IGN Review of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09
Golf, perhaps more than any other sport, is a perfect fit for videogames. Anyone who has picked up a club in reality knows the guaranteed frustration that is soon to follow. Thus a virtual adaptation is likely a suitable substitute for most. The only game in town this year is yet again Tiger Woods PGA Tour. While it won't blow anyone away with a new feature or visuals, the list of modes has enough new faces to turn a few heads. With the same tight golf backing it all up, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 marks yet another championship season for the long-running series.
The first thing that players will notice when they boot up Tiger Woods 09 is that Tiger's coach, Hank Haney is in the game. While it sounds enticing, it's actually a shame that this is the introduction that everyone must bear before sinking their teeth into what Tiger 09 has to offer.
Haney delivers some of the worst voice acting I've heard in a long while -- in sports games or otherwise. His advice is fairly non-descript, providing no sort of analysis as you take your introductory swings. Haney does do an admirable job of highlighting bad shots from a previous round and making you practice them, something that could have felt like an afterthought if done poorly. He'll grade you on four attributes and then you're off to start your career.
As you'd expect, the same player creation tool is hard at work and brings all of the nuances and details that you've become accustomed to. The Pro Shop allows you to further tinker with your golfer's appearance by adding gloves, hats and other attribute-boosting apparel. None of the character customization options (Photo GameFace included) are different from what we've seen in years past, but they're here and are as good as ever.
The phrase "it's the same" is one that will echo throughout this review, likely because so much of the Tiger 09 package has been seen before. That's not necessarily a bad thing as the PGA Tour Season features everything that it should with lots of tournaments, a few different locales and the full FedEx Cup well represented.
Tiger Challenge, another meaty gameplay mode, is back with ten golfers (nine separate challenges each as well as a nine-hole playoff) that increase in difficulty as you work your way up to the 18-hole match against Tiger himself. The challenges are simple enough and range from playing all the Par 3s on a course to playing Bingo-Bango-Bongo across three holes. None are all that adventurous or fun, but it's neat to see your attributes meld based on your play.
Probably the largest addition to Tiger 09 is the way your attributes actually do change based on how you're playing rather than how you've arranged yellow balls in a chart is much more true to the sport. There were moments when aspects of my game would drag a bit because I'd forget that I needed to constantly strive to hit the ball within three feet rather than five to ensure that my short game continued to improve. It'd be nice if the game could recognize situations or realize that I was simply relying on my pristine putting ability to bail me out.
There are two other additions that are sure to please the many diehard golfers out there. The first is the real-time feedback meter, found in the lower-left corner of the screen. It basically tracks the course that your club takes on the backswing and follow-through. There's no more "this game sucks because my swing was perfect" when you shank a ball. Now you can see exactly what you did wrong. It's small, but wonderful.
The next newcomer is the club tuner. This allows players to go onto a driving range, hit balls and then change the workability, power, and spin tendencies of each club, all at the expense of the crucial sweet spot. The smaller it gets, the tougher it'll be to crank a perfectly straight shot. Mr. Haney will chime in and give you an A-F rating based on the shots you've hit, letting you know if you should keep your new settings or trash 'em. It's a great addition that golf fans and Tiger fans alike should really appreciate.
The online world has seen the sensible addition of simultaneous play, but only for stroke play. It's designed to shorten the length of a round and succeeds with flying colors. Playing with four players takes somewhere in the neighborhood of an hour; considerably shorter than it was last year.
The GamerNet experience has also seen some refinement and is built into the core gameplay more seamlessly. Now each hole can have a GamerNet challenge pulled straight from the Internet. It might be a long ball challenge or it could be closest to the pin. Toss in the same clip posting ability that we saw in Tiger 08 and what you have is a feature that makes the game feel like you're playing it in an arcade, something that's foreign for the console versions of Tiger. It's a great use of the connectivity that online services provide and other sports franchises should certainly take note.
It's just a bummer that all of the aforementioned golf takes place with a new duo in the commentary booth. Gone are the coy and savvy McCord and Faherty, replaced by the disconnected Kelly Tillman and Sam Torrance. They hurt the presentation element of the game pretty significantly; luckily the golf is solid enough to pick up the slack.
Visually, Tiger Woods has seen improvements in some areas, but still needs work in others. The player models -- Tiger not withstanding -- could be a bit sharper. They're probably hurt by the fact that Tiger looks so good, but they should be brought up to that same level. There are also inconsistencies within the environment. While the new water detail looks great, when contrasted against a lower resolution rock face in a course like Wolf Creek it can look out of place.
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