Review: ProStroke Golf: World Tour 2007

ProStroke Golf: World Tour 2007Platform: PSP
Publisher: Oxygen Interactive
Developer: Gusto Games
Release Date: 3/08/07
Genre: Sports – Golf
Players: 1-4

When it released last year on the PC, PS2 and Xbox, Oxygen Interactive’s ProStroke Golf: World Tour 2007 breathed some new life into a genre stuck in its ways with a unique first-person swing view and in-depth ProStroke control system. Now driving the portable links of the PSP, ProStroke Golf once again delivers a hefty golfing simulation loaded with impressive depth and realism that will leave the hardcore crowd in golf game heaven. At the same time though, casual gamers will likely be instantly turned off by the stiff challenge and steep learning curve at hand, and unfortunately for both audiences there are a few too many technical shortcomings blocking the game’s path to true greatness.

Picking up right where the PC and console versions left off, ProStroke Golf offers the same mode and content selection on the PSP. You’ve got your quick play option for diving right into the action, match and stroke play rounds, tournaments, a handy training mode (which you will most certainly need to spend some time with), a comprehensive course creation tool and the obligatory sports game career mode – in addition to Ad-hoc wireless support for playing and sharing created courses with up to three other players (no online functionality is a shame though). The career mode will suck up most of your time here, as you build a created golfer from novice to seasoned professional by winning tournaments and completing challenges to earn prize money and build renown, translating into a rise up the tour money list and invites to the major events. It’s pretty basic, but it has an RPG-like progression to it that is reasonably rewarding and long-lasting.

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The selection of modes may not knock your socks off, but if you’re a serious golf fan the gameplay will almost assuredly put an ear-to-ear smile on your face. In adapting ProStroke to the PSP, Gusto Games has removed the first-person swing view and analog stick swing mechanics of the home versions in favor of a dual shoulder button-based swing system, and the results are surprisingly solid. Holding down the R shoulder button begins the backswing and builds up the swing meter to the desired power percentage, at which point you must then hold down the L shoulder to begin the downswing, letting go with the proper timing to determine shot accuracy.

These basics are enough to get by, however there’s much more here to learn if you take the time to do so. To snap your wrists and put some extra muscle into a swing you can continue to hold down the R button even after you’ve begun the downswing, but in doing so the “sweet spot” shrinks the longer R is depressed and thusly the chances of hitting the ball straight diminish. There are also many ways to alter the spin and trajectory of your ball. In prepping to swing, you can adjust your weight distribution, clubface angle, ball position and stance to effectively hit any type of shot you wish, and by turning on the Shot Shaper, a special guideline that displays the expected shot trajectory based on the status of the above parameters, you can judge how the ball will travel upon a clean strike. Figuring out how to utilize these features to shape your shots does require a severe learning curve though, and even once the controls become comfortable the game is still very difficult to play consistently well. But hey, real golf is fickle even for good players, so it’s only accurate that a golf simulation follows suit.

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As much as the simulation gameplay succeeds in ProStroke Golf, the game’s faulty technical makeup unfortunately drags the overall package down a notch. Graphically, the 18 courses (only two are real) are rendered in reasonable detail, as are the models for the 8 included pro golfers – Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Thomas Bjorn, Colin Montgomerie, Ian Woosnam, Ben Curtis, Mark O’Meara and Zhang Lian-Wei. But sadly some nasty aliasing and bland colors and textures present the game in an ugly light. Likewise, the audio production falls short. The commentary, performed by Sam Torrance, Alan Green and Ian Baker-Finch, sounds lifeless and unnatural, and the loops for crowd noise and environmental ambiance stop and start so abruptly it becomes distracting – it all just has a buggy, unfinished sound to it.

I am also disappointed that more wasn’t done to optimize the game for portable play. Load times, while not horrifically long, do become noticeable over the course of a round, and the inability to skip through the pre-shot animations of a CPU opponent really slows down the pace of play. Another on-the-go option I wish was implemented was a mid-round save function. Given that it takes at least an hour to play a single 18-hole match, this isn’t the greatest of games for the pick-up-and-play mentality of portable gaming. The simple ability to pause the game and save round progress would’ve gone a long way towards remedying this.
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Despite audio bugs and all-around lackluster presentation and technical performance, ProStroke Golf: World Tour 2007 provides an engaging and rewarding game of virtual golf if you put the time and effort into exploring its wealth of features. The complex control scheme and high difficulty limit the game from appealing to a broad audience, especially with more mainstream franchise names like Hot Shots and Tiger Woods already offering more casual friendly PSP experiences, but for the hardcore golfing enthusiast ProStroke Golf edges out the competition with its depth and realism.

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!