So you soon get the hang of how to distribute your weight, and shift your weight between your feet, as you look down at your shoes from a nifty over-the-ball swing camera and you play your shot. Be warned, though - this will take quite a few chops into the rough before you have a grasp of the basics, believe us! But once you do get the hang of the controls, you really feel like you're beginning to master a real game of golf.
SPOnG also gets the idea (remembering the Pro Evo comparison) that to master
the art of matching shifting your body with the left analogue stick with your swing is going to be the reason why we think we are going to be returning to play ProStroke Golf: World Tour 2007. A lot.
Oxygen’s Kevin Hassall sums the game up neatly: “What we soon realised as the game was taking shape, and what we want people to really get from playing the game, is that, when we focus on the actual swing
and on the skill involved in hitting the ball correctly, we also – almost by accident – realised - or, for the lapsed golfers among us, remembered - that this is also the most FUN aspect of playing golf.”
SPOnG agrees, and whilst we are far from expert golfers (our local municipal Pitch and Putt being about as close to we get as the real game) we soon wanted to hone our skills on the ProStroke controls after our first few minutes of play. What’s more, once you get the hang of the innovative control system, you also realise that the PR hype surrounding this game is pretty much justified. Oxygen and Gusto have identified a key problem with golf games in general; that the controls are unrealistic and do not simulate the real game of golf, and they’ve gone ahead and solved it magnificently, developing a golf physics engine which is second to none. It would seem that all the in-depth studying they did of some obscure Norwegian PhD thesis on ‘the physics of golf’ really has paid off. The attention to what might appear to be far too much detail – Robertson mentions the friction of a single blade of grass! – has resulted in a very pure videogame experience.
Change the position of your feet relative to the ball, alter the position of the club face (open or closed), whilst practicing your weight-shifting, and you soon see the marginal differences made to the flight, spin and power of the resulting shot. Mastering these variables to get exactly the right shot is everything, and, Hassall is totally correct on this point, pretty much nothing else in the game matters.
For this reason, it hardly seems worth mentioning that the courses themselves look the business. Nothing flashy, no extra bells and whistles (which you might expect if you’ve played glossier-looking golf games such as Tiger Woods) but that doesn’t really impact upon or change the fact that this is a hugely enjoyable and very realistic skill-based golf game. Certain print publications (which will remain nameless) have apparently marked the game down for not being sleek enough looks-wise, with one magazine going so far as to knock it for being ‘too green’ (Ye-e-e-s, we-e-e-e-ll!). This is clearly missing the point of the entire game.
As is pretty much expected in any sports title these days, the game contains a number of motion-captured players with professional likenesses (Ian Woosnam, Sergio Garcia, and Mark O'Meara); famous commentators (Sam Torrance, Alan Green, and Ian Baker-Finch); plus a couple of courses based on well-known links (The Belfry and Lake Nona, the latter which Robertson describes as like “Desperate Housewive’s surburbia with a golf course….”). But SPOnG has to emphasise that, whilst this may well be an initial reason for golfers and casual players to pick up the game in store, it certainly is not going to be the reason why you return to play the game with a bunch of friends time and time again.
Another nifty feature is the course editor, where you can easily chop and change any of the 18 pre-set courses on offer, or just choose to design your own course. Again, this has been seen before in a number of golf games, but has never been executed in such a quick-to-use, simple and idiot-proof manner as it has been here. So should players wish to, they can recreate their local pitch and putt (which is what SPOnG is pretty excited about!) or even recreate the famous tournament courses they might have been lucky enough to enjoyed playing on (or more likely seen on Sky Sports).
So, the Pro Evo of golf games, then? SPOnG couldn’t sum it up any better.
ProStroke Golf: World Tour 2007 is out in August on PS2 and Xbox, with PC and PSP versions to follow later in the year.