John Daly’s Pro Stroke Golf Review
When EA announced that they’d be patching Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 to include support for Sony’s new Move peripheral, few expected things to turn out as badly as it did. However, it certainly boded well for the developers of John Daly’s ProStroke Golf, who – having built their game engine specifically to support Move – were immediately the clear favourites to snaffle the motion golf crown that Tiger won by default. As we’ve been learning by way of EA Sports’ relatively regular reminders though, a true simulation of a sport needs more than just the on-pitch, or in this case, on-course action to be up to snuff.
And it’s the off-course action that really lets John Daly’s ProStroke Golf down. If you’re using the Move controller – and let’s face it, you probably are – the menus are incredibly difficult to navigate, thanks to the sensitivity of the cursor, and even though shortcut buttons are shown, there seems to be some weird context-sensitivity going on, as they don’t always seem to work. On top of that, some strange game design decisions have been taken, the most glaring example being that of having to complete three 9-hole challenges against John Daly, before you can play any single-player tournament in career mode. Yep, before you get to tee off against a full field of golfers, you’ll need to out-drive, out-put and, erm…out-approach…Daly himself. This would be fine, but even when you’ve got the game running on the easiest possible difficulty setting, a single sliced shot into the water when driving, or a slightly over-zealous swing on an approach essentially causes you to have to start the entire challenge again, since Daly never makes such mistakes, and your aggregate distance to or from the pin across the nine holes is what is counted. So, when you shank one into the sand on the fifth hole, you’re 150 yards behind the big man, with no hope of making up that yardage on the four remaining drives.
On your first attempt at unlocking a tournament in this manner though, some true golden moments shine through. The utterly beautiful representation of putting and the ease of shot selection being two of them. When you’re on the green and holding the flatstick, you really have to think about how your putt is going to play out, before remembering that – as Chubbs from Happy Gilmore would have it – it’s all in the hips. If you try to flick the ball with your wrist when using one of the medium to high-level difficulty settings, you’ll be in trouble. Only proper putting form will help, and when you’ve judged the break to perfection and your shot drops in from a distance, you’ll be punching the air like you’ve just won The Masters. With regards to shot selection, you need only press a single button on the Motion Controller, then pull the trigger button and point and drag the target to where you want to hit the ball. Being picky, this could have done with being a little less sensitive, or having a “Fine Tune” button as is found in Hustle Kings, but in its current state, it’s perfectly usable and a hundred times better than the way EA chose to do things.
In general though, whether you’re swinging for the fences from the tee, or trying a cheeky little chip shot onto the green, ProStroke Golf is severely lacking in the amount of feedback it gives you. I’m no professional golfer, and my handicap is probably in the hundreds, so I’ve got no idea as to why my shots are slicing away every other time, on a difficulty setting that is supposed to be hyper-assisted. In addition, when there’s no wind, I have a perfect fairway lie, and am told that I need to hit the ball at 35% power in order to land it near the cup, why does the shot nearly always come up far, far too short, as if I’d actually hit it with 10% power when – if anything – I’ve over-hit it and pushed the club head through the ball too quickly? With a lot of guesswork here and there, you can start to hammer out some of the nastier habits with your swing and – again, this is coming from a non-golfer – I would say that the level of sensitivity available when you do bravely switch into Tour Pro mode would be enough to truly help you with your golf game. It’s just crying out for even something as simple as a textual hint, to let you know exactly what you’re doing wrong. Even better, why can the game not break the swing down in replay mode, telling you what you’re doing wrong at each point? How about some swing correction targets to aim for – such as not slicing the ball for an entire round – with each one helping to improve your game? The ideas are available, but nobody seems to have gone far enough to find them, and the release timing suggests that it’s because the game was targeted for Move launch day, and missed.
As mentioned earlier, for every swing you make that feels just right, there’s something else going on in-game that feels plain wrong. From the lackluster commentary to the last-gen quality graphics, to the strange (and ultimately boring) career mode structure, there is an awful lot to improve on in next year’s edition which, according to a recent developer diary, is most definitely on the cards. First and foremost on their list, should be the physics of the ball itself once the swing is over and the ball is out of your control. More often than not, the little white sphere will fly through the air smoothly, only to roll unconvincingly all the way through a bunker, disappear altogether, or stop dead on a concrete path which should have pinged it back up into the air. This, as you can imagine, can play havoc with your short game, as you can often clip the ball onto the edge of the green in order to get it to roll through, only for it to stop as if it’s just run into a wall.
The simple fact is that when you’re standing and addressing the ball, John Daly’s ProStroke Golf is ultimately a very, very decent attempt at replicating the dynamics of golf and the physicality of the swing. There’s just so much missing from the entire package, so many missed steps to contend with and so much that generally just hasn’t been thought out properly, that most of the good work is erased from memory pretty quickly. Next year’s effort will hopefully reflect the experience that the development team has picked up in putting together this first title, and “Long John” Daly can have a decent crack at the motion golfing top spot, even if Tiger’s next attempt is done properly.
Review contributed by: Ken Barnes