Of all the technological mountains that video games try to conquer, realism seems the most popular, the most insurmountable and, too often, the most pointless.
Quite why painstakingly translating real-world atoms and physics into virtual pixels and engines should make a game any more fun is a mystery to those among us who actually quite like quirky characters, with their super-wide eyes and preposterous relationship with gravity that enables us to do the impossible.
Nevertheless, many games continue to boast with puffed chests that they closest mimic real life in looks and behaviour.
ProStroke Golf 2007 is one such title, claiming to be the 'most faithful adaptation of the world's most challenging sport'. It's a bold declaration (in more than one way) but one that the game's humourless presentation, rudimentary character options, functional visuals and often-cruel difficulty curve quickly reiterate.
Indeed, when sat beside the PSP's other two high-profile golf titles – the massively stylised and brilliantly fun Everybody's Golf and the slickly accessibile Tiger Woods – PSG seems a little too much like hard work for all but the greatest golf aficionados. That said, the least-handicapped latter might well choose to iron out its kinks (so to speak), such is the depth of simulation available here.
Developer Gusto Games has sought to carve this niche in gritty-realism by engineering a new way of taking the shots.
In orthodox golf video games, you select a club and angle the shot before perhaps momentarily switching to an overhead view of the current course to check a well-struck ball's predicted trajectory. Then you hit the X button once to trigger the start of the swing, a second time to confirm the strength of the shot and, finally, a third time to secure its accuracy.
ProStroke Golf follows the set-up phase by rote but aims for revolution by mixing up the button inputs when it comes to hitting the ball. Here the R-trigger begins the back swing, setting off a power meter which slides up from 0 per cent to 100 per cent strength. Hitting the L-trigger then freezes the meter while, lastly, releasing the L-trigger at the right moment secures its accuracy. It's also possible to add extra power to shots by transferring weight to the front foot before the backswing is complete.
Of course, in essence the system is only a mildly evolved version of the one we're used to but, nevertheless, the co-ordination required to hit a shot well takes a little while to settle into. Even when you have the desired muscle memory, just a small mistake with the slippery accuracy gauge will only thud the ball a few sorry feet. And just as soon as you're hitting more shots than you're missing the game's next tier of complexity reveals itself, as ball position, golfer stance and club face all play a big part in shot outcomes.
By leaning your golfer left, right, forward and backwards with the analogue stick during set-up, you can provide various subtle shot modifiers. These include lowering the trajectory, drawing, fading, adding loft, roll or punch and all manner of other golfing terms that rival game approximations have so far failed to properly familiarise (or burden) us with.
The system allows for an astonishing level of control, and it feels possible to play pretty much any shot you can think of. However, these depths just won't be accessible to many players and often seem a little out of place on a handheld. Of course, it's possible to get by without utilising all of the microcosmic features, but when the developer has seemingly compromised on aesthetics to focus on these details, it's a bit of a waste to ignore them.
A stock career mode based around five seasons of tournaments and challenges forms the core of the game's scenario content, with quick play, tournament and single round options fleshing out these bones. As there's no online option, multiplay is limited to local wireless mode, which leaves a powerful but often cumbersome course editor as the only unusual extra curio to play with.
ProStroke Golf 2007 is a little rough around the edges and, in truth, we prefer the more light-hearted, primary-coloured fun of Sony's Everybody's Golf. However there's no denying that there will be players for whom a realistic golf game that embraces golf geek sensibilities is very welcome.
The game's depth provides potentially greater rewards to the most committed player and, as the game never pretends to be anything other than a serious golf sim, it's hard to knock its dedication.