Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09
- Spit and polish to last year’s impressive features
- Tiger’s coach helps teach you how to play better
- AI can set you up with impossible shots when giving you a chance to improve your skill
If you play golf, there are a number of secondary objectives that you are required to complete before you can call yourself a golfer. The first is to be able to fluently quote Caddyshack and, to a lesser extent, Happy Gilmore. The second is to become intimately familiar with all the ways you can make money off of your fellow players while on the course. Finally, you need to play the yearly installment of EA’s Tiger Woods franchise. (Note: developing actual skill at playing golf is a bonus, not a requirement) Though this year’s installment of Tiger Woods only adds a couple of new features, it adds a significant amount of polishing over last year’s effort.
“Be the ball”
This feature worked disturbingly well last yearLet’s talk about Photo Game Face. Photo Game Face is a feature that they added last year that lets you take mug shots of yourself and the system makes a golfer that looks just like you…at least from the neck up. This feature worked disturbingly well last year. My wife was blown away by the results and she’s a tough cookie when it comes to video games. I used the same pictures this year and the results were not so hot. Now, once the picture is imported you have to tell the system where your features are by plotting dots on the screen. It’s very possible that I did something differently this time around. It is a ten minute process for it to churn out a result and I wasn’t willing to try again at my first sitting. I just checked the official message boards and it seems I’m not the only one who has noticed a difference.
“Cinderella story. Outta nowhere…”
So, what’s actually new this time? First of all, there was a definite trend this year with the EA Sports games adding mechanics that teach you to how to be a better player. Madden revisits your flubbed plays and shows you what you should have done instead. NHL 09 players will be evaluated on their performance by their coach in the Be a Pro mode. Tiger Woods 09 has added Hank Haney, Tiger’s actual coach, who will watch your game and pick out shots that you messed up on and allow you to replay them for a skill bonus. He will choose one shot for each of the four attributes: power, accuracy, short game and putting. You will be asked to hit the ball inside a given circular area for a bump to your skill then you will have a time limit to hit as many balls as you can into the same area for bonus points as the target circle moves and/or shrinks. I had one issue with this so far. I had a shot where my ball ended up half-buried in a sand trap about 150+ yards out from the hole. One of the short-game drills I received was to take that same shot and put the ball a few feet from the cup. That was an impossible task with any club/shot combo. A few others have reported similar issues in the official forum where they were giving an impossible task and had to skip the drill.
What goes up must come down, the higher your skill the more costly your mistakes will beThe skill system has also changed. Like Madden this year, the skills in Tiger are dynamic. If you play consistently well they will go up. What goes up must come down, the higher your skill the more costly your mistakes will be. We’ve got some new courses this year such as Wolf Creek, Gary Player Country Club, and Bay Hill to name a few. Nowhere I’ve ever played but there’s no real shock there. Old favorites like St. Andrews and Pebble Beach make a return, totaling sixteen courses in all. More are promised via DLC later.
“He’s on his final hole. He’s about 455 yards away, he’s gonna hit about a 2 iron I think.”
If you look at the list of new features and are disappointed, don’t be. Many existing features got a complete overhaul which makes this game a worthwhile upgrade. For example, tuning your clubs got much easier in this version. The interface has been updated and has become a lot easier to use, even for novices. The online GamerNet challenges have been integrated tighter with the rest of the game. When you play a hole and there’s a GamerNet record online you will see it on the course. Say you are teeing off and there are GamerNet records for the hole you will see a long drive record pointer off in the distance (including who set it and how much it is worth to beat it). On your next shot you’ll see a “closest to the pin” target around the hole with similar info. That’s a really nice addition because it gives you something to shoot for as you are playing.
Another nice addition is for simultaneous online play. When playing online, you used to have to wait your turn. Now, you all play at the same time with your competitors represented as colored lines showing the path of their balls when they hit. This change should do a lot to speed up online play. I know when I try the same thing in real life things tend to move faster.
The Tiger Challenge received a facelift this time out. Gone is the complex hex-grid from the last game. In its place is a sequential set of cards, each representing a pro. Each card has nine challenges worth a varying number of points. To challenge a pro or open up the next card you have to do the challenges to earn the required points. This is also how you open up new courses, gear (some of which can boost your stats) and golfers.
The Wii version (subtitled “All-Play”) includes motion swinging and adds a party game mode since apparently its illegal to make a Wii game that doesn’t have party games. The Wii version does not have GamerNet records but it does have simultaneous play online. There are also PS2 and PSP versions of Tiger.
“I have to learn to think like an animal. And, whenever possible, to look like one.”
Oh, and yes, you can still hit people in the crowd with the ball. Yes, in the groin.The graphics are really nice this year. I was playing the computer and they hit the ball so that it rolled up to the cup. The view switched to a very cinematic camera with a nice view of the ocean at sunset behind the flag and the ball rolling in from off-screen. Oh, and yes, you can still hit people in the crowd with the ball. Yes, in the groin. You have a lot of options when customizing your golfer. You can even purchase new animations for celebrations and tantrums. The sounds are very good too, appropriately environmental with birds chirping and such. The commentary is as good as can be expected for a game like this…you’ll hear the same comments eventually. However, they’ve been appropriate to what’s been going on on-screen so far.
“It’s in the hole!”
Tiger may not be your favorite golfer…you may not even have a favorite golfer…but he makes for one heck of a game. I’ve you’ve contemplated trying out a video golf game in the past, this might just be the year to give it a try. The graphics are nice, the game-play is fun and Tiger’s coach is there to give you lessons. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think Caddyshack is on cable.
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