Reviewed: May 19, 2006
Released: April 7, 2006
Iíve been playing golf for what seems like forever. I started in high school playing the real game and when computers finally got good enough I dived into virtual golf with classics like Links 386, British Open, and of course, Tiger Woods.
One thing that bothered me was that while computers could recreate the rules and visuals of playing golf, they just couldnít replicate the physical act. After all, golf is mostly about the swing. I remember seeing a movie in 1981 called Outland with Sean Connery, and there was a scene where this guy was playing golf with real clubs and a real ball and hitting it into a big projection screen about 10-feet away. When the ball impacted the screen the computer took over and continued the ball trajectory based on impact and location.
What I thought was a cool piece of fiction created for the movies quickly turned up in local bars, arcades, and even a few dedicated Indoor Golf establishments. Now any average Joe could play all the famous courses around the world without expensive greens fees and memberships and it looked and played fairly convincing.
In2Games has created a unique device called the Gametrak which is giving computer golf a whole new added level of realism, at least from the gameplay perspective. This clever device is a 3D motion tracking system, which is capable of tracking even your slightest wrist, hand, and arm movements to within 1mm of accuracy.
Ultimately, this means a lot of bruised egos for traditional computer golfers who have grown accustomed to scores in the 50ís and 60ís. In Real World Golf you are only as good as you are inÖwellÖthe REAL world.
The Gametrak really works. At first I thought this was going to be another one of those gimmicky input devices, but the accuracy of this capture device is uncanny. Simply put on the cloth gloves, attach the cables from the Gametrak to the gloves and grip the miniature golf club and watch the onscreen results.
Even the subtlest twist of your wrist, bending of your knees, or changing your stance is instantly reflected onscreen. Pivot your wrists and clubface and you can watch the onscreen club do the exact same movement. This means ultra-realistic golf swings where every bad habit you have in real golf comes along for the ride.
The included plastic club is merely something for you to grip so your wrists assume the natural position of gripping a golf club. You could probably use anything else similarly shaped, even a real club, but I have trouble swinging anything at my HDTV that could potentially smash it. The only caveat to this mini-club is that there is an odd lack of weight and centrifugal force that you would get with a heavier full-sized club.
Now in the real world Iím happy to drive a tee shot 200-250 yards. My strong strokes are mid-range, approach and putting. Iíve always sucked off the tee. Guess what? I suck off the tee in Real World Golf too, but part of this is the mini-club. I found I was not following through on my swings simply because the natural weight of a real driver was missing, and my drive distances suffered for it.
All of this accuracy makes Real World Golf more of a simulation and even a training tool rather than a game. While nobody is making any guarantees or claims, Iím guessing that if you can perfect your swing in this game your real golf game will see some marked improvements.
Real World Golf offers several levels of difficulty that require various levels of swing precision, with the harder levels rewarding you with longer ball travel (still realistic) per club. The Amateur clubs are quite forgiving and great for boosting your ego, but their shortened distance will make it hard to even achieve par for most courses.
This is one of those games that isnít for everybody. Itís probably more suited for your dad than your kid brother. Todayís generation has grown up with Tiger Woods and a series of games where character attributes and ďmagicalĒ equipment from the pro shop can earn you an unrealistic amount of birdies and eagles. My last round of Tiger I had 6 eagles on 18 holes. My last round of Real World Golf Ė I shot 3 over par and was happy about it.
Itís all about realism. If you can remember how good it felt to actually swing a club with the analog stick rather than triple-tapping a button then this is ten times that feeling. This is as real as it gets, and with a big enough TV, Real World Golf will put you in the game.
While the gameplay is as real as it gets the locations are all fictional, or at least unlicensed courses based on real-life links in Europe. This means no familiar holes or reliving those great moments from other games. What it does give you is 180 holes that you have never played before, and there is something to be said for original content.
The overall game is broken down into traditional modes like practice, tournament, stroke and match play, various mini-games, and of course, the putting and chipping greens and driving range to practice and perfect your swing. The mini-games have the potential to make a great party game but you will likely want to have some extra gloves on-hand (no pun intended). It takes a good minute or more to put these things on, so you donít want to be exchanging them after each hole. Mad Catz has just started selling the gloves separately.
My one big complaint with Real World Golf is the toe switch used to confirm menu entries or advance to the next stroke or hole. Once I get my feet planted in the proper stance itís a major pain to tap that button then reposition my feet. I canít believe some sort of hand gesture couldnít have replaced this annoying device.
Another complaint is the short length (6 feet) of cable that either forces me to remove my Xbox from its entertainment cabinet or stand a mere four feet away from my 50Ē TV, which also puts my head about two feet above optimum viewing angle for the screen. Get with it hardware people Ė a 6-foot cord is NOT long enough. Didnít your mom ever tell you to not sit/stand so close to the TV? Fortunately, I was able to dig up my 6-foot extension from my Pelican Sniper Rifle and play golf from a comfortable distance.
Again, Real World Golf is more of a training tool or series of exercises to perfect your stance, posture, and grip on the club. It just gives you a game-like environment to help hide the fact that you are actually learning something.
Being a simulator first and a game second, Real World Golf suffers in presentation and graphics. Itís pretty bad folksÖPS One bad. So if you have to have 360-quality photo-realistic graphics, or fancy Matrix slow motion effects like Links 2004 then stay away from this game.
The game offers a simplistic horizontal scrolling menu that can be cycled by raising your right or left hand then tapping the select button with your toe. Itís the same system used to change your shot direction.
There is an informative and slightly goofy FMV tutorial that works in a picture-in-picture style to accompany the CG graphics in the main screen. Once you hit the links though all bets are off on quality. Despite the progressive scan support the game is loaded with low-res textures, jaggies, and shimmering. The gorgeous manicured fairways and greens of Tiger Wood are now one or two shades of puke green.
Water is acceptable, sand is flat with no bump mapping, and the trees take you back to the days of 2D cardboard cutouts that are propped along the fairway. Again, Real World Golf is all about the gameplay and that is where all of the focus was put while making this game. The graphics are serviceable but wonít win any awards.
The music will probably put you to sleep. Itís the same stuff you are likely to hear at the mall or in an elevator, but then again, I donít really expect a lot of soundtrack options when it comes to golf games. Still, support for custom music would have been a nice feature.
The rest of the sound package is pretty much the sound of golf swings and environmental noises around the various courses. Youíll hear birds, wind, other natural sounds as well as the frequent and repetitive verbal encouragements from the unseen announcer. These comments are not always appropriate to the shot that was just made, and they tend to repeat way too much.
Ten courses will keep you busy for a long time if you plan on mastering them at all the difficulty levels. The practice areas are a great tool for quick driving, chipping, and putting sessions, and the mini-games are extremely entertaining.
Out of the box, there is no easy multiplayer unless you can tolerate the switching of gloves between holes. At least they donít make you change after each stroke. Online options are sorely missed, but at least you can get some extra gloves and treat your friends to some virtual links.
$70 might seem a bit steep for a game that really isnít a game, but compared to a trip to the golf course, a night at the indoor golf range, or a single lesson with a golf pro, Real World Golf is a bargain.
As a potential added value, Mad Catz has already announced a forthcoming baseball game that will make use of the Gametrak to mimic swinging a bat. Assuming the game is sold sans hardware (at least as an option), youíll have some extra use for your Gametrak down the road.
Just to clarify, Real World Golf is a tool, an electronic golf instructor with a game tacked on to let you explore and perfect the various nuances to your personal golf stance and swing. If you go into this game thinking itís the next big golf title you will be sorely disappointed.
What you will get is a valuable instructional tool that can and likely will change the way you play real golf. And even though this is more physical than any other golf game out there, you arenít actually walking, and you donít have to hunt down your ball, and itís always sunny and clear, and if you throw your club after a bad shot, itíll just bounce off the wall.
If you already play golf and want to do better, or are thinking about taking up the sport, Real World Golf is an affordable solution, and with Fatherís Day less than a month away, this could be that perfect gift for any golf-loving dad, assuming you want to share your Xbox with him. Itís also available for PS2.