Reviewed: April 11, 2007
Released: April 11, 2007
You canít swing a golf club inside a software store without knocking at least a half-dozen golf games off the shelf. Back in the day everybody was making golf games and I have probably logged more time on the virtual greens that the real ones. Youíll still catch me sneaking in a few rounds of Outlaw Golf on the Xbox or Hot Shots Golf on the PSP, and there is no denying the staying power of the Tiger Woods franchise.
So just what was Gusto Games thinking when they decided to take their shot at the burgeoning golf genre? ProStroke Golf: World Tour 2007, is a no-frills golf simulation. Donít expect cute anime characters or a pro shop full of swag to artificially enhance your golfer. This is the most realistic golf simulation game to date for the PSP, and likely most other systems.
ProStroke Golf: World Tour 2007 challenges players with 18 demanding courses as they go head to head with professional golfers like Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose. The game includes a powerful Course Designer; something we might expect on a console but never on a handheld, and enables gamers to create their own challenging holes and share them or challenge up to three other gamers using the PSPís wireless capabilities.
Additional Features Include:
As the name implies, ProStroke introduces a unique stroke technology that gives players absolute control over every aspect of shot set up and swing. While Iím a big fan of the analog stick swing controls on the consoles, Iím not a huge fan of the twitchy analog pad on the PSP when it comes to precision input like a golf game.
ProStroke Golf has you using the left and right triggers to recreate your backswing and follow-through. It sounds ingenious but ultimately is just a different way to play the ďmeter gameĒ. Just when Tiger gets rid of the meter and encourages you to play computer golf like real golf, ProStroke brings back the strength meter that has you running up the bar to the desired hit then bringing that bar back and trying to click at just the right moment to avoid the hook or slice.
For those who want to explore the deep sim aspects of ProStroke, for the first time you can control your shot by changing your weight distribution, opening your stance, or angling the face of your club, just like you would if you were really stepping up to the tee. This added element of pre-shot setup does take some time and takes some of the fun out of golf, making it more of a technical exercise.
Of all the seven game modes the only one most gamers will concern themselves with is the Career Mode. Here, you create your golfer and take them on a multi-year career presented as a calendar of events. Interspersed between the schedule golf outings are hidden challenge events that often prove to be more fun than the scheduled tournaments.
Sadly, you donít have too much creative control over your alter-ego, or at least nothing that comes close to the level of customization in Tiger Woods. You basically have a shirt, pants, hat, and glove, and one alternate of each in case you donít like the first. Donít worry about skin color, hair style, or shot animations.
Youíll earn money, just like the pros do, but you canít really spend it on anything. Instead, youíll want to focus on Renown Points earned by placing in or winning tournaments and hitting regulation (or better than regulation) shots. These improve your reputation and golfer stats. You really never see your stats, so you can only assume your guy is getting better Ė or maybe itís just you. As your reputation improves you will gain access to tournaments and events previously denied.
The golf experience in ProStroke Golf is much more realistic than anything you have played before. Donít expect those 174yd eagle shots from Tiger Woods or lighting your ball on fire like Hot Shots Golf. In ProStroke, youíll see much more reasonable and realistic scores that mirror real golf. For the first time ever in a computer golf game I was happy to shoot par.
My biggest complaint about ProStroke Golf is that for many of the events you are forced to play with another golfer. I suppose this might give the game a bit of personality, but when Iím playing my PSP it is usually on the go and time is precious. Sure, I can speed through the actual shots, but there are so many pre-shot and post-shot reaction animations, it just takes forever to play a round of golf. Ultimately, you end up rushing other aspects of the game like course flyovers, hole descriptions, and commentary to make up for lost time. Plus, itís pretty ridiculous to single out one golfer and make me play with him like it was a straight-up stroke or match play event when there are a dozen other golfers all competing in the same tournament.
There are 18 courses but only two of them are real and even those are fairly obscure. Iíll admit I donít follow pro golf as closely as many, but I do know most of the popular courses and players and ProStroke Golf totally failed to hit a familiar chord with either. There are eight licensed pro golfers; Sergio Garcia, Mark O'Meara, Justin Rose, Ben Curtis, Thomas Bjorn, Colin Montgomerie, Ian Woosnam, and Zhang Lian-Wei, and Iím sharing that blank look on your face.
Despite all the presentation shortcomings, ProStroke Golf offers a challenging and realistic golf experience for those with the time and patience to stick with it. You start your swing with the right trigger then switch to the left for the actual stroke. You can keep the right trigger held down for a 10% power boost but you also risk a hook or slice. The analog stick controls the impact dot on the ball allowing you to put all sorts of spin on the ball, and you can use the D-pad to reposition your feet, altering your stance to force a hook or slice.
Again, all this setup and pre-shot posturing takes time, and when you combine that with having to play alongside the computer, a round of 18 holes can easily take the better part of a lunch hour. And even if you are doing well, you can expect the computer to do ďintentionallyĒ bad in the earlier events, missing totally unmissable shots for the sake of providing you a ramping level of challenge.
One of the more interesting features in ProStroke Golf is the course designer, and while it is limited by console standards, it is a first for the PSP. Start with a name and a location, then choose the season and sky then you can start messing around with the complex editing tools to create holes and decorate them with repetitive trees, foliage, and textures. The manual offers some insight into building a custom course, but there is nothing within the game to help you out. Itís also pretty frustrating to know that there is no central database of custom holes or courses, so the only people who can play your creations are those with their own copy of the game in wireless link range.
ProStroke look very realistic and subsequently very bland. I could forgive the abundant greens, browns, and overcast skies if these courses were based on real locations that looked this depressing in real life, but these are fantasy courses so liven things up please.
Technically, I have no complaints with the environments and even the characters look reasonably well designed, even if they all swing with the exact same animation. Itís also odd that the swing animation doesnít play until you have entered your strength and accuracy settings with the triggers. This delayed reaction makes ProStroke more of a game than a simulation.
Camera work is really cool with interesting shots and angles of the ball in flight. There can be some problems as you near the green, especially when trying to chip onto the green and having no slope grid to show where the ball is going to roll when it hits.
Golf is a fairly silent sport but there are enough environmental sounds to bring these courses to life. Oddly enough, youíll hear people clapping and cheering when none are present on the course, and often these crowd effects arenít even appropriate to the last shot, but hey, if you want to cheer as I put my ball in the bunker, go for it. There are a few instances of sound clipping or dropping out. Music is limited to the menus and the descriptive hole flyovers. Itís your typical sports fanfare, suitably tweaked for a golf game.
Ian Baker-Finch, Alan Green, and Sam Torrance provide the commentary, and while their accents lends a bit of credibility to the presentation, it would have been nice to have some variance in the emotion. Their dull commentary will start to put you to sleep until you are suddenly hit with the realization that they donít even know what they are talking about. They will often praise you for poor shots of ridicule you when the ball is mere inches from the cup. Sometimes they canít even get the score right.
If you can come to grips with all of the odd glitches and painfully slow pace of the career mode there is a solid month or more of gaming to be had with ProStroke Golf. Iím guessing most gamers wonít bother with many of the modes other than the career, unless they are looking for a quick pick-up game, and the chances of finding other players with PSPís and a copy of the game are slim, so multiplayer and hole sharing will be a rarity. At least there is a hot seat mode so you can pass the PSP around for some multiplayer golf.
The course editor has the potential to add countless hours to the game, at least if you are dedicated to learning it. You can create some pretty funky courses with this tool kit and some fairly realistic ones. I probably had more fun with this part of the game than anything else.
I really enjoyed ProStroke Golf: World Tour 2007 when I first started playing it. It was a serious game that didnít have all the flash and unnecessary extras of those other golf games. It looked real and played even more real, but after a few days the sad realization sunk in that this game was just too slow to be played on the PSP.
Plus, when you factor in all those odd glitches that somehow survived the six months of retooling this game has undergone for its PSP debut, you have to wonder what Gusto Games has been doing. ProStroke is definitely a step in the right direction as far as where serious golf games need to go, but there is still a lot of work to be done before this game is up to par.