If there is one franchise in the EA Sports stable that manages to impress year-in and year-out, it is easily Tiger Woods PGA Tour. I will be the first to admit, golf is not really one of my favorite videogame sports, and before this iteration it had been a while since I took a tour of the Back 9. However, once I booted up Tiger 10 and got myself back into the groove, I was hooked. The sheer amount of things you can do within the game, and the pristine level of play control combine to create an experience that truly is unrivaled in the genre. The focus this time around feels more like refinement than innovation. There are a few new modes to check out, and the online options have been fleshed out making this another must-own entry in the series.
Tiger Woods 10 is all about immersing yourself into the experience. From the live weather to the Play the Pros mode, this game aims to deliver a unique experience nearly every time you play. When I first booted up the game I decided to play a quick round of 18 holes to warm up. The swing mechanics haven’t changed much, but they are still unrivaled by any other title. You can opt for the analog swing mechanic, or simply click the stick in for the classic three-click control. Putting spin on the ball is as simple as tapping a button and spinning the analog stick, and everything feels so intuitive thanks to the spot-on controls.
As in previous games you start off the career by creating your own character with the in-depth creation tools. You can still scan your face in using the Vision camera or PSEye, and it does a nice job of capturing your features. The amount of customization that can be done is uncanny, as we all remember Tiger Woods was one of the first games to implement Game Face, which allows for some amazing facial reconstruction. You also have the option to purchase new threads for your digital avatar that enhance their skills. These are purchased through the online store with real money, and are great for players who are looking to improve their skills without putting in the time. Once again this is controversial as it is essentially paying for cheat codes, but like always you don’t have to partake in it, it is entirely optional.
Also returning to this year’s game is Hank Haney, your in-game coach that will test your skills through what has been dubbed Dynamic Skill. Each different aspect of the game is tested here, and it bases your skill points depending on how you fare on each one. These can of course be upgraded through the course of your career, but it is also handy to know which areas you suffer at, so you can work harder at improving them as you play. Hank will always be there to remind you when you are suffering by taking away points for having a rough game. He will also suggest you practice specific holes in order to become better at them. This type of in-game tutorial works wonders for someone who might not be grasping the game as well, plus it really will improve your overall game.
One of the cooler additions to this year’s game is the real-time weather updates via collaboration with the Weather Channel. What this boils down to is that any course you are playing on, you can implement the current weather conditions from that course in real time. This works fantastically, and makes for an interesting game when playing in inclement weather. Wind will really affect your shots, and trying to bounce or spin balls in torrential downpours will really test your skills. This isn’t exactly a new feature for fans of other EA Sports titles, as it has been implemented before in previous games, but adding it to the realm of golf adds a new layer of immersion that this year’s outing seems to focus on.
The rest of the modes are pretty standard, but there are a few standouts that really make this game a must-have for golf aficionados. For the first time ever you can now participate in the US Open (the Super Bowl of golf) at the Bethpage Black course. There is no doubt that winning this tournament in the game is a challenge, as the course is considered by most to be one of the most challenging courses in all of golf. Also new to the game this year is precision putting. Much like the analog swinging mechanic found in the driving game, this new feature allows you to sink putts with more precision than in the past. This really changes the short game, and I found myself much more comfortable with it, once I came to grips with the mechanics.
Other noteworthy features include the Tournament Challenge mode, which lets you relive historic moments from the past, but with the ability to finally change the outcome. The online modes are really what will keep players coming back for months to come. In addition to traditional online play, you can also participate in daily and weekly tournaments with other players. For instance you can attempt to outperform a player on a specific hole and take over their spot on the leaderboards. Be forewarned though, the online competition is fierce, and unless you shelled out the case for some drive-increasing pants, you will be hard pressed to take down the leaders anytime soon. This dynamic online structure only has room to grow though, and we hope to see more new player friendly challenges down the road.
Visually the game looks fantastic. Character models are gorgeous, weather effects are nicely done, and the courses are modeled with such detail, that you almost need an HDTV to fully appreciate it. The menu system seems more refined this year, and the frame rate remains fairly solid throughout. Tiger is a great looking game, but outside of a few minor additions in lighting and details the game hasn’t changed much since its inception on Xbox 360. We are still awaiting the engine to get the graphical upgrade it deserves, but until then there really is nothing to complain about, as the game is still stunning.
The audio rides a fairly different train as it fluctuates from mediocre to alright. The commentary grows stale and the crowd noise can be off-putting at times. The effects themselves are done well enough that you won’t find much to contest, but they still sound like last year’s efforts, which will likely go unnoticed by most players. The game still sounds fantastic, especially when played through a proper set of headphones, or a great sound system.
Tiger Woods 10 is the definitive golf experience once again this year. There are enough improvements to keep returning players intrigued for months, and newcomers will really have a blast with the Dynamic Skill and tutorial options. If you haven’t picked up the clubs in a while, do not hesitate to give Tiger’s latest a whirl. The game has been honed to near perfection since its inception on the next generation consoles, and this new version is by far the best entry yet. Let’s hope the daily and weekly challenges become more and more diverse, and that we get even more options for course through DLC during the next twelve months.