It is no secret that Tiger Woods’ name has been in the news a lot lately. Thankfully the folks at EA and Tiburon have kept things strictly professional and moved forward to deliver yet another outstanding game of golf with the latest iteration of his PGA Tour. Year-in and year-out this series continues to be one of the strongest in the stable at EA Sports and this year is no different. While it may not entirely re-write the genre, it does bring enough new features to warrant trading up from last year’s game. Controversy may be surrounding Tiger in all other forms of media, but in the gaming world his name still stands for quality when it comes to this series.
Each year the series always adds one major feature that becomes the bullet point for all the PR for the game. This year the HD versions are getting what is known as True-Aim, and it finally creates the sense of real golfing that neither console has been able to achieve. While we all poke fun at the Wii for inferior graphics, it is hard to argue that the controller lends itself to golf games stupendously. Sure once Sony’s Move and Microsoft’s Natal (or whatever they decide to call it) release Tiger will feel more realistic (yes the support is already built-in), but until then True-Aim does a great job of simulating the experience.
Think of this new feature like removing the training wheels and you get the idea. The first thing you will notice is the removal of several “video game” features such as the camera following the ball down the fairway. This forces you to rely on what you can see to figure out how your shot came out. This mode also removes all indicators for accuracy when taking your shots. Personally I found myself really impressed how well this new mode can simulate the feeling of real golf only using the core two-analog stick setup. It doesn’t feel cheap and frustrating, and remains a solid challenge for anyone who has felt that Tiger has become a bit too much on the arcade side.
Another change to the formula this year is the focus meter. Things such as ball-spin and shot power have always been able to be tweaked, but this year’s game limits them. Focus does not replenish during a shot, and if you run out it is tough luck. This may frustrate more of the casual Tiger fans, but it really does make you earn each and every shot you nail. The amount of focus is determined by your difficulty level, so those playing on easy should have plenty to play with during their tour.
EA Sports has also added The Ryder Cup to its list of features for this year’s game. I like how you can pick and choose who you want on each team, and even mix and match sides with US players on the European side and vice versa, but the problem arises when the roster comes into play. The game simply doesn’t have enough pros to give players options to fill out each team. Everything else about the mode shines though; being able to switch characters each hole and the various game types keep things fun throughout. If they can expand the roster and tweak a few bugs with it, this mode is destined to become a staple to the franchise.
As with most Tiger games upon booting up my disc I headed straight to the character creation tool to create the most outlandish character I could fathom. The game does boast over 25 professional golfers to play as, but only your custom creation can upgrade stats as well as sport a sweet mohawk and pork chop sideburns. From the get go you are introduced to all the new features such as True-Aim and focus mode, as well as the basic mechanics of the game. The tutorial does a great job of showing you the ropes, and will even have newcomers hitting the green in two strokes in no time.
Once you get into the game things quickly become overwhelming. The main menu has so many options I really didn’t know where to begin. The career mode is buried under another menu, and when you hop online the options for diversity are once again plenty. It is nice to have so much content to sift through, but it is also easy to miss great features when your menu structure is just a jumbled mess. Career mode will be your main course, and creating a custom golfer and building up their experience is just as addictive as in past games. My big gripe is that there really isn’t anything that stands out here. It feels very similar to last year, which is fine as the saying goes, if it isn’t broken, but still some new flare would have been appreciated.
As I mentioned online is as robust as the single player with plenty of modes to choose from. Unfortunately also like the main game it hasn’t changed much from last year. All of the same modes return and the only real update is the addition of team play, which fits in with the theme of the Ryder Cup. In our ventures online the lag held up great, which is to be expected for a slow-paced activity such as golf, but appreciated none the less. It is worth noting that if you happen to buy the game used you will need to purchase the online code to access some of the features, but if you picked up a new copy it will always be included.
Visually the game looks great, much like it does every year. Character models are eerily realistic and some new animations and effects have been added this year to create one of the best looking games currently available. I love how detailed the created characters can be, especially when you import your own face into the game. It is somewhat creepy to see myself running around the course with a mullet, but hey that is what video games are best at. Commentary is handled well by Scott Van Pelt and Kelly Tillman. Their accuracy of the events is sometimes uncanny. I do not like having to give my created character a nickname as the fans want to belt it out on the course constantly. Everything else sounds great and continues the theme of excellent presentation outside of the menu system.
It is hard to imagine that EA Sports continues to improve Tiger Woods PGA Tour each year enough to warrant investing $60 all over again, but they do. This year’s game is probably not the most innovative when it comes to features, but the addition of True-Aim and the Ryder Cup more than justify shelling out the dough once again. If you are a fan you likely already bought the game, but if you are still on the fence for whatever reason fear not. This year’s game continues the tradition of upping the ante just enough to make any other golf game seem obsolete.
Review copy provided by publisher.