Due to their Counter-Strike brain conditioning, some of my friends are annoyed by shooter things that seem normal to me. Shooting while running seems to be repugnant behavior to them. I can't precisely relate to that, but I've now found the car equivalent: After 1,300 hours of Rocket League, playing boosty-car sports game Turbo Golf Racing (opens in new tab) for the first time felt like trying to tear a piece of perforated paper a centimeter below the perforations.
The toy-like vehicles in Turbo Golf Racing can jump and flip and fly like Rocket League cars, but everything is slightly slower, you can't dodge left or right (except by drifting and then dashing forward, ick), or air roll, and it's harder to stay airborne at all unless you transform your car into a glider, a boorish feature that should be saved for games that spell 'cart' with a 'k'. Turning off my Rocket League brain to stop flying off the side of the course was a struggle.
I did eventually get over the feeling that I was in a hell designed for me by a bored Greek god, but if you don't have a Game Pass subscription, I'd suggest waiting and seeing how people get on with Turbo Golf Racing before spending $18 on the Steam early access version. I'm all for more games bringing together rocket cars and ball sports, but even if you can get past how it feels almost but not quite like Rocket League, I'm not sure Turbo Golf Racing will do for car golf what Rocket League has done for car soccer.
I find it hard to be completely satisfied with a golf game in which hole-in-ones seem to be impossible (if there's a course where you can do it, I haven't seen it) and long drives (the golf kind, not the car kind) are often not very long and not very exciting. The floaty ball that works so well in Rocket League is a disappointment in golf, where I want to hold my breath as I watch a white speck trace a shallow parabola across the sky—the exact parabola I predicted it would trace—only to bounce sharply into a sand trap. The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat.
You don't get much of that experience in Turbo Golf, because you're not scored by the number of strokes you take, but by the total time it takes you to move the ball from the tee to the hole. That means a shot is only good if you can catch up to it quickly to hit the ball again, so I'm mostly focused on keeping my wheels on the ground and boost full—it's more like dribbling a soccer ball than hitting a golf ball. Maybe soccer was just the right sport to add cars to?
An exception is when I manage to lob the ball into the hole from a distance, which does feel good, even if the hole tractor-beams the ball into itself a little too generously. One way Turbo Golf adapts Rocket League's car handling to suit golf is that you can easily adjust the shallowness of your shot to get more or less air, which I like. Spin is a factor, too. There are opportunities for chef's kiss skill shots here, although unless you make the end-of-hole replay highlight, you'll more or less be demonstrating your skill to yourself. The direct competition you get in Rocket League—really dunking on someone—isn't present in golf, which is mostly a battle between you and the course.
Above: My first hour in Turbo Golf Racing was challenging.
When you play against others in Turbo Golf Racing, their balls are semi-transparent to you, and you can't interact with them. You can interact with other cars by shooting rocket pickups at them—Red Shells, basically—but if anything is going to screw up someone's win, it's not going to be something as minor as a spinout. It's going to be something even more minor that they do to themselves, like missing their ball one time and having to awkwardly turn around and drive in a circle to line up a new shot, or punting the ball into the lip of a tunnel. You don't need anyone else near you to suck at golf.
I can see the same people who play modder-made Rocket League obstacle course levels getting into mastering Turbo Golf. There are probably some unreasonably efficient routes for ultra-skilled players to find, and I had a few fun little self alley-oop moments, like bouncing my ball off a tree to give myself a good angle for an air shot.
The best players might end up being those who can reliably hit the floating boost rings, which either launch your ball a long ways down the fairway or, if above the green, directly into the hole. It's a bit "aim here to win"—fun when it pays off, especially when making a comeback following a mistake, but not as gratifying as a great Rocket League passing play, where it feels like you and your teammates have a psychic bond.
Gee, Rocket League really is a great game, isn't it? Maybe that's why it feels under-copied: Whenever a game tries to emulate Rocket League, annoying people like me go, "Well, it's alright, but I wouldn't play it for 1,000 hours."
I could possibly get more competitive about Turbo Golf Racing as I uncover more of its nuances, but if I keep playing it, I think it'll mostly be because I'm afraid to go back to Rocket League now that I've rewired my brain for golf. I miss a pathetic number of aerials even when I don't have an excuse.
If you want to check it out, Turbo Golf Racing is on Game Pass and Steam (opens in new tab). The developer plans to keep it in early access for a year. It already has an impressive 30 holes—it needs a lot of them to stay interesting, I think—and more are coming, as well as more cars, powers, and modes.