Reviews// Real World Golf (PC)

We love daft peripherals

Posted 10 Oct 2005 16:46 by
Here at SPOnG we love daft peripherals. Sega Bass Fishing rods, funny ball-bearing-controlled virtual snooker cues, cumbersome karate-kicking sensors, girlfriend-baiting pretend sports car seats and snowboard-simulators (“no, not in the lounge, darling”) and all the other interesting-yet-not-commercially-viable bits of hardware that crop up in the back corner of the Kentia Hall at E3 each year. We’ve got a massive box full of daft peripherals, with ‘doomed to oblivion’ scratched on the side of it, because as we all know – the basic problem is that gaming peripherals are mostly rubbish.

After you’ve got over the initial ‘ooooo this is the future’ five seconds of amazement at the concept of controlling a game via anything but a tried-and-tested control pad, the thing inevitably gets thrown into the box under the stairs, destined to appear at a car boot sale at some indefinite time in the future. Or perhaps in a museum for 25th century folk to marvel at their ancestor’s primitive ways of play.

And of course, the second and perhaps more severe problem with many peripherals is that they require ACTUAL BODILY MOVEMENT, which as we all know, is over-rated, highly dangerous and generally painful. Boys like to fiddle with their joysticks in dark rooms. Only girls and idiot metrosexual trendies in Hoxton think that dancing around the room in front of the telly singing dreadful eighties soft rock ballads, for example, should be classified as fun.

Aaaaaanyways, along comes yet another kooky peripherals company called In2Games, with their ‘revolutionary Gametrak® 3D motion tracking system’ and a golf game called, imaginatively, Real World Golf. This could well be the future of interactive entertainment. We are pretty sure about this. Well, as sure as we were when Sega Bass Fishing came out. Which is now somewhere at the bottom of our big daft peripherals box. Whatever, it has to be better than ‘Dark Wind’ the frankly rubbish fantasy/fighting game, which was the first game to make use of the Gametrak® controller.

The Real World Golf control method is certainly revolutionary. The Gametrak® 3D motion tracking system is able to track, to 1mm of accuracy, the position of your hands in 3D space – plus any movement of the hands at up to 2000 miles per hour. We are not sure who, other than Captain Flash, is capable of hand-movement at these speeds, but we’ll not worry so much about that right now. Wearing neoprene fingerless gloves, your hands are connected via a rather unsightly orange plastic twine to the on-floor sensor, which looks a bit like a miniature TIE-fighter. Apart from the obvious issue of looking like a puppet-version of a Camden Town goth reject, you’ll soon get used to this control method. We might add in here, as an aside, that Nintendo’s Doctors of Fun Development have already promised to take this concept to the next level with the Revolution controller, and we’ll come back to that shortly, but for now just imagine a 3D version of EyeToy where you are a like a big puppet instead of the man on the screen, and you are nearly there.

Add to this a frankly bizarre miniature plastic golf club and you are ready to tee off. The mini-club doesn’t really do anything, it’s merely for your hands to have the sensation of holding an actual club. If you lose it therefore, which is inevitable, you can replace it with any suitable kitchen implement, such as a wooden spoon. Do not however play actual Golf with a wooden spoon, and make the mistake of confusing ACTUAL REAL LIFE with REAL WORLD GOLF. SPOnG would also not advise replacing the placky club with a proper actual real golf club. Our research shows that divots from carpets invalidate the tenant’s deposit on most standard tenancy agreements.

Martin, Real World Golf’s professional golf teacher who is curiously dressed like a chav in tracky bottoms and faux-Prada cap, will soon have you knocking out a few birdies. Although do be careful not to swing too hard though, otherwise you may well also knock out your actual Real World Bird® as SPOnG did when she walked through the door at the same time as we were addressing the ball.

The soothing sound of Peter Allis’ cheeky voiceover is a clear winning feature of the game (“there’s a benevolent little bunker on the right of the green”) although at times was almost too soothing. We nearly nodded off in a somnolent little bunker on the ninth hole.

Technically, the system is able to track the speed you hit the ball, the angle of your club face, the height of your swing - in fact, according to the blurb on the box, everything you can do in real golf can be done in Real World Golf, including curves, backspin and other more advanced techniques. In practice you just wang it and hope for the best. Although after our second 18-holer, we began to grasp some kind of basic technique – meaning that we learnt how to hit the ball dead hard without hooking or slicing it too badly. Which is more than can be said for our skills on an actual real golf course (well, pitch and putt) where no matter how many times you play, you always seem to be at the same skill level (way below par). In fact on our first round of Real World Golf, we went through with a respectable 78, which was only 6 over par. An achievement we can confidently say that we will never, ever replicate in real life. Although we are now itching to hit the pitch and putt, to see if all of our Real World Golf practice actually pays off in Real World Life ™

Whereas Eyetoy, Singstar and Dance Dance Revolution are all about party games to play with groups of family and friends (ie get drunk and make a tit of yourself in front of the telly), Real World Golf demands something quite different. You are required to play a fully simulated game of golf – which, especially a full 18-holer, requires quite an investment of time and patience. Real World Golf is not going to be much use as a fun game to pull out of your toybox at friends’ parties and family gatherings. By means of a definitive survey to prove this point, SPOnG has tried to introduce the game on two separate occasions when surrounded by drunken ‘casual’ gamers (ie normal people). The response has been unanimous. Both times. People go, ‘oooo, whatever next’, play Real World Golf for one hole, then throw it back in the big toy box and reach for Singstar, Eyetoy, Dance Dance Revolution or, right at the very bottom of the box, Sega Bass Fishing.

Back on the course, it takes a few practice rounds to really get into your swing. The basic control mechanic is pretty much similar to every other golf game – controlling the power, direction and angle/accuracy of your shot. The main difference we found to playing more traditional golf games was getting used to the power control. The initial response from your virtual club is quite hard to gauge – sometimes it seems as if similar swings generate totally different percentage power points - although this could also be because we were playing with ‘amateur’ clubs, which had a similar feeling to playing golf with a tennis ball, where you can only really mis-hit it if you are either blind or drunk.
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