trees. Hate them. More than once, one of the leafy gits has brought my ball to an unceremonious halt, or even caused it to rebound at great speed, cheerily whizzing over my head back towards the starting line while inertia carries me ruthlessly forward. At least on the rare but frustrating occasions that this happens, or when I can see that the ball is about to leave the track and trigger the dreaded Out Of Bounds message, there’s a button to instantly reset the ball and my car back on track (but from a standing start, of course).

At least trees and track boundaries are the only things to slow you down, right? Of course not! Sand and grass will slow both you and your ball, and then there are the rockets. Oh, didn’t I mention the rockets? There are three types of pickup on the track: boost refills, rockets, and shields. Pick up a rocket, and it’ll automatically start targeting anybody in front of you. All you have to do is pick a victim, hit the right button, and carry on with your day. You’ll know when you’re being targeted via the telltale beeps and if you don’t have a shield to activate, all you can do is whimper and curse your luck until it hits. You’re only taken out for a few seconds, but a few seconds can make all the difference here.

It’s hard to judge realism on things like this, but the physics certainly feel right if nothing else. You’ll usually have a good sense of how far the ball will go when you hit it at a certain speed, and mastering the angle you hit it at to determine the direction is vital. This is especially true when you realise that the boost rings hanging in mid-air on each track are the true key to victory. Each one you send your ball through increases your chance of a high scoreboard placement thanks to the distance they send it, and the rings closest to the goal will often whizz the ball straight in there for you.

There’s no denying that triumphant victories and devastating losses are both subject to a bit of luck, but this is most definitely a game of skill

There’s no denying that triumphant victories and devastating losses are both subject to a bit of luck, but this is most definitely a game of skill. When you finish a three-round game with disappointing results, it’s quite likely you won’t feel this was entirely your fault - and perhaps it wasn’t - so you’ll be eager to dive in again. Equally, a win will have been well-earned, so you’ll want to try and replicate it. Miss out on first place by just a few points, meanwhile, and you’ll realise that you could have come out on top if things had gone just a little differently, so, yup, you’ll feel the urge to play another round.

I (almost) never struggled to keep track of my ball no matter how far I hit it, partly due to the camera tracking the ball by default (something you can change), and partly due to the fact that opponent balls are ghosts. You can just about see them, but you can’t hit them, a simple fact that also instantly eliminates the potential for further frustrations and some nasty trolling..

One final sprinkle of spice to the experience is the addition of Cores. These are abilities, either passive or assigned to a button with a cooldown, unlocked through play. Each car can hold two, and some have a huge effect on gameplay. One with obvious appeal makes your ball bigger (oo-er missus, etc) and therefore easier to hit. Another will make your car do a flip, giving it a speed boost. Personally, my perfect pairing is the ability to drive through sand in bunkers without slowing down, and what I can only assume is some sort of telekinesis, which allows you to hit the ball while still a short distance away from it. An excellent ability for otherwise impossible steep-angled shots.

Although the first few days of launch have seen some teething problems in terms of connection issues, nine times out of ten everything’s working as it should, and (even though the cars start off looking like they could be a range of toys called AUTO MONSTERZ in Poundland) the microtransaction-free season pass and shop allow you to slowly customise them a bit more. My car currently has two egg-laden frying pans on the front, and I love it for that alone.

A TGR match can often be over in about five minutes, making it equally perfect for a few quick games on a lunch break, or dozens of matches into the night to generate joy and rage in equal measure. The latter is how I’ve been playing, because honestly? I don’t think I’ve had this much fun with an online game for quite a while.

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Turbo Golf Racing

Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC

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Luke Kemp avatar

Luke Kemp