A Glorious Swing!
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10
You know a little more than a decade ago I remember golf breaking into the gaming scene. Back then Tiger Woods was fast on his way to becoming a worldwide recognizable sports icon, which meant we were going to get a new game franchise thrown our way. Besides the Hotshotz series of games, we had nothing really serious and cool on the consoles… well Mario Golf was definitely one of the better titles out there on the N64.
My first Tiger Woods PGA Tour experience was with the 2004 edition. I was amazed at how gorgeous this game looked running on a ps2, it played like a deeper, realistic version of the famed Hotshotz golf games. Suddenly we had an alternative to the arcade-like golf games on our consoles.
Over the years I found that with each new offering things seemed to improve just barely so it wasn’t worth picking up essentially the same game year after year. I stopped playing the Tiger Woods PGA Tour games simply because of two reasons; a golf game could only offer so much back then (being a rather slower paced sport than most) and secondly, the series was becoming tiresome and most of the newer itirations pretty much offered the exact same experience. The 2004 edition was good enough for me to hold on to.
I kept tabs on the series thanks to some die hard golf friends of mine, but in terms of actually returning to the world of Tiger Woods PGA Tour. I wasn’t even sure if that would be a possibility. I’m going to tell you right up front, I never dreamed of actually loving a golf game. My friends, I love this golf game. This is one of the most rewarding sports title out there and the finest golf game thus far. The reason? Motion Plus.
Imagine everything great about the series and then add a control scheme that creates such an immersive experience that you end up dragging 6 of your buddies who hate golf and golf games to try it out. That’s exactly what I did and we collectively as a group could not believe how much fun could be had with this new iteration on the Wii.
Firstly you’ll notice that the game boasts half a dozen new locations and two new golfers for the fans, a decent selection of golfers can be unlocked through the single player season mode and challenge mode. Courses are earned in similar fashion, however a lot of them are available from the get go. Noteworthy editions on the disc such as the Banff Springs course ( A ps3 and 36- DLC) is already included on the Wii version of the game.
Single player offerings have tons of modes from which you can play, of which the primary one being PGA Season mode, which has you creating a custom character of your choice to take to the greens. Sadly the options in create-a-character felt like a step backward from previous iterations. Gone are the days where you could create goofy misshaped abominations. This time around the parameters have been tweaked as to give you a more humanesque character; its deep enough but no where near as complex as it had once been. Now once you’ve created your character you have some personalized style swings to choose from and plenty of golf related attributes to keep track of. You can then level up these attributes and increase areas such as luck, drive distance, spin and more. I must say over the course of the entire PGA tour (some 50 events) you will grow a lot and end up spending most of your hard earned points tailoring your character.
Now the other main single player option is the FedEx cup, a four event finals session designed for those who don’t want to play the entire PGA Tour. I am very pleased that they included this option since some players won’t have the patience to go for the entire season. Most sports games should include such an alternative.
Lastly you can take on the Challenge mode. This mode is extremely cool and has you play through certain famous moments in the sports history to either recreate that moment or rewrite PGA history; with three difficulties to choose from, you will be playing this one over and over. I loved challenge mode since it takes a simple game of golf and adds creative objectives. It made things more interesting and further opened up the real stars of the PGA and some of its most memorable moments. You are treated to a short video of Tiger himself explaining any back story for his own challenges; a beautiful touch that I wish incorporated all of the other famous golfers into the mix.
If you want to play right away either by yourself or with friends the Play now option lets you dive into any standard game of golf with any number of players, chose the front or back 9 or the full 18 holes.
Now from the main menu the Game Modes options lets you pick up different options and categories of golf games for 1 to 4 players. It divides these categories into Traditional, Arcade, and mini-games.
Traditional houses a total of 9 serious golf modes, everything from skins(player with the lowest score takes the money for that hole), to bloodsome, greensome, match play(each hole is its own contest), stableford (entire structure is based on points earned during each hole) and more.
Arcade mode houses its own brand of fun with 6 available games modes that include elimination, battle golf (surprising twist with each holes winner taking any one of the losers clubs!), one ball (where in you all play with one ball and the one to sink it wins the round!), team one ball, disc golf and rings (precision shots through various rings to earn points). Fun for the hardcore and casuals alike.
The last mode is the Minigames, which includes mini-golf, T I G E R (a variation of horse with a shot for shot competition), targets (hit the targets), capture the flag (zone style capture play) and target to target. Strickly designed for the casual although its not limited to.
If thats not enough then the Online mode will let you take your skills around the world via EA LIVE and from there you have ranked/un-ranked games, daily, weekly, and monthly tournaments to play through, casual and advanced lobbies, to create the most advanced online infrastructure ever imagined on the Nintendo Wii.
See the genius is the EA Live account which logs you into their servers, from there you are free to look for games and actually send chat messages to people you just played or people on your Wii address book. With the click of the 2 button you can navigate this organizer service and then decide to go forth and enjoy all the online game play you can handle. There is a drawback however, while playing online you can’t see your opponent and are only treated with shot tracking and other statistical information such as strokes and running score. This is what they call “simultaneous play” and it sort of makes sense, yet I just really wanted to see my opponent online and his avatar interacting. It’s strange when playing some random person online and only being able to see their shot trails but that is the nature of the game online.
By no means is the online play boring, in fact its interesting and fairly competitive. For your consideration a shot timer is always ticking ensuring that you aren’t left waiting on someone to finish a hole. The online component is designed to make the most of the Wii and it definitely does not disappoint. A minor problem I found was that the lobbies have connection problems, online games however ran smoothly (with good reason) and disconnection during game was very rare. Rounding the list Leader board features further ensures this will be a well visited component.
But if you want to play offline and want to just play the minigames only then a party minigames option is there to satisfy you cravings. It was a bit redundant at first to see minigames in the other game select options and have it as a standalone in the main menu but on closer inspection youll realise these minigames are for multiple wii motes and are structured as a party mode. This mode includes gems like golf cart collector and a game that has you juggling a golf ball with your club. Truly some of the most fun games exist on this mode that will have you battling your buddies for hours.
The Wii Motion plus assisted controls are the real star of this game and the reason to own Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10. Honestly if you don’t have the motion plus GO OUT AND GET ONE! There is little to no doubt in calling the Wii version the better golf game of its console brethren simply because of the accuracy of the motion plus unit. All you need to play this game is the Wiimote and Wii motion plus attachment.
The real core game play deals with you picking one of three types of control styles. All Play, Standard and Advanced. All Play disables any hook or slice you can do (whilst twisting your wrist), shows you the balls flight path and eliminates any of the advanced functionality of the Wii motion plus. If you have never ever ever ever swung a golf club or have no control over your own hands then this mode is for you. It trades the games challenge and innovation for accesibility. Standard is the mode most people will be playing under. With no flight trajectory visual aid your left with an estimate marker of where the ball might land. You have control on fade and draw (slice and hook) just by twisting your wrists. When you’ve struck the ball you can add spin whilst in the air via the D-pad and shaking the Wiimote to achieve the desired curve on landing. Advanced mode removes the later two options and takes out any manual preset spin control and draw/fade tweaking. Absolute control is given to your swing and how you position your wrists when hitting the ball and how you follow through with your swing. It’s note worthy that each of these styles showcases 1:1 motion for the backswing and front follow through making this a very rewarding game to control.
Once on the tee you can use the A button to check your projected landing spot and move it left and right to adjust your aim. When using any club you can view how much percentage of a swing (judged by power and follow through) you require in order to make it to the selected area. Most of the time when you peak at 100% and try to push it farther the game will automatically pick the best club that will give you even more distance, keep going lower and the game will pick a suitable club that will be optimized for the shorter distance. In the end you’re seeing how much power you need to exert to reach your desired marking. To take a swing simply hold the Wiimote facing down and press and hold the B trigger and swing, however if you want a practice shot then hold both A and B and you can see the hypothetical trajectory of your actual swing.
If you do not have the motion plus the game takes into account just the Wiimote accelerometer and how fast you swing, you can still try and curve the ball but these options are handled via games hud and result in what I think is a very scripted game – similar to the first Wii Sports golf offering. I can tell you the game works well without it, but lacks the total control one gets with the accessory. New to this series is an over haul of last years putting, aptly titled precision putting. This option takes your back swing into account and applies your forward swings speed and power. It’s harder and in my opinion more accurate. Lastly putt preview is available with the press of the minus button.
At this point you must be overwhelmed with the sheer depth and variety of the controls, fret not and know that once you begin the game simple tutorial messages will help you pick the best style of controls and then in detail explain them to you via Hank Haney, who is someone Tiger trusts to get his swing just right. It’s a great touch that you can listen to him or read up on the tutorial.
If there is one area where this game is somewhat lacking it has to be with some visual touches that are not up to standards. The animated crowds are somewhat polygonal and enjoyable only at a great distance, up close you can see the blurry and jaggy models and in some cases sprites far off. Some blurry textures sometimes even find their way into some distant trees and building units that make for an ugly site. It’s a sham too since most of the game looks outstanding.
The actual character models are decent and animate as you would expect them to be, with the create a player model looking fairly decent compared to the games all-star cast. There is a good amount of facial animation in regards to shot reactions and small gestural animation to convey the feelings appropriate for each shot. Most of the background elements could use some work since we all know the Wii can create some beautiful visuals.
The courses are different altogether, with lush environments and articulated contours of the land; these are the real stars of the show. The textures on the courses are sharp and most obstacles are modeled very well with tons of foliage around. It’s not the best looking game on Wii but it has its bright points, namely when you pick a course and the sun is out. I find that the bright sun soaked (and cloudy with sunny breaks) weather really showcases the games visuals and pushes these dynamic weather effects to a higher level.
On the opposite end when things are cloudy and rainy for some reason the visuals look very dated. It’s as if the light engine is turned off, any depth of field is disabled and suddenly the environment is dull,not because of the weather, but a whole set of other visual reasons. The rain looks downright awful and most particle effects are such as blowing grass or leaves are from last gen. Trust me I’ve seen more scenic rainy conditions replicated beautifully on other Wii titles. Besides the horrible portrayal of overcast weather things still look pretty decent.
A long over due edition is Dynamic weather, where the game will connect with the Weather Network to replicate accurate live conditions on the famous courses across the globe. That’s insanely cool!
There are no out of this world effects to speak of since the game is carried out in a very controlled environment, but you’ll be happy to see slight water splash backs when raining, sand trap dust bursts, and even where the ball hits the ground the grass getting slightly dented . The small subtle visual cues are nicely done and never break you away from the game’s world.
I’m also glad the visuals did not take the simplified style approach as in Grand Slam Tennis because the game can push realistic visuals fairly well. It’s what the Tiger Woods series is known for and they should keep raising the visual bar as far as I am concerned and not opt out to what we have seen Madden and Grand Slam.
For the most part sound is handled very well, with commentary handled just as it would on a PGA broadcast. The commentators are standard affair, with their pointers and critiques sounding delivered with conviction and humour. It’s all normal until you start playing with other friends and then depending on how each of you are doing the commentators will start picking apart or supporting each character. I’m not sure if this was intentional or not but in our group session one of our friend was getting really lucky with her shots which prompted some vicious commentating when she made a mistake, where as the other friend was playing consistently well and received an appropriate tone via the commentators for the entire play session. It wont blow your mind but some of the things these guys had to say ranged from standard golf banter to out right dissing. This, in a group play session is hilarious to tune into. I never knew golf could be such a ‘playa’ haters sport.
The ambient sound effects are also handled rather well thanks to the Dolby Digital set up. Using Pro-logic II on the Wii things feel just as they would when utilizing surround sound. The ambient noise is perfect and the crowd knows when to cheer and when to shut up.
Now when we are talking about actual in game music, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 has not equal! I know it’s not normal to have a golf game with exceptional music unless it’s a Mario golf game, but the soundtrack ranges from the appropriate almost Celtic vibe tunes to some insane beats. The cool soundtrack covers a wide range of electronic music from ambient electro, to down tempo, to drum and bass. I found myself jamming to the music before each swing and somehow it felt right.
I’ll keep this short since most of the play mechanics and options were already elaborated on. It’s a sports game, the replayability is nearly endless (until next year’s game comes out). The games single player season mode boasts 50 full events and it will take you a full week of hardcore playing or a month of normal play sessions to get to the top. Add in challenge mode that will help you improve your skill while immersing you into the history of golf and you already have a sports title that’s longer than most other games. The sheer number of modes available in traditional and arcade play extend the life span of this title. Add in minigames for those crazy multiplayer sessions and you’ll be amazed at how much fun these silly additions can be (specially the golf cart one) There’s nothing revolutionary but definitely make this game more than just a golf simulator. This game was designed to be played with friends so almost all the modes (except season, challenge and FedEx cup) are multiplayer friendly.
Add to that an online leader board system and ranked matches with daily live tournaments and you’ll be glued to this title for months on end. I have never played a sports title that had so much to offer offline and online. The competitive nature of the sport is translated perfectly through the myriad modes and creates what I will call the best buy for sports games. This is especially evident on the Wii and its inclusion of these Wii specific minigames and multiplayer options that leaves the other platform versions trailing behind.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 is a simple game to get into yet hard to master (much like real golf), it’s innovative, intuitive and a blast to play either single player or multiplayer. The online network is outstanding for a Wii title and with the plethora of modes and game play options you’ll never put this title down- Unless you hate golf in which case why are you even reading this review? This is the most value packed version of the game and worthy of a ton of praise. I honestly believe there is so much to do in this game. It would be just as good of a game without the motion plus, in terms of sheer value for your money, yet thanks to that little gizmo the game play soars above anything on the market as of this review.
Game play 5 / 5
Graphics 3.5 / 5
Sound 4.5 / 5
Replay 5 / 5