Short Version: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 with the Wii MotionPlus accessory is the closest you can get to a true golf simulation for $60. The already-great series gets a nice boost this year with true one-to-one motion sensing, addictive online play, and a bevy of other new features that easily justify the purchase.
Long Version: There’s nothing worse than shelling out for a new title in a sports series year after year, only to find that the “new” game you’re playing hasn’t changed much at all from the previous year. It’s my opinion that last year’s Tiger Woods game actually took a step backwards from the year before, due in large part to its cumbersome putting system and duller-than-dull audio commentary. We finally got online multiplayer in Tiger Woods ’09 for the Wii, but I felt that it didn’t bring much else to the table.
Well another year has passed (actually, not even a whole year — Tiger Woods ’09 came out last fall) and I’m happy to report that Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 has really turned into a phenomenal golf game. There’s still room for improvement, but this year’s version has few, if any, glaring faults. Certainly none big enough to keep you from buying the game.
Let’s run down a big list of features, shall we?
In-game graphics haven’t changed all that much from last year or the year before, at least not noticeably. There’s still a somewhat cartoony look to all the players and you’re not going to get advanced shading and high-definition textures like you’d see on the PS3 or Xbox 360, but this year does finally add gallery crowds. It’s a nice addition even though the people in the crowd are mostly static onlookers with a little movement here and there.
The 27 included real-life golf courses are rendered well and should be easily recognizable to any golf fan, and weather conditions play a bigger role in this year’s offering with especially nice-looking rain effects. All in all, the in-game graphics look pretty good but nothing really appears to have been overhauled.
Menu graphics, on the other hand, have taken a step forward, with big icons and animated backgrounds making up an intuitive interface. It seems simple and uncluttered, even though there are plenty of menus and submenus.
Again, not a whole lot has changed. In-game sound effects are familiar, although some whispering and shushing from the new gallery spectators has been added.
The broadcast commentary has made a fair-to-middling improvement, with Kelly Tilghmann back in the booth alongside ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt, who replaces the almost-depressing Sam Torrance from last year’s game.
Van Pelt offers up some mildly funny to downright mediocre one-liners that seem as though they didn’t make the cut for an episode of Sports Center. I can’t really describe the experience other than at first being like “Oh wow, Scott Van Pelt does the voice work on this game — nice!” and then once you hear it, you’re like “Oh wow, Scott Van Pelt is much, much, much more entertaining on TV.”
To make matters worse, some of the audio is just plain off. Van Pelt will say “Looks like this putt’s gonna break right, Kelly” even though the green grid and putt preview show it breaking left. There’s also been a few instances where I’ve left a twenty foot putt a good five feet short and Tilghmann has said something along the lines of “Now that is a wonderful putt.”
At least this year, though, you don’t need to turn the commentary off. If I could offer some advice to EA for next year, take a note from MLB 2K9. It’s got some nice, natural commentary that makes it seem like you’re watching an actual baseball game. With this year’s Tiger, I still don’t feel like I’m watching golf on TV quite yet.
Hands down, the best thing about this year’s game. There’s no reason you shouldn’t purchase the $60 bundle with the MotionPlus add-on over the standalone version of the game. Wii MotionPlus and Tiger Woods golf go together like peanut butter and bananas. Or chocolate. Or jelly.
Want to take a 50% swing? Pull the club back halfway. Three-quarter shot? Take it back to just above your shoulder. Fades and draws finally work reliably, approach shots are easy to execute, and putting — my God, the putting. It’s finally phenomenal.
The new “Precision Putting” feature works just like your real putter. I find myself visualizing a ten-foot putt in my living room, swinging as though I’m putting a golf ball from my feet to my TV, and watching the ball in the game go ten feet. EA has done a wonderful job — total redemption from last year’s putting interface.
The one shortcoming of the in-game swing mechanic is that, compared to hitting a good golf shot in real-life, everything in the game still has to be exagerrated somewhat. You’re still going to have to swing a bit harder to hit a shot at 100% in the game, whereas on a real-life tee box you’d want to take a nice, easy backswing followed by a nice, smooth followthrough. When you swing nice and controlled in the game, you’ll often find that it’ll result in around 80 to 90 percent worth of shot power. Not a deal-breaker by any means, but it’s there.
Chipping, flop shots, and pitching are all way, way, way improved this year. It’s much easier to hit partial swings accurately. It’s quite a difference.
Online Play, Dynamic Weather
There are two classes of gamers: those who like online multiplayer and those who like to play alone. I fall squarely into the second camp, except that I’m addicted to online play in Tiger Woods 10. Why? Because you can play online, alone.
Aside from playing true multiplayer matches just like last year, you can now participate in daily and weekly tournaments where you find yourself playing an 18-hole round against everybody else. Lowest score for that daily or four-day weekly tournament wins.
Even better, you can play against all the pros in real-time as they play in major tournaments. As long as the course is in the game, you can play along and see your score on the in-game leaderboard against all the pros in the field.
Wait, it gets better.
There are also real-time weather conditions pulled down from the Wii Forecast Channel. So for instance, yesterday (June 18th, 2009) it was raining like hell on the US Open, which was being played on the Bethpage Black Course in the New York area (play actually got suspended in real life).
So I fire up Tiger Woods 10 yesterday, hop online, and it’s raining like hell in the game. The greens are slow, the leaders are only one under par, and I’m fighting for my life to avoid double-bogeying holes since the conditions are so awful.
Dynamic weather extends to the offline version of the game, too. I put in a little time on my career golfer today and while playing TPC Sawgrass, it started raining — just like it actually did in Ponte Vedra, Florida yesterday. Really cool stuff.
Career Mode is similar to years’ past. You start out trying to make it on the tour, adding skill points and upgrading to better equipment, winning sponsorships, and that kind of stuff. You can also jump right into the FedEx Cup, which is a four tournament elimination-style playoff.
The career mini-games also make an appearence this year, although they’re much more straightforward and subdued from years’ past. Instead of challenging golfers head on, you try to repeat great moments in real-life tournaments. So you’ll have a scenario like “Tiger Woods birdied all the par three’s on this course back in 2003, see if you can do the same.” Stuff like that. The scenarios involving Tiger begin with a video of him talking about what happened along with some clips from the tournament.
I think it works pretty well — better than previous years where it’d be like “Let’s have a chipping contest against Natalie Gulbis” or “Play against John Daly on all the par four’s on this course.” It’s more realistic now and doesn’t take as long to advance since you don’t have to wait for CPU golfers to take their shots.
Other Features and Mini-games
Most of the multiplayer mini-games and “Golf Party” stuff has returned this year. It’s fun and adds a nice social element to the game. Disc Golf, in particular, is super fun and makes really good use of the MotionPlus controller. I find it to be almost as addictive as the online tournament features. You can play all of the 17 courses with nothing more than long-, medium-, and short-range Frisbees. I thought it’d be gimmicky, but it’s actually quite enjoyable.
All in all, there’s plenty of “stuff” in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10. The game can appeal to just about anyone, whether you’re a serious golfer, a serious disc golfer, you have a few friends over, or you want to play online.
For longtime fans of the Tiger Woods golf games, PGA Tour 10 will remind you why you fell in love with the series in the first place. Wii MotionPlus makes an excellent debut and adds an entirely new level of depth to the game, the real-time weather and online tournaments are amazing, and the core gameplay itself is realistic and wildly enjoyable at the same time. This year’s edition is a must-buy for any true fan.
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