Real World Golf REVIEW

Real World Golf Review (Xbox)

There are definitely some unique aspects to being a 30-something gamer in today’s world. Unlike my school days of Atari 2600 and Nintendo or my college run with Sega Genesis, my gaming today is not done around my neighborhood pals or drunk dorm buddies, instead it’s done in my home. My home that I share with my wife, who is neither a gamer or drunk enough to join in. I remember the look on her face the first time she strolled into my “gaming area” while I was playing Xbox Live. I’m not sure if the look was confusion, pity, or fear over the fact that she chose to reproduce with the guy sitting in the chair with the headset on.

After awhile she came to accept the XBL look. She even got great joy over walking up next to me while I was playing, pantomiming the rolling down of a window, and proceeding to bark out, “Hi… can I get a Big Mac, small fry, and an Ice Tea?”

I’d smile and nod my head giving her that reaction she was looking for. She’d eventually wander off and wait for the call from Saturday Night Live.

I pushed the envelope again when I brought home “Guitar Hero” earlier this year. The looks of distain quickly moved into comments like, “Sweetie… Daddy will take you to the park after he finishes getting the band back together, Man.”

Needless to say, my stomach sank a little when Real World Golf arrived. See, if you’re not aware, Real World Golf comes with a little something called Gametrak. Gametrak is a controller. A controller that allows, well actually, requires you to take a real golf swing in order to play the game. Before I even broke the wrap on the box to start the set-up, I could already hear the jokes.

The Gametrak peripheral itself is both basic and impressive at the same time. Most people who have experienced a golf simulator have used pieces of technology that cost thousands and thousands of dollars. The whole Real World Golf/Gametrak bundle retails for less than $70. The system has a base unit that sits on the ground and tethers you to it with these long wires that are connected to gloves. An interesting look for sure, but a functional one. The resistance and movement of your hands is what creates the feedback necessary to simulate your swing on screen. You basically address the Gametrak as you would the ball on the course.

Knowing that empty hands would not do the trick, they also included a small plastic golf club to work with. It’s certainly nice to have the club for the purpose of getting your hands in the right place. However, the club is not only short, but very light, which will likely affect your natural swing. If you have a room high enough to swing a real club, more power to you, but my suggestion would be to add a little weight to the provided club.

The way that the Gametrak actually analyzes your swing is, to say the least, impressive. It factors in far more than simply the speed of the swing and how straight you kept your wrists, it actually does a pretty fair job in situations where you top the ball (my biggest Achilles’ heal) or showing instances where you chunk one. The analysis is actually performed in real time so you can watch your virtual self on screen and see where there are flaws in your swing. If you open up your wrists after you address the ball, you can actually see the face open up.

Once you’ve managed to take a shot, the information returned to you is quite impressive as well. After each shot, you’ll get solid feedback on your swing path, your contact, and, perhaps most importantly, swing effort. While it does seem to be a little to easy to over-muscle a swing, it actually works as a nice tool to your real game, since, in my opinion, golf is so much about “muscle memory” and replicating the same swing and effort in the correct situation. Once you find a solid tempo, the game will open up and you’ll be able to move to higher more challenging difficulties.

Moving up to the higher difficulties is imperative because, one area where the Gametrak doesn’t necessarily translate well is putting. On the lower levels, it won’t take long at all for you to get putting down to a science. I’d love to see them find way to address the difference in a normal swing and a putt with more accuracy. I’m sure most of the amateur Duffers out there would love a more complete putting engine to play and practice with. It’s like they say, “Drive for Show – Putt for Dough.”

As much as I can rave about the Gametrak unit, the game of Real World Golf does leave a little to be desired. It’s not a bad game, it’s just that the golf genre on consoles has improved so dramatically over the last three years, that the game itself seems a little bland.

Real World Golf features 10 courses to choose while utilizing the various modes of play. There’s a driving range to hone your skills. You’ll find tournaments, match play, and even skins. You can play a quick round by yourself, with friends or against the AI. In fact, in brilliant stroke of forethought, the Developers were smart enough to allow you to play out your hole in full during multi-player games, instead of the constant hooking and unhooking of the controller between each shot. Great thinking. You will also find some pretty fun mini-games in the Party Mode, which can be very addictive and fun to play, especially with buddies.

Where they could have shaved off a couple strokes (and where it didn’t stack up to the competition) is the lack of real PGA licensing, real professionals, a Career Mode, left-handed golfers, and, of course, Xbox Live capabilities. I know that seems like asking a lot for a rookie release when we should just be satisfied with the slick controller, but I’m spoiled. I don’t need all of those things, but I need a little more than I got.

The in-game graphics are average at best. The environments and player models look pretty basic. The courses are somewhat plain and do not present a lot of visual impressiveness that we’ve come to expect. No caddies. No galleries. It’s just you and your clubs on a great big open course. That being said, to watch the golfers in motion is impressive. The movement and reaction to the Gametrak is smooth and very responsive.

The audio in the game scores a bogie as well. The commentary is repetitive, the soundtrack is somewhat pointless, and even the in-game sounds are underdone. Fortunately, none of those things really detract from the experience. When I’m golfing, I’m trying to block out the noise anyway.

Scoring Real World Golf ended up being on of the more difficult numbers I’ve ever had to calculate. The Gametrak controller may be the most impressive peripheral on the market, especially at the current price point. While the game itself lacks in some of the levels we’ve come to expect from console golf games. However, having the opportunity to swing the sticks all year round is very appealing.

While it certainly is not a replacement for getting out on the course, nor will you learn the same valuable lessons that you would from a Golf Pro, it is real enough to call Real World Golf, well, real and, more importantly, fun.

“Hey, Tiger! Dinner is ready.”

Coming, Honey. I’m coming.

Real World Golf Score
out of 10