IGN Review of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08
When the Nintendo DS launched back in November 2004, Electronic Arts was right there at the debut of the system with a dual screen version of its Tiger Woods series. The game was clearly rushed through development - the original Tiger Woods had a lot of first generation blues: bland visuals, short feature list, and arguably poor use of the touch screen for the various ways to swing at the ball. EA put Tiger on vacation for the next couple of years, and boy did that off-season rest help: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 on the DS may not have the same oomph in presentation as the console iterations, but the leap it made from the original launch title concept is huge. Better visuals, tons of features and options, far more complete use of the touch screen. And yes, fantastic focus on the multiplayer aspect.
For the second take on EA's Tiger Woods series on the Nintendo DS, the publisher pretty much scrapped everything about the original launch title. This is a game that tosses out everything from the original, right down to the development team. Exient, the studio responsible for nearly every one of Electronic Arts' quality DS sports titles like Madden and FIFA Soccer, has been put to the task of applying its handheld expertise in the sport of golf. The result is a golf game that might not look as hot as current or even last generation console versions, but as an on-the-go edition of the series it's a fine rendition that offers all the needed fun and challenge.
It's hard to point out the biggest change in this sequel because, obviously, everything's been changed. The DS swing mechanic, originally a clunky "trace the line" idea in the first game, has been reworked to feel more natural, much like the "pull back, flick forward" of the analog stick on the consoles
which is pretty much an evolution of the Golden Tee Golf trackball mechanism. On the touch screen, you'll use the stylus to slide the clubhead back towards the 33/66/100 percent power marks, and then flick as firmly as you can. Skew off to the left or right when flicking forward and you'll fade or draw as softly or sharply in relation to how much off-center it was. The speed of the flick is also calculated into the power as well, so even if you pull back to 100 percent if you didn't flick hard enough it'll weaken the swing.
Tiger Woods 08 DS was made to be played exclusively with the stylus, so all the necessities like club selection and aiming on the fairway are handled intelligently via on-screen control. But this is the DS we're talking about, and the developers use that upper screen pretty darn smartly as well so that players can get a clear view of their aim and shot with two different camera perspective.
This is all handled by a visual engine that pushes 3D to both screens. Both screens show fully dynamic views of the action running at 30 frames per second. The trade-off is, obviously, the game might not look as good as it could have if the developer simply pushed all of its 3D resources onto one screen -- the grass textures get pretty blocky, and you'll notice a bit of texture tearing if the camera gets too low on the terrain. But at the same time the game lacks that sometimes harsh contrast of overly detailed 2D and ugly compromising 3D of some games by sharing the same style across both screens. Overall, even with the hardware limitations, the game does a decent job of portraying the eight varying 18-hole courses (including Pebble Beach, St. Andrews, and TPC Sawgrass) as well as the smooth golfer motion captured animations.
And even though the game may focus on the touch-screen play right up front, the developers haven't forgotten about the traditionalist gamers who might prefer the more basic timing-based click control mechanics of other golf games. You know the type: tap the button to start the swing, tap it again to set the power, and a final tap for accuracy. That's in here. By default you've got the "natural" touch swing, but poking around the options menu you can toggle between that and the traditional click swing. It's a welcome addition simply because both control styles have something to offer, and many gamers prefer the old-school swing mechanic to the updated stylus flicking one. Which ever control mechanism you choose, you can still control the entire game using the touch screen, but using the click-swing you can hold the DS without the stylus and play the classic button way. The development team really gave us a lot of options here, and we armchair golfers are much appreciative.
Much of the core Tiger Woods gaming components are here in the Nintendo DS edition as well. Just want to hit a course? You can do it. Want to practice a single hole? Not a problem. Want to play some fun little mini-games based around all the gameplay mechanics like driving, chipping, and putting? You got it. Want to take your skills on the road in a scheduled PGA Tour career, complete with calendar to select the particular venues? Here you go. And yes, you can create your own character's look and customize his abilities with earned funds from the single player challenges.
But like most console to DS ports, it lacks that professional polish of the console game with slight oversights or issues due to cartridge limitations. You'll find little holes in the presentation - like, for example, having the ability to select individual holes of a course, but the inability to see what those holes look like from the selection screen. Or the lack of the color commentary that console versions have been taking for granted for years. Or abrupt sound samples that really don't fit the situation. You also can't abort a swing in motion if you're using the two or three-click control, nor can you choose to putt if you're not sitting on the green.
That doesn't mean the game was shoddily developed, and it definitely doesn't feel rushed. This is evident in the game's well-produced and highly recommended multiplayer options: not only can you play Tiger Woods via local play in various challenges against three other players who own a copy of the game, you can do so in its full-featured Download Play option where only one copy is needed - the trade-off is longer loadtimes and the inability to use custom golfers. And then there's Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection - even though the game just shipped as of this writing, we managed to get in a few holes in against random opponents using its extensive custom game creator and locator. It also works in the Friends Code system, so as long as both you and your buddies enter in each other's 12-digit codes, it'll almost be like playing them if they were sitting right next to you. No chat options, unfortunately, but maybe that's a feature for 2009.
©2007-08-28, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved