Platforms: PS2, Xbox, PC, PSP - PS2 version reviewed.
There has always been a gulf between the British and American attitudes to sports games (and let’s not mention the Japanese attitude – all cutesy, cartoon graphics and oddball bonus prizes). The US likes things slick and showbiz; rock soundtracks, fast-paced editing, big stars and branding, simplified simulation gameplay. We like all those things too, but we tend to think of them as the icing on the cake, not the essence of the cake itself. That’s why you’d never get a British developer doing something like FIFA Street, and why the team at Codemasters comes up with games like TOCA, not games like Need for Speed.
Now apply those processes to golf. On the US side, we get Tiger Woods 2006, with its signature Dave Matthews Band anthem, intuitive controls and those bizarre multiple split-second replays that accompany every killer shot, as if whacking a ball with a five-iron was the sporting equivalent of a Jean Claude Van-Damme high-kick. Now imagine a British equivalent. It takes a no-nonsense approach, avoiding a pounding rock score in favour of a cheerful little jingle every time you approach a new hole, and giving those clichéd replays a miss too. It offers subdued commentary, slightly plain camera work and realistic sound effects, and eschews all the scene-setting, crowd cheering, player saluting stuff you get in Tiger Woods. And most of all, it’s an attempt to get back to the basics of golf; the hands-on feel of the game that many hundreds of thousands of Brits play every Sunday morning. The game in question would be much like ProStroke Golf.
In fact, one of the great pleasures of ProStroke Golf for us Brits is that it couldn’t be more British if it tried. Commentary comes courtesy of the familiar dulcet tones of the BBC’s Sam Torrance and Radio 5’s Alan Green, with Ian Baker Finch to provide US players with some sort of reference point, and it’s full of the sort of light, softly-critical banter we’ve come to know and love. It also offers an extremely Brit-friendly line-up of pros to play with – including Justin Rose, Colin Montgomery and Ian Woosnam – not to mention a few well-known Euro types, like Sergio Garcia and Thomas Bjorn. And if Montie seems a little trimmer than in real life, and the in-game Woosie bears a slightly disturbing resemblance to a Pringle-clad Jabba the Hut, who cares? The overall result couldn’t be more homely if you met your slightly rotund rivals in the 19th hole after play.