Tiger Woods PGA Tour ’09 Review
EA’s yearly updates of its major sports franchises are as predictable as the coming of the seasons. Now in its 10th year, and its fourth iteration of this generation, Tiger Woods PGA Tour has now hit the shelves once more. And from all accounts this year’s edition seems to be more popular than ever, judging by the series’ first number one slot in the UK multi-format charts. So are there any differences between this one and last year’s version?
Control-wise it’s just the same as it has been for the last eight or nine games; aim with the D-Pad, pull back on the Analogue stick and strike through the ball to let it fly. As usual, tapping ‘A’ like a mad-man can give you a bit of extra power on your shot or add a touch of spin if needed. Interestingly, this year EA have included the age-old three button technique (tap to start your shot, again to set the power, and once more for accuracy), which EA have re-named the ‘3-click swing system’. Seeing this control system in Tiger Woods makes you realise just how much more accurate the analogue system is, but it can be a handy alternative if you’re playing with someone who finds the default controls a little difficult. Maybe the Nintendo philosophy of inclusivity convinced EA to include it.
Overall, this game goes to great lengths to make itself more accessible to newcomers, and a lot of these changes can be handy for veterans too. If you find you are having problems striking the ball cleanly take a look at the ball icon as you take your shot. Whereas previously it was just used to show your power boost and spin direction, now you’ll see a line going through the ball indicating how you struck the shot, so you can whittle down the times you fail to hit the analogue stick straight. I’ve all but eradicated the natural ‘left curve’ I seem to get, which has made my approach shot far more accurate and my tee-offs 73% more awesome. EA’s other little addition sees the return of the putting preview, albeit in a slightly different form. Check out the green, aim your putt and when you think you’ve got a good line, hit the left shoulder button and you’ll be given a preview of the shot. This can make putting a bit too easy if you choose to use it, but as you can only use it once per putt is won’t make every shot a sure thing.
The biggest shake-up in ’09, and one of the biggest changes for some time (although that doesn’t say an awful lot) is the new coaching system. Say hello to Tiger’s real-life coach Mr Hank Haney, who’ll be helping you refine your overall game and improve your skills. At the end of each round he’ll give you the chance to practise some of your less successful shots; perform them better and you’ll get a slight stat increase. Hank can also give you some assistance with your clubs; thanks to the new club-tuning options you can tailor your caddy to compliment your natural game. It’s not quite up to Gran Turismo but this is the closest a golf game can get to that level of fine-tuning.
When you first fire up the game, you’ll be asked to play a few shots so Haney can measure you up and will determine how good you initial base stats will be. These have been trimmed a bit since last time and now cover four main areas: power, accuracy, short-game and putting. Perform well and at the end of each game you’ll be seeing these stats climb; but post a bad round and you can kiss goodbye to your ‘mad skillz’. It makes for a more organic system that reflects your true performance instead of just rewarding stat-farming or allowing you to buy your way to the top. This really makes a difference when you’re up against human opposition as you’ll find outcomes based more on actual skill than simply who’s played it the longest (although stats can still make a difference).
Most of the multiplayer games have remained the same, with the standard stroke & match play being joined by a variety of fun diversions like the excellent battle golf. Also, there’s a new and very welcome addition for online, which lets you play against three other players simultaneously instead of having to wait for each player to perform their shot. Each player’s shot is traced with a different colour so you’ll know where everyone else is on the course. Online performance is slightly better than in previous years, with less lag during games and less connection errors, it also seems to load a bit quicker too.
Overall, Tiger Woods ’09 is probably the best version yet, but it’s not without its troubles. The graphics seem to be a bit of a mixed bag – the presentation is superb and the golfers and lighting effects have been upgraded, but some of the courses look really poor compared to last year’s version. The camera and commentary are also in dire need of some changes, and the woeful EA Trax are as terribly inappropriate and unnecessary as they’ve ever been.
If you’re in need of a decent golf title you can’t go wrong here, and even if you’ve bought the ’08 edition this is a worthy purchase.