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Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 REVIEW

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 Review (Xbox 360)

Golf has an unmistakable empty feeling nowadays without Tiger Woods prowling around golf courses on Sundays. Luckily for us digital sports fans, we can now partake in a round of golf against Tiger, torn ACL or not in real life. Better yet, we can take in a round of golf as Tiger in this year's edition of Tiger Woods from EA Sports.

Tiger Woods 09 is the best edition of Tiger I have played yet; however, there are some bad design decisions that keep the game from achieving truly legendary status.

Fans of previous games of the Tiger Woods series will feel right at home when they power up their Xbox 360 consoles. Swinging is largely the same, putting will not be any different than before, and overall, if you were good at previous editions, you should be good now.

The career mode in Tiger Woods begins a bit differently this year, with Hank Haney starting you out on your journey to golf super stardom. You begin your career by doing drills to test various portions of your game and then your skills are rated based on how you performed. This new way of rating your game then fluctuates after each round depending on how you played on the course.

 


Hank Haney teaches you the ropes this year and evaluates your game.

The drills Haney puts you through consist of testing your power, accuracy, short game and putting, all of which comprise your golfer's final ratings. Power is simple to explain, as you just try to drive the ball past a certain point. I took the test five times and I crossed the line each time. The accuracy, short game and putting drills consist of you trying to place the ball in a circle on the green, which is near the hole. Getting a respectable skill level on each is relatively simple if you are a veteran of the Tiger series.

This new approach to your customized golfer's ratings is a great new twist on the game and is very similar to Tiburon's other big title's (Madden NFL 09) twist on dynamic skill levels in the sense that it scores you after each round. I was able to get my golfer up to respectability after several rounds of golf coupled with the Tiger Challenge feature. After you reach a decent level, it gets harder and harder to improve your game and thus, getting up to truly elite status takes a bit of work as you must meet certain benchmarks -- such as average putts per green -- to reach the level you want to reach.

Another new feature that you will find off the course is the new club tuner. The basic premise of tuning your clubs is to maximize your score by enhancing certain areas of your game. Haney will give his recommendations for this process, but you can go the prima donna route and choose to just set them without taking his recommendations into consideration. There is definitely a bit of risk/reward with the tuner, as you sacrifice performance versus ease of use as you tweak the club, but more advanced Tiger and golf fans will appreciate the added bit of depth while customizing their golf bags -- even if it is a bit unrealistic in real-life terms.

EA has executed the golden rule of video game design (at least according to me) by creating a game that is extremely accessible to new players, while adding enough depth to make even experienced players feel challenged.

As I stated earlier, when on the course you will find that Tiger is a very similar playing game as before, which is a good thing. EA has executed the golden rule of video game design (at least according to me) by creating a game that is extremely accessible to new players, while adding enough depth to make even experienced players feel challenged.

The new swing instant-feedback meter is an extremely helpful way of detailing what is wrong with your "swing" as you move the analog sticks back and forth. This will help you iron out some bugs and such with your swing as you try to continually fine tune your game. The meter gives you instant feedback: It tells you how well you struck the ball via a line through a ball on the lower left portion of the screen, and whether you hit the ball off center with your analog stick movements.

You could also opt for the three-click swing system as well, but I personally did not spend more than a hole playing with it. Three clicks works, it is functional, but it's just not how Tiger 09 was meant to be played.

The sensitivity of your analog stick has been improved quite a bit and makes for a much more realistic brand of golf overall. Not to mention, in conjunction with the club tuning feature, you have a perfect way of trying to figure out a way to make the game play best for you. The tuning feature works by adjusting the sweet spot of your club to make it easier to hit a ball longer while shrinking the sweet spot sacrifices your ability to hit a good straight shot. The club tuning feature gives you options, because you can make the game harder or easier, and in general it allows you tune the game to your liking.

 


The courses, especially the grass and water textures, are much improved.


Out on the course, when trying to hit good approach shots or even drives on narrow fairways you are going to have to have a steady finger most of the time to achieve the accuracy you want. With the instant swing feedback meter, you can instantly tell why a ball is sliced or straight based on how you moved the analog stick during your swing. In short, you now know why you messed up a shot instantly. In the end, you will have to have a better "swing" with the analog sticks this year (even more so than last year -- which was much tougher than '07) in order to hit the fairways and nail your approaches consistently.

Closer to the hole, I found the pitching and chipping games to be largely the same ones I have been playing for years now. The accuracy is a bit more sensitive, but in all reality veterans of the series are going to step right in and be able to manage their short game without much fuss.

When playing against AI golfers, fans will be happy to find out the rubber band AI has been eradicated from the game...

On the greens, you will find the putting game is largely unchanged. This news will make many veterans clamoring for a change unhappy, but the system isn't as bad as it could be. The speed of the greens still has a big impact on putting and you can still judge power during your backswing. Really, if you didn't like the system in year's past, you will not like the system this year. In my opinion, the putting system needs an overhaul sooner or later, but it is far from the worst ever concocted for a golf video game.

When playing against AI golfers, fans will be happy to find out the rubber band AI has been eradicated from the game, at least from my experiences. My poor created golfer wasn't all that good, so my contention stories are few and far between. However, when I played against the AI it never felt cheap. I never felt like the game was trying to keep me in the tournament or the rest of the field was trying to catch up. I played through the opening tournament in Tour mode four times to see how varied and realistic the results were. The lowest winning score was -10 while the highest was -13 all under similar conditions through a four day tournament. All in all, the whole single player experience has been improved markedly this year.

...still having no mid-round saves is a travesty. This absolutely must be at the top of the list of things to add next year since it will make the game more accessible to those people who lack the time to play a whole round in one sitting

Of course, Tiger 09 is not perfect. In fact, there is just enough wrong with the game (or missing in one case) to make me wonder what the decision making process was when it came to some aspects of the game. First off, still having no mid-round saves is a travesty. This absolutely must be at the top of the list of things to add next year since it will make the game more accessible to those people who lack the time to play a whole round in one sitting. I can't tell you how many times I have had to cut a round short, never to finish it, because I had to go do something outside of my virtual golf course.

Also, the commentary might be some of the worst I have heard in a video game in a long time. Quite frankly, it's just plain bad. The comments are "on" in terms of relevance, but there is absolutely no life to them at all and I really feel that the game would have been a lot better if it was just the natural sound of the golf course in the game instead, which is done extremely well. Really, it's the same lines recorded by much worse announcers and the whole thing just sounds terrible. This is a baffling decision and it makes no sense why the commentary is so bad. This is the type of commentary that is so bad it will actually detract from the overall game experience somewhat.

 


Tiger never looked so good on a gaming console.

Another thing that annoys me to no end is the fact half of the game's courses are locked at the beginning of the game. Now you can choose to pay some hefty fees by hopping on Live to unlock them right off the bat (gag) or you can play the game and do it the old fashioned way, by unlocking them. Either way, having half of the courses locked from the get-go in Tiger is the equivalent of firing up Madden but having the NFC teams locked at the beginning of the game and unplayable in "play now" mode. It makes absolutely no sense and to me -- half of the game being unplayable at the onset is a huge deduction to the overall game's value. This is no longer the '90s and it is no longer cool to have most of a game locked up and unplayable at the start.

Of course, when you finally do get to play on the courses, they look absolutely beautiful. The Tiger team has redone a lot of the textures and graphical elements as well as the lighting to create the best looking golf game yet. However, as with most other sports games, the graphics of Tiger 09 just can't compare to the best graphics of other genres. As far as sports games go, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 is one of the best looking games I have played thus far though.

On the online end of things, Tiger Woods 09 does not disappoint. The simultaneous play feature is one of the greatest ideas and features implemented for online golf yet. It does take something out of the experience in a competitive sense, but not having to wait forever for other people to shoot is just an amazing thing. The experience has been relatively lag free (the shots updated very quickly), and the color trails allow me to track other players.

The new GamerNet Challenges are a great twist on online golf as well. Quite frankly, EA has begun to break into the potential of online golf. All in all, the online experience is the best yet for the Tiger series and it very well could be among the best yet for golf games in general.

In short, if you enjoy golf in the least bit or if you need a good game to play with friends, buy this game -- just ignore the announcers as best as you possibly can

Final Thoughts: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 is one of the greatest golf video games ever. However, there is just enough wrong and just enough that isn't great to keep the game from being truly timeless. Does the game beat out heavyweights such as Links 2004? I think it's close. If the Tiburon team keeps at it, next year's game could very well be the best golf game ever.

In short, if you enjoy golf in the least bit or if you need a good game to play with friends, buy this game -- just ignore the announcers as best as you possibly can. This game isn't a 9 here at OS, but it is as close as you can be without getting it. Give the Tiburon guys another year of refinement, and give them one more chance to remove antiquated game design choices like locking courses by default and this series has a legit chance of getting a perfect score.

On the Course:
The best Tiger game yet on the course. It is perfectly accessible for newcomers and can be difficult enough for advanced players. I dare say if the team keeps it up they could near perfection very soon.

Graphics: Very good, but not great. Jaggies and the lack of "details" really disappoint me. I want to SEE the little things. The flag and your clothes flapping in the wind, actual good looking character models in the gallery, birds, etc. The environments aren't alive.

Sound: The natural sound is really good, some of the best I have heard in a sports game. The commentators though? They are some of the worst in video game history; it stinks of pure laziness and is unforgivable in terms of the final score.

Entertainment Value: The game is fun, very fun. You will appreciate all of the little quirks and the strategy that goes into a round of golf if you keep at it long enough. Tiger is one of the best dorm room games out there.

Learning Curve: If you can do three things, you can play this game: aim the ball, pull the right analog stick back, push it forward. However, to master the game it will require quite a bit of time and practice. In short, the learning curve is perfect.

Online: Perhaps the best online golf ever with the GamerNet Challenges as well as the simultaneous online play. Golf could be one of the greatest online sports out there and I think EA is finally realizing that fact.


Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 Score
Gameplay is rock solid.
Courses and players all look good.
New dynamic ratings system.
Locked courses?! Is this 1999?
Commentary is some of the worst ever.
Putting system needs an overhaul.
8.5
out of 10
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 Videos
Member Comments
# 1 asu666 @ 08/29/08 04:56 PM
I think EA is moving in the right direction with TW, but I still prefer the gameplay in Hot Shots Golf: OoB. The little details and the new swing style are insanely good in Hot Shot and TW still trails in the fun factor arena imo.
 
# 2 ChaseB @ 08/29/08 05:26 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by asu666
I think EA is moving in the right direction with TW, but I still prefer the gameplay in Hot Shots Golf: OoB. The little details and the new swing style are insanely good in Hot Shot and TW still trails in the fun factor arena imo.
Hot Shots > all golf games, I concur.
 
# 3 OddyOh @ 08/30/08 11:36 AM
I was a Tiger Woods guy until 08 on the PS3...now I'm a Hot Shots guy.
 
# 4 kennytomson @ 08/30/08 08:58 PM
i love watching golf, don't miss any of the 3 majors. i like tiger woods, and lately as i'm getting too old for other sports i'm attempting to practice the sport (live in sunny florida less than 10 miles from the man himself actually). so why don't i buy this game ever? it's a cartoon mess that doesn't even attempt recreating the sport.
 
# 5 pietasterp @ 08/31/08 02:49 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by kennytomson
i love watching golf, don't miss any of the 3 majors. i like tiger woods, and lately as i'm getting too old for other sports i'm attempting to practice the sport (live in sunny florida less than 10 miles from the man himself actually). so why don't i buy this game ever? it's a cartoon mess that doesn't even attempt recreating the sport.
kenny, I just could not agree with you more. This game is so far from a simulation of the sport of golf, it makes NBA Jam look like NBA2K.

On to the review:

"In my opinion, the putting system needs an overhaul sooner or later, but it is far from the worst ever concocted for a golf video game."

Actually, I honestly do think it is by far the worst putting system ever concocted for a golf video game. Really; I say that with no exaggeration or hyperbole at all. I defy anyone to point me to a game that had a WORSE putting system than this game does. Let me get this straight: I pick a putter that can hit the ball a certain distance, then adjust my swing appropriately based on that new scale, which is generally within 10% of the actual distance of the putt, which means I can basically just pick the appropriate "length" putter and take a full swing every time? It's like the programmers are using some sort of cheap, shortcut, work-around to bypass having to actually come up with a naturalistic putting scheme whereby your one-and-only putter can hit the ball a certain distance, and you have to adjust your swing appropriately based on the distance of the putt. It's really the only way that makes any sense, and it's something that was in console golf games as far back as 4 years ago...

"Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 is one of the greatest golf video games ever."

Yikes. Play many golf games ever? Off the top of my head, I can think of at least 10 golf games that were better, even by today's standards:

Leaderboard Golf (and subsequent "World Class" Leaderboard Golfs)
Mean 18
Jack Nicklaus Golf (all incarnations, but especially the "Golden Bear Challenge" version; this was actually one of the greatest golf video games ever)
Links (original, 386 Pro, LS, and all subsequent PC versions)
Sierra's PGA Tour Golf
Nintendo's original "golf" and follow-up NES Open
Golden Tee Golf
Microsoft Golf
EA's original PGA Tour Golf series (up until the first incarnation of "Tiger Woods" golf in 1996, I believe...not sure, this is just off the top of my head)

...and of course, still the gold standard for console golf (which is sad, because at the time I bought it I thought the game was just solid, if unspectacular): Links 2004 Xbox.

I'm not going to argue with anyone about their opinion on a game, but it seems to me that so many people are so utterly brainwashed by the hegemony that is EA sports' interpretation of golf, that they have no other frame of reference by which to judge a game. Tiger Woods is so far away from what I would consider a good golf game, it amazes me that I feel like I'm one of the only people on the anti-Tiger Woods island.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying don't enjoy the game. If you like EA's brand of golf, have fun! But for those looking for a good simulation of the game...this is about the farthest thing from it I can imagine (for a game that purports to simulate the sport). And if it's arcade golf you're looking for, there's nothing better than pints and Golden Tee, although I hear Hot Shots has a very loyal following. I guess I'll have to stick to Links 2001 on my PC and Links 2004 for XBox for my sim golf fix for the forseeable future...
 
# 6 ComfortablyLomb @ 08/31/08 09:35 AM
Don't forget Mario Golf on the N64. That game is an underappreciated gem.

And I do think Golden Tee is garbage FWIW.
 
# 7 jkra0512 @ 08/31/08 07:08 PM
Played the demo....seems like this would be a fun game to play.
 
# 8 billsfan257 @ 09/01/08 12:14 AM
i like the game, and think its fun to play, especially when playing with other people. however, while i wouldnt consider this an arcade style game, it is far from a simulation.

as many people have mentioned, spin should not be applied while the ball is in flight, it should be done before, if at all since most people even pros cant control if they want x amount of side spin etc.

also i hate that you can control the amount of fade and draw you want w/ a press of a button, i liked the older versions where you had to alter your swing to do it.

and yes, the fact that theres different power level for putting is stupid. i dont know how they could improve the putting, but im sure there is a way.

overall, its still a fun game, but it needs to be made more realistic, and there should be alot more golfers and courses
 
# 9 pietasterp @ 09/02/08 01:48 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by ComfortablyLomb
Don't forget Mario Golf on the N64. That game is an underappreciated gem.

And I do think Golden Tee is garbage FWIW.
Touche on Mario Golf...

I can see how you would say that about Golden Tee; I'm probably not separating the environment and circumstance from the actual game. By which I mean, the only time I ever play that thing is, of course, when you're at the bar drinking with all your friends. So of course it seems great; frickin' darts seems like the greatest game ever when you're knocking down pint after pint with your pals. But for what it is, I think it does it well: arcade golf with a surprising amount of ability to shape a shot based solely on how you swing. It's trackball golf, man - how can you not love that oldie-but-goodie?
 

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