Tiger’s secret- drivers bigger than his head.
Every year, Electronic Arts struggles to offer enough innovation in their franchise games so that players will plunk down their cash on the latest title. Most will remember the ‘Quarterback Cone’ feature of Madden NFL ’06, which greatly increased the difficulty of completing passes. The gimmick was an ill-fated attempt at offering a substantive feature beyond the typical roster update. Luckily, golf lends itself slightly better to an annual game; a developer can add courses to easily change the look and play of the game. To ensure profitability and avoid the wrath of critics, EA usually changes at least one additional core gameplay element to Tiger Woods every year.
2003 saw the introduction of the analog swing, which used the stick to simulate a golf swing, while 2005 brought us ‘Tiger Proofing’- the ability to gently alter existing holes. Last year’s game included the ability to save and send golf clips to other Tiger Woods players as well as the ability to map our own faces onto in-game golfers. This year’s innovation is the integration of Hank Haney, Tiger’s personal coach. We wonder why Haney wasn’t included earlier- his drills and assistance genuinely improve a player’s performance in a realistic manner. The coach will track and drill the player through four areas: power, accuracy, short game, and putting. While a player’s skill should naturally increase through play, Haney’s guidance and drills offered an engaging reprieve from the tension of tournament play.
With every hole, there’s a GamerNet Challenge.
‘Club tuning’ brings an attractive risk/reward system into the game. Players now have the ability to add more power to a club by adjusting the size of the ‘sweet spot’- the area on the face of a club that determines the accuracy of the hit. However, adding more power will negatively affect player precision- and visa versa. If you are having a hard time hitting the ball straight down the fairway, you can increase your accuracy at the sake of distance. If players continually shank the ball to the right; your clubs can now be tuned to compensate for that habit. Gamers will be returning to the tuner regularly as they obtain each new set of clubs.
TWPT 2009 offers a slight graphical improvement over its predecessor. Last year’s post-shot reaction animations occasionally lacked fluidity, while this year no such choppiness is present. 2009’s color scheme is marginally oriented toward brighter colors, a tweak we appreciated. During hole fly-bys we noticed a slight bit of chop in the PS3 game that was not present in the 360 title. Online multiplayer has been improved through the use of simultaneous play, which greatly speeds matches. Now when you have finished a hole; the player may go to the scorecard, or observe (and vex) your fellow duffers. For players that prefer the three click input method, found in the Hot Shots Golf series, EA has included this alternate system. Players merely need to press in the right analog stick to toggle modes.
Stellen Skarsgard explains golf to Jude Law.
In an era of user-created content, we wonder why Tiger Woods hasn’t introduced a course creation feature. Next-gen systems can easily handle the required geometric processing; even the ‘Tiger Proofing” of 2005 allowed a bit of user flexibility. The lack of any hole altering features is a serious omission. Although EA has added five new courses, Bay Hill, Gary Player Country Club, Sheshan, Wentworth, and Wolf Creek, the number of courses remains set at 16.
While hardcore fans of the series will be picking this title up upon release, we recommend Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2009 only to fans that haven’t played the franchise since 2007. This year’s edition corrects some of the qualms we had with last year’s game (unforgiving analog control and a lack of any graphical representation of how the ball was hit), but lacks enough truly compelling innovation to warrant a $60 purchase. As it stands, the coaching, tweaks, and new courses are welcome, but don’t cover the current MSRP. We suggest waiting for the inevitable price drop, after all, tycoon Tiger probably won’t miss the revenue.
Final Grade: A-
Tiger readies for the ‘throw the controller at the wall’ drill.