Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 2003 Review (Xbox)
Okay, I’ll say it right now: I’ve never seen a contrail off of a drive on a real golf course. Nor have I ever seen anyone ever use their putter like a pool cue. I’ve you’ve guessed that Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003 isn’t an exacting simulation of life on the PGA Tour, you’d be right.
What it is, however, is an awfully fun and surprisingly deep and varied arcade golf experience with more than a touch of “sim” elements – and one title that you may find difficult to take out of your XBox once you’ve started playing.
Taken as a whole, Tiger Woods 2003’s graphical “look” is outstanding. There are 14 different courses in the game (nine of which are real), and they’re all easily distinguishable from the other immediately – not only by the holes, but by the surrounding environments as well. From the fog in Scotland, to the crashing waves in California, EA has done a fine job giving the gamer the impression that they’re in different parts of the world when they play these courses. The occasional flocks of birds, balloons, or even parasailors keep the backgrounds from becoming too static. It’s a small thing, but it does add to the experience.
The golfers (both real and imagined) are extremely well animated, and the faces of the real PGA tour pros are re-created with outstanding attention to detail. The players have their own mannerisms, and a great deal of care has been taken to ensure that the fictional characters have as much (or more) detail to them as the pros.
All is not perfect, however. The gallery is extremely blocky in appearance, and not animated well at all. The bunkers and water have rather simplistic animations when a ball impacts them, as well. To be fair, though, these are nitpicks, and the simple truth of the matter is that Tiger Woods 2003 is a very good looking game, even to the most picky viewer.
There are times that Tiger Woods 2003 could easily be mistaken for the real thing, and that’s a real accomplishment.
If you played last year iteration on the PS2, you won’t find anything new here in the basic gameplay mechanics – the method of making shots is the same. The smoothness of your back-then-forward swing is critical, both in pace and in accuracy. Pushing to either side will create hooks or slices. Draws and fades can be accomplished with ease by swinging back and forth at a slightly different angle than a straight shot.
The arcade elements come into play after that. Rapidly pressing the white button during the swing will increase your power, but penalize you more greatly for inaccuracy. After the ball is in the air, the black button can be used in conjunction with the analog stick to spin your ball in any direction you choose. It’s not realistic, but it’s a lot of fun. If it’s not for you, however, you can turn off both features (separately!) in the Options menu.
Putting is handled somewhat differently. If you use the default “Caddie Tips”, you will see a message in the lower right corner, informing you where you should aim the ball to get in into the hole. These tips assume you’ll make a perfect swing, so you may find yourself taking their tips with a grain of salt, as your particular swing may not mesh well with their recommendations. These, too can be turned off, but
While it’s definitely not a hard-core physics simulation, Tiger Woods 2003 does do a decent job of simulating basic tenets of shot-making. Be prepared to adjust accordingly for uphill lies, shots out of the rough, and any other mess your wayward ball has gotten you into.
There are a lot of game modes in Tiger Woods 2003 to keep you busy. Most of the game modes involve money, which you can use to improve your created golfer and saved to your profile. The Tiger Challenge returns, pitting you against pros and fictional characters alike in increasingly difficult matches. The Scenarios are varied and interesting, and the Skill Zone games are a lot of fun for a quick 2-player game. All the expected modes are here, as well, including Stroke Play, Match Play, Tournaments, and Skins. EA’s Speed Golf returns, but in my opinion, it’s kind of a silly button-mashing mess, and not worth most players’ time.
All in all, Tiger Woods 2003 plays a satisfying, though a tad simplistic, game of golf. It’s fast, fun, and accessible – even for the novice, and provides a wide array of options to change the game to reflect your particular tastes.
Television veterans David Feherty and Bill Macatee provide commentary, and they do a good job providing you with relevant information and adding to the feel of the game. Like all commentary tracks, they can get repetitive after a bit, but it’s solid work, and it should be noted that Feherty and Macatee didn’t mail in their performances. Tiger Woods himself will crop up from time to time to give you encouragement, as well.
The sounds in the rest of the game are stellar. Gallery cheers are appropriate, and sound great. You’ll hear crashing waves, birds, airplanes overhead, and some bagpipers following you around on the Highlands course. The sounds are subtle and immersive, and you may find yourself turning off the commentary just to enjoy the ambience created by the excellent sound work.
Tiger Woods 2003 is not a simulation, but it’s not a pure arcade game, either.
Tiger Woods 2003 is one of the most enjoyable golf games on the market today – and the best overall on any console system.
It’s fun to play, great to look at and listen to, and it will provide the gamer with hours upon hours of golfing entertainment. With winter almost upon us, it’s definitely time to visit the digital links of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003. Let’s hope EA and Microsoft get their acts together and put Tiger 2004 on XBox Live – then we’d really have something special…