April 23, 2007 - It's Tiger's world, boss. We just work here. When it comes to golf, and golf games for that matter, there's one undisputed No. 1 player in the world: Tiger Woods. But that doesn't mean we don't cheer for the underdogs, exciting young players like Sergio Garcia.
It's somewhat appropriate that Garcia fronts the cover of ProStroke Golf: World Tour 2007. Garcia certainly has potential and shows flashes of greatness, but still fails to overtake Tiger when it counts. Also, he tends to spit in the cup. As such, he pales in comparison to the overall game that Tiger displays. Such is the case with ProStroke.
In ProStroke's defense, the developers are not trying to make a power-button, spin-button, arcade-golf shoot-em up. They want to create the most realistic game on the market. In doing so, ProStroke allows you to control everything from feet position, wrist position, club face position and on down the list. The only thing you can't do is sexually harass the beer-cart girl.
This game needs a turbo boost.
While the console version of ProStroke used a nifty "first-person" view so you can look down on the ball, the PSP version is scaled back to a traditional third-person view. Where it differs from Tiger is in the swing mechanic. Instead of the nub, you hold R to begin the backswing. When you get to the desired power percentage, you hold L to begin the downswing, and then release at zero percent to hit the sweet spot. Where ProStroke shows a bit more finesse then Tiger is in the power department. For a power swing, continue to hold R as you begin the downswing. The target area for the sweet spot will shrink, and you'll have to hit it stiff or else you'll end up in the bush. This adds an element of risk/reward that we don't see too often in the Tiger series.
You can shoot around par if you master this basic hitting system, but you'll need to use the more advanced controls to really master the game. This is where a knowledge of golf will help. For instance, play the ball slightly forward in your stance off the drive. Put some backspin on approach shots to stick it to the green. You can hit the O button to see exactly what effect your changes in body and ball position will make. For newcomers to the game, an excellent tutorial will teach you the basics that developer Gusto hopes that could serve as a virtual swing coach in a way and teach you how to golf -- punch shots, flops, fades, draws, etc.
The putting system works fairly well. Reading the green is especially important with a grid ripped straight from Tiger. While most of the greens are simple and flatter than my fifth-grade girlfriend, others will make you want to hit a lob wedge off the green. Once you line up the shot, simply hold R and let go at the correct power percentage to start sinking putts.
While the control helps ProStroke to be more of a golf sim than other titles, it still is missing the elements that make golf videogaming fun. The graphics, sound, options and gameplay are fine, but they each lack that intangible oomph, that something extra to make ProStroke stand out. Think of it this way: a good game of Tiger is like watching the Masters on Sunday. A good game of ProStroke is like watching any USGA event on a Wednesday. Yawn.
Visually, ProStroke leaves a lot to be desired. The textures are very rough and a well-manicured green may as well be a stretch of asphalt covered in paint. There's really no way to tell you're playing on grass. The swing animations when opponents step into the box don't look real at all, not even those of some of the licensed golfers in the game like Garcia and Colin Montgomerie.
Yes, Monty and Garcia and Ben Curtis and Justin Rose and Mark O'Meara and a smattering of other real world golfers made it into ProStroke, but only two licensed courses you may have never heard of are in the game: The Brabazon at The Belfry and Lake Nona. The rest are fictional courses without much personality. Although they are modeled after real courses, I'm sure, if you are going to do a fictional course you may as well have some fun with it.
Sam Torrance, Ian Baker Finch and Alan Green do an adequate job in the broadcast booth, but the relatively dry commentary makes me feel like I'm watching a random Friday on the senior women's tour -- not too much excitement here. Then again, that's the nature of golf commentary and the team doesn't stray far from what you hear on a typical broadcast. Personally, I would prefer a bit more drama and excitement. The music was stolen from a corporate elevator company somewhere in Iowa.
In the single-player career mode, you create a golfer, although the options are not very deep in terms of clothing options and player models. Game Face this is not. Basically, you play random event after random event, earning renown points for hitting greens in two on par fives, etc. etc. There are a lot of dates on the calendar, but no fun training events or nothing else to do besides get in a tourney and play. This is fine, but we golfers always want more.
There is network play for up to four players, which is a nice touch. There is a course designer, but it's very difficult to use. Once you get the hang of the awkward controls, you'll probably be left with a 700 yard downhill hole surrounded by trees without a green. But at least you can test the hole before saving.
ProStroke Golf is a game for golfers thanks to the advanced control options. But the controls aren't enough to separate it from the rest of the passable golf games on the market, and the mediocre visuals and presentation don't help ProStroke's cause very much. However, the gameplay is solid and realistic, and a clear departure from the direction of Hot Shots and Tiger Woods PGA Tour. ProStroke is a decent purchase and a true challenge in shot-shaping. It's too bad there wasn't more focus on fun.