Take a sport like golf, simplify it into a couple of button presses or an analog movement or two, and suddenly everyone thinks theyíre Tiger Woods, or at least Fred Couples wearing a plumberís outfit. Golf has been translated so well that everyone thinks they can hit 300 off the tee after playing a month of video game golf, when reality finds them shooting 120.
Real World Golfís unique Gametrak brings everyone back down to earth, adding physical skill back into a formula, providing a solid challenge for those who like to hit the links, while offering a learning and training experience for duffers like me who bring our coolers full of beer to the course a couple of times a year.
Golf peripherals have been around since the days of the Genesis, but the Gametrak provides the most accurate and realistic feedback of anything youíve seen outside of an indoor driving range for a very reasonable price. Essentially, the Gametrak is a box that plugs into your PS2ís USB port. Also included is pair of gloves that plug into the Gametrak, as well as a pedal which allows you to select menu items as needed.
Once youíve connected everything and youíre standing in front of the device with your hands up, youíll see the shock cord-like cables that come out of the Gametrak. The game comes with a plastic ďminiature golf clubĒ for you to swing around so that you donít destroy anything and actually have something to grip. As youíre picturing all of this, keep in mind that this is not a good thing to have around small children or animals, as they can run into the cables and get tangled up pretty quickly.
The Gametrak can detect arm, hand, and wrist movements on multiple planes, allowing RWG to detect slices, hooks, and the velocity of your swing. RWG can even recognize whether if youíre trying to clip the ball with the top or bottom of the club. Setting up the game requires you to select a character model (thereís a limited selection, plus a couple you can open), punch in your initials and choose whether youíre a righty or lefty. To calibrate Gametrak, you stand in front of the device and put your hands on your head. If youíre out of position, RWG will snap at you until you get it right.
Before you jump into the game, RWG has a nice little training mode that teaches beginners how to play the game and allows more experienced players to get used to the game. Short video tutorials accompany each lesson, teaching you how to grip it and rip it. Once youíre through training, you can hop into the driving range, practice your approach shots, do a little putting, and then youíre ready to hit the course.
Real World Golf plays across ten different golf courses, each with a different look and feel, but all modeled after European-style courses. There are no licensed courses, so you wonít be playing Pebble Beach or Oak Hill in RWG, though the courses are varied enough to provide a good challenge. You can tackle these courses in single rounds, match play, and championship play. As you bust your way through each one, youíll open up more courses and characters.
Real World Golf certainly isnít about the audio-visual experience. I canít think of any current-generation golf game that Real World Golf beats in terms of graphics and sound. The closest thing I can compare it to is the arcade version of Golden Tee. Thankfully, it doesnít detract from the gameplay, which is clearly RWGís primary focus.
Playing Real World Golf is much like playing 18 holes in one of those fancy indoor simulators that retail for $15,000 on EBay, except that itís $14,930 cheaper, in your living room, and with a fridge of beer mere steps away. As a duffer, I play a few times a year, and having recently bought a new set of clubs, I know how bad my swing is.
Real World Golf mimicked it in near-perfect fashion, including my tendency to hook irons and top my woods. Just get into a stance in front of the Gametrak, grab hold of your goofy-looking plastic mini-club and swing. Based on your swing, the game will determine how well youíve made contact with the ball, as well as your swingís power. As I mentioned previously, the Gametrak can also detect different nuances in the swing, such as digging under the ball to create backspin. Take a goofy swing, and you might even miss the ball or shank it. Very realistic.
If you need to change direction of your shot, just raise one of your hands and your golfer will rotate. While the game will usually select the best club for the shot, switching up your club forces you to pause the game by hitting the pedal, then using the same raised hands technique to select your club. It wouldíve been nice to have a quicker way to do it, but the Gametrak makes do.
The only problem I have with the gameplay is that the Gametrak sometimes doesnít realize when Iím in a golf stance. When I swing, the game occasionally doesnít recognize it, or starts my backswing off short. As long as youíre careful, these things will rarely affect your RWG game, and if you realize your swing is not being recorded properly, just hit the pedal. Itís a minor annoyance, but considering this is a $70 game-and-peripheral, you likely wonít mind.
Real World Golf has several difficulty levels which allow for a level of forgiveness that makes it less frustrating for a player like me by giving my clubs a larger sweet spot, though it penalizes at the same time by holding back yardage. As you ramp up the difficulty level, the sweet spot on the club becomes significantly smaller, making for a much better chance of shanking and topping your shots, but you can become Daly-esque with your shot yardage.
After many rounds of Real World Golf, it was time to take it to the real course to find out if RWG actually made my game better; in terms of stance and of keeping my arms straight and my grip regular, it definitely did. It really helped with the basics, and while Iím not advanced enough to know if it improved intricacies in my game, it can certainly serve as a good learning tool for beginners, as well as a way to keep advanced players fresh. Obviously, thereís nothing like the feeling of being out on the course, striking the ball, then looking for it in the woods, but RWG is an excellent substitute.
Aside from the graphics, there were a few other minor issues I had with RWG, the biggest being some issues for left-handed golfers. While the game supports lefties, the player is forced to watch a right-handed player golf, which is disconcerting if youíre like me and you position the Gametrak so that youíre swinging toward the television. Is it a hook? Is it a slice? Iím really surprised they werenít able to just mirror the golf and display, which is something they will definitely need to improve upon in future versions.
The putting of the game is very so-so. Anyone who tries to tackle it straight on will frequently miss, and it will rarely feel as though itís due to a lack of skill. The practice option before each putt is extremely helpful in terms of gauging distance, but youíll still mess up frequently early on. Itís tough putting with a plastic mini-club that looks like a 5-iron.
Multiplayer support is included but really feels like a throw-in. Unless you have four sets of gloves (additional pairs should be available in stores), youíre forced to pass around a pair of sweaty gloves after each and every hole. Thereís a party mode, which is fun for one in terms of training games, but really isnít much of a party. Perhaps it would be better if there are multiple Gametraks or some extra gloves, but unless you have a lot of room, it seems like a mess for anything more than two players.
Aside from these minor issues, what youíve got here is a solid single-player golfing simulator. Ultimately, itís a fun toy for the basement for someone who is interested in golf, not to mention that it could achieve some tremendous potential should somebody choose to pimp it out with a projector system. You could even get away with real clubs if you want; just make sure you have a lot of space, and be extra careful not to chip your Gametrak into a wall, or put divots in the carpet. Itís a great little training tool for the casual golfer, while advanced golfers will find it a fun toy to keep them loose and limber. The $70 asking price might look steep, but compared to what a golfer pays on the course every weekend, the game is a steal.