Version tested: PlayStation 2
The Gametrak peripheral first saw the light of day a couple of years ago. In case, you haven't heard of it, it's nothing more than a small USB-cabled box of tricks which allows it to theoretically translate your physical moves into on-screen action. It was originally released with two games: Dark Wind - a competent yet average fighting game, and the more popular Real World Golf - of which this is the sequel. Though considering we never got round to covering either the peripheral or the games here at Eurogamer HQ, I'm sure you won't mind if we go a little in-depth with the overall package.
Actually, you'll forgive us if we've neglected the Gametrak device for so long. I mean, for all intents and purposes, it screams 'Position No. 7' in your average website's Top 10 Wackiest Console Peripherals. Just look at it. Deceptively innocuous until the second you realise you actually have to strap on a pair of fingerless gloves, pull up those two bright orange wires and attach them to your hands. Curtains closed, all thoughts of Wii-style freedom curtailed as you become the Gametrak puppet ready to dance, dance to their tune.
Indignity aside, once you've locked yourself in, it's actually alright. Due to the retractable nature of the wires, you do get a constant tugging sensation from the gloves, but it's nothing to feel uncomfortable about unless you're as weak as a flu-ridden kitten.
Anyway, Real World Golf 2007 loaded. An attached foot pedal acts as a button to make selections. But how do you cycle through the menu? Left or right. The joypad doesn't work. Can you guess? That's right: you raise your arm in the air like a swotty schoolkid, lifting your limb aloft to inform the teacher about oxbow lake formation (it's also how you adjust your aim incidentally). And, sure, it's a little ridiculous at first, and they could have maybe splashed out on something a little less cumbersome, but it could be worse. Especially when you realise that to view an overhead flyover of the course you have to raise both hands and lean forward like Frankenstein's monster on a ski slope. OK, enough with the incredulous italics. That's all the absurdity we can wring out of the thing. Honestly, any awkwardness you'll feel soon levels out to a minimum.
A comprehensive video tutorial eases you into the golfing world gently, outlining the stance and club grip you'll need to take before letting you loose in the wild. From there your main game options are either to play 9 or 18 holes on a single course using a variety of rules, or take part in a four-round tournament (limited, again, to a single course). A few other options like pitch-and-putt and a driving range, plus a few uninspired mini-games round up the package. There are 15 courses in all (including the De Vere Belfry and a bunch of made-up ones), but some need to be unlocked. In a less than subtle nod to the 360's Achievements, you earn golden pins and gain access to features and courses by fulfilling certain tasks, e.g. scoring your first eagle, driving a certain distance, etc. It would have been nice to have seen all the courses at the start, but the 'Quick 9 Holes' mode at least hops from course to course as a kind of preview of things to come.
But enough about that. Tell us about the swinging, I hear you cry. And what can I say? It works. To an extent. The game purports to actually help with your real life golf swing. And while there's not enough evidence to attest if such a claim is spurious or not, it does work as a useful analysis tool: a new-for-2007 Swing Trainer mode allows you to visualise your technique and iron out the kinks. It may not replace a trip to the links, but at the very least, it's a good, responsive aid to practice building that muscle memory.
Come in expecting to replicate a full, draw-back, hip-swivelling golf swing, however, and you'll find yourself over-egging the pudding more than a little. For obvious reasons, you're passing a short, lightweight plastic golf club through thin air, and not thwacking a sturdy metal pole into the path of a small white sphere. Hence, the weight difference makes you play differently. For starters, there's no need for so much follow-through. The ratio between the power in your shot and your avatar's favours a shorter, sharper swing on your part, meaning once you've passed over the sensor, you're pretty much done. It's also a case that the wires restrict your momentum and too much enthusiasm threatens to snag them (though the box is stable enough overall). So, whereas a real driving shot would necessitate raising the club right back over the shoulder, the Gametrak lets you hit even the most powerful shot from only halfway up a swing provided you put some oomph into it. I was constantly banging out full-on shots in such a way, gaining a physics-defying power reading of 108% (pedantically impossible, I know).
On the other end of the scale, short shots just don't quite have the physical feel they should. Chipping onto the green from, say, 20 yards requires a relatively gentle but sturdy swing, but a weak real-life shot is interpreted on-screen far more powerfully. All too often you'll find a feather-light stroke pitches the ball into the air as if it was pumped full of helium.
And again, putting, though perfectly fine close to the flag, can feel a little incongruous from a distance because, to get any chance at getting to the hole you have to whack it as if you were driving. It's more a problem of having to use the same system for different club techniques than anything else, I suppose.
It's all slightly unfair nitpicking, but if you insist on calling your game Real World Golf, you're going to take some stick when it doesn't measure up to the real thing. If you play it as a videogame rather than getting caught up in the realism, however, the Gametrak translates your movement information to the screen in as satisfactorily consistent a manner as it can. Take it on its own terms and it's more birdie than bogey.
It's just a shame that the actual game itself is less attractive than Pat Butcher reading out ITV1's winter schedule in the buff. It lags way behind EA's spit-and-polish Tiger Woods series, for sure. The Peter Alliss commentary might lend it an air of professionalism, but his lines are sparse and repeated far too often. It would also have been nice to have some variety or leniency in the tournaments. Even on the easiest level, unless you're constantly hitting under par, it's hard to claw your way up from the bottom of the leaderboard (thankfully, you can take as many practice shots as you'd like), making playing the same course four times in a row something of a low-morale chore no matter if you can save and leave at any time.
And I failed to see any significant difference in hitting the ball between the three levels of difficulty. I've replaced enough divots in my time to know I shouldn't be achieving so many clean, fairway shots, but even the professional level saw me doing so. Indeed, I seemed to be slicing more when my attention wandered rather than general amateurishness. Is that real-life knocking? I'm not too sure.
Real World Golf 2007 is a game that makes you feel good about your golf swing. That you're knocking these cracking, powerful shots onto the green sure encourages you to play out your Ryder Cup wish-fulfilment. And although it's built around this concept, the more you play, the less the challenge becomes about your swing. Instead, it's about choosing the right angle, considering the lay of the land and judging the distance. That the execution of all this is a physical thing ensures that it's all a lot of fun. It's hardly the best golf game overall, but it's at its best when it requires you to drive the ball 270 yards down the fairway and you're making those actual motions in real life - that's what's great. The Wii's plethora of golfing games potentially threaten to steal its thunder pretty soon, but if it gets the time and budget to scrub up in time for the next iteration, it could actually be a true contender for the top.
7 / 10