Here’s one man’s opinion: Nintendo Wii, as a gaming system, was meant for golf. I would have bought the thing if it was called the Nintendo Golf Simulator back when it was released. Nintendo keeps releasing non-golf games for it, yet I just wait for one game every August.
Tiger Woods 07, released in mid-March 2007, was a pretty good first crack at motion-based golf on the Wii. Then Tiger Woods 08 came out in late August 2007, less than half a year after the first Wii version.
I purchased it and found it to be an okay, albeit marginal, upgrade from the previous one but it didn’t feel much different, the putting took a step backward (if you ask me), and there still was no online multiplayer.
I knew that going in and I made my peace with it because I knew that this year – this year – would be the year that Tiger Woods on the Wii really started hauling ass. So with plenty of time to really get in there and mix it up, Tiger Woods 09 has finally shipped. I’ve been waiting for this version for a long, long time. Let’s take a look.
There’s finally online multiplayer and it works really well. The simultaneous shot mode present in online play is a great idea that allows up to four people to play 18 holes in a reasonable amount of time without being forced to watch everyone else’s shots.
The party game mode is fun to play with other people who don’t have the patience for a full round and the new All-Play swing system lets beginners pick up the game pretty easily. Finally, the menus are easier to navigate this year and Hank Haney is a solid, if somewhat gimmicky, addition to the franchise.
The putting system is atrocious. Absolutely atrocious. I’m really confused as to why EA has made this feature worse and worse every year. I felt a pit in my stomach as I played through my first 18 holes because the putting system was ruining the entire game. We’ve put up with wonky chipping and short-iron play through the first two versions and I would have been able to begrudgingly dismiss it one more year except that the putting has now gotten so bad that it ruins the game.
Case in point; on advanced swing mode, you now have to eyeball every putt. No preview, no putting line, no nothing. The grid on the putting green does little to help you discern where your putt’s going to end up, though. It’s a leap of faith every time.
There is a putt preview feature if you use standard swing mode, but it’s different from last year’s version. Last year, you had a putt preview timer that allowed you to basically take a practice putt (or two or three). If you used up your putt preview timer before the end of your round, you had to eyeball it for the remaining holes. Some would argue that it made putting too easy.
Whatever the case, this year you have a putt preview that you can use once per putt. You basically line up your putt and hit the putt preview, which will show you your putting line. If the line leads straight to the hole, great, putt away. If not, you’ll need to exit the preview and readjust your putt. You’ll have already used up your putt preview, though, so you’ll have to trust yourself.
So you end up not sinking as many super-long putts like you may have last year, but – BUT! – it’s up close where the putting system really starts to fall apart. For some reason, EA chose to treat ten foot putts to a ten foot power gauge. So what would naturally seem like a nice, easy, soft tap-in now requires a full-bore swing just to get to the hole. You will, I promise you, miss putt after putt after putt. The short ones, especially. I miss putts in this game that I’d make in real life. That’s just wrong.
This 1-to-1 natural swing feature is all hype. Watch this video here starring a couple of the game developers. At the 1:17 mark, the guy says “What that’s gonna do in Tiger this year is really gonna let you to place the ball where you want it on the course.” Insanity. The partial swings are as broken in Tiger Woods 09 as they were in 08 and 07. Nothing has changed. You’ll try to play a half-swing and you’ll hit it at 80% to 90% power instead of 50%. These partial shots have never, ever worked on the Wii and they still don’t, despite EA’s claims.
The Super Ugly
Guess what feature EA’s left off of all the marketing materials for the Tiger Woods franchise? They dumped Gary McCord and David Feherty as announcers and replaced them with – ready for this? – The Golf Channel’s Kelly Tilghman and Sam Torrance. All the same dialogue from the previous games are there, except now Tilghman’s a comedian and Torrance sounds like a Scottish version of Robert on Everybody Loves Raymond (except not funny). Whether you liked McCord and Feherty or not, those two at least made the game seem realistic and they offered some funny one-liners every now and again. Tilghman and Torrance are just as bad, if not worse, as the decision to do radio style broadcasting for Madden 08 last year. It’s really awful.
If you already have Tiger Woods 07 or 08 on the Wii and you don’t care about playing online or All Play or the party mode mini-games, save your money. If you really, really, really want to play online but don’t care about five- or six-putting every hole after you’ve launched a 30-foot chip over the green two or three times, then go ahead and pick this one up. If EA can patch the putting, you could get by with this game. If they patch the chipping, it’d be a no-brainer. They’re not going to patch Tilghman and Torrance, though, so just get ready to turn that portion of the audio off right away.
All in all, a disappointing return after a year of development.