Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 10 Review (Wii)
For the past three years, the Tiger Woods series on the Wii has been widely regarded as the system's best sports title. Utilizing slick motion controls, deep character customization and addictive party game modes, the Wii version of the Tiger franchise has even become the version of choice for hardcore Tiger fans, myself included.
But as solid as the series has been on the Wii, a lack of innovation, bland graphics and a distinct bias towards arcade gameplay have plagued the series since it first debuted in 2006.
With the announcement of Wii MotionPlus in 2008, Tiger fans and those looking for a more simulation style of virtual golf were excited about the promise of the peripheral's true one-to-one motion control and what it could mean for EA's golf franchise. Now the promise is a part of reality.
Tiger 10 features many of the same game modes that veterans of the series have become accustomed to over the years. Outside of the game's tutorial mode that you have the option to skip, Tiger features the standard Play Now, Party Golf and Career Modes -- all with little to no variation from previous versions of the series. However, the developers have also added two new elements to the game: Tournament Challenge, which you battle through with your created golfer, and the undeniably addictive Disc Golf party game.
This mode allows you to pick any of the game's included golfers, one of 27 included courses and the type of scoring that will be used during the round (e.g., best ball, skins play, stroke play). The level of customization within this quick-play mode is quite impressive, but aside from the seven challenging new courses (including Bethpage Black) and two new golfers, nothing new is introduced to make Tiger 10’s Play Now mode stand out from past versions of the series.
The game's Party Golf mode has been a Wii exclusive for a couple of years now. It's a nice mode to have because it provides a great way to experience all of Tiger 10's Wii gameplay features in more of a casual atmosphere.
While the mode is geared more towards the arcade style family gamer, credit must be given to EA for packing in enough content to make the mode deep enough to keep gamers busy for days on end. The only fault is that the mode is relatively unchanged.
The career mode in Tiger 10 is just as deep as it was in previous versions, and the character creation options are the same as they were in the '08 and '09 versions of the game. You are still given what seems like a limited selection of clothes, clubs and aesthetic items to outfit your character with -- at least when compared to the 360/PS3 versions of the game. The facial creation tools are also so-so when compared the Wii's HD counterparts
Within the career mode, there is a nifty new online pro shop that allows you to use real-life cash (via Wii Points) to purchase outlandish outfits furnished by EA. However, be warned, these outfits will max out your golfer's attributes. While I am not opposed to dressing in a giant lizard suit as I march through the PGA Tour in career mode -- in fact I prefer it -- I am not crazy about these outfits providing maxed-out stats. Part of the Tiger experience has always been the work you put into your golfer, and the ownership you feel after earning attribute points. EA providing maxed out attributes for a fee just seems sketchy.
Once you have created your golfer and visited Hank Haney's virtual driving range to partake in some club tuning, you are ready to begin your career. Just like last year, Tiger allows you to begin a standard PGA Tour season or proceed directly to the race for the FedEx Cup. Both of these modes are incredibly fun and rewarding, but they are identical to Tiger 09's campaign in both setup and execution.
Now I don't really have anything against replicating the same game modes year after year if they are as solid as Tiger's Tour and FedEx Cup mode, but would it kill EA to add in a more exciting menu interface and presentation? In other words, Tiger 10 is identical to Tiger 09 when it comes to setting up your tour and cup careers: You simply scroll a simple calendar to the date your tournament begins and jump into the respective tournament.
Basically, the tournaments and all that are fine in the career mode, the developers just need to add more life to the career mode. After all, there is more to a golfer's life than just the next tournament.
Are the PGA Tour and FedEx Cup portions of career mode bad? No. Are they bland? Yes.
Quality New Additions
One of the two new features added to Tiger 10 is the Tournament Challenge. In this mode, you relive some of Tiger's greatest real-life shots, and then try to mimic his incredible feats as your career character, passing three levels of challenges as you do so -- think Madden Moments, but in golf. What’s really cool is that Tiger himself will talk about his personal experience in creating that specific real-life moment, a small addition that immerses you in the challenge. The challenges can be incredibly difficult as you progress through the mode, and the ability to re-create some of Tiger's most masterful shots with your created character is a golfer's dream come true.
The second, and by far greatest addition to Tiger 10’s game modes is Disc Golf. In this mode, players take turns flinging a Frisbee across any one of the game's included courses. As an avid disc golf player back in my college days, I found this mode to be very well thought out and addictive. It may be a glorified Wii MotionPlus tech demo, but I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent with the mode. I would even recommend that families and "Frolf" aficionados should buy the entire game based solely upon how challenging and insanely fun Disc Golf is.
Graphically, Tiger 10 is a mixed bag. There are some definite signs that EA has upped the graphics from last year, but then there are other areas that have not changed at all. (Please note, my Wii is connected to a 37-inch HDTV via the 480p component cables. I am sure SDTV users will not experience the same issues as I have.)
Two of the most impressive visual touches added to the game would have to be the real-time weather effects and the lighting on the course. EA has done a wonderful job capturing the gloomy nature and dampness of a rainy day, and the sun shining through the tall trees on a course like Banff Springs is a sight to behold. Regardless of the weather, the courses are rendered well and look very impressive.
Outside of the weather, lighting and course graphics, there is not too much to be said about Tiger 10’s visuals. The menus are well done, but relatively bland in appearance. Character models still look as if they were lifted from Tiger 04 on the PS2, and the crowd looks downright terrible. I’m amazed that EA can't do a better job than this graphically on the Wii, especially after playing a game like Punch-Out, which seems to take full advantage of the system's hardware. The bottom line is that EA needs to step the visuals up next year, as I can envision a scenario where many hardcore gamers turn their back on this game because of how rough it can look at times.
Tiger 10 also introduces an updated broadcast-presentation style, and it is a huge win in my books. Not only do Scott Van Pelt and Kelly Tilghman do a wonderful job in the booth, but the updated player introductions, camera angles and tournament update pop-ups do an amazing job of making you feel like you are watching a live broadcast. This has always been one of the weaker elements of the Tiger games in my opinion, and so this is a huge upgrade that adds a lot to those looking for a more sim-style golf experience.
Finally, live weather feeds have been added to the game this year. By utilizing the Wii’s forecast channel, Tiger 10 is able to accurately display the current course conditions at the 27 in-game course locations. I’ve been a sucker for live weather ever since EA introduced it in the NCAA Football series, so I have to give major kudos to the Tiger team for implementing live weather in this year's game.
I’m going to come right out and say it, don’t even bother buying Tiger 10 without MotionPlus. Without MotionPlus, the game simply is not the same.
But if you use MotionPlus with Tiger 10, it makes the game one of the best new experiences in sports gaming since Wii Sports bowling. How Nintendo didn't include this technology in the Wii's controller back in 2006 is beyond me. Wii MotionPlus is the real deal, and the way it is utilized in Tiger 10 is a golf fan's dream come true.
No longer will you be a slave to button presses when trying to line up and adjust your shots. Every adjustment in Tiger 10 can now be made by adjusting the mechanics of your swing or putt. The MotionPlus add-on will pick up even the slightest wrist break, drive pull or putt push, so you really have to focus on your shots.
This is also the first Tiger Woods game that I have not been immediately godly at -- many of the nasty problems with my real-life golf game reared their ugly head in this game. I am right handed, and in real life I have a nasty habit of pulling everything I hit off the tee to the left. MotionPlus immediately picked up on my poor swing, thus many of my created golfer's tee shots were mimicking my real-life issues during the first few rounds of Tiger 10 I played.
I actually had to slow down my Wii remote backswing and drive through the ball on my follow through, with straight wrists, to start being successful against my virtual opponents. It was pure gaming bliss to experience a golf video game that was just as demanding as hitting the course in real life.
This bliss is something I feel each and every time I play Tiger 10, as the game constantly challenges me to improve my in-game mechanics. No longer can you simply rely on club adjustments and furious button taps to distance yourself from your competition. Instead, you actually have to think about things like club distance, backswing length and keeping your arms straight if you want to have a chance at competing. What a refreshing feeling it is to actually feel challenged in a Tiger game.
Another new addition that perfectly compliments MotionPlus is the precision putting system. A far cry from the debacle that was Tiger 09’s default putting system, precision putting allows for the most natural-feeling putts I have ever experienced in a video game. Add this to the ability to push and pull a putt via MotionPlus, instead of the traditional D-pad method, and you have an experience on the green unlike any other. Now if only Tiger 11 would add a fully fleshed out mini-golf game -- then I would be in golf heaven.
Last year, Tiger 09 excelled online with its slick four-player versus mode. This year, EA has upped the ante by adding live tournaments to the mix. You are able to compete for online bragging rights in daily and weekly tournaments in both amateur and professional brackets. This is a perfect online option for those who prefer playing solo but want all the benefits of competitive online gaming
What makes the live tournaments such a cool new feature is the ability to play against the pros when a Tour event begins in real life. For example, once a real-life PGA tournament begins and real-life scores are recorded into the game, you will be able to play against the pros on the same virtual course. This essentially means that your created player can go head to head with Tiger Woods all season long. Live tournaments against the pros could honestly be one of the best additions to a golf video game ever, and I plan on being glued to my Wii throughout the '09 PGA season because of it.
Because of Wii MotionPlus, Tiger Woods 10 for the Wii is the best motion-controlled game I have played to date. Because of this fact, the game has become my de facto "best golf game" played to date. There is a lot to like about the game, especially if you are a sim-style virtual golfer. I would even go as far as saying that the Wii version of Tiger has finally eclipsed the 360/PS3 versions in every way, except graphically.
But as much as I enjoy the gameplay and online functionality of Tiger 10, it would be irresponsible of me to overlook the game's many issues. The graphical limitations, coupled with the complete lack of innovation in Tiger 09, left a bad taste in my mouth. I just cannot understand how EA can absolutely nail motion-controlled golf, but absolutely fail at upgrading graphics and tweaking some of the game's stale game modes.
It would be fair to say that I have conflicting emotions when it comes to this game. It’s like that car you had in high school that ran great but was covered in rust. If you are the type of gamer who values amazing gameplay and solid tried and true game modes over graphics and innovation, you will love Tiger 10 on the Wii. For me, it all came down to how well Wii MotionPlus was integrated into the game. The true one-to-one motion controls absolutely trump any negatives I could throw at Tiger 10.
If you like golf and like to game, you owe it to yourself to at least give this game a try. Tiger 10 has a lot going for it, and it is one of the best sports games to be released this year, even if I factor in its technical limitations.
On the Course: By far the most fun and realistic game of golf I have ever played on a console -- the course is where Tiger 10 truly shines.
Graphics: This area is Tiger’s biggest weak spot. The character models and the crowd are painful to look at on HD displays. The course, weather effects and lighting look terrific.
Presentation: Van Pelt and Tilghman are a welcome new addition. Broadcast camera angles, crowds on the course, live weather and tournament updates throughout your round are nice upgrades to the series.
Sound: See above for the elements that make this part of the game a strength.
Learning Curve: Prepare to learn about and work to correct your real-life swing weaknesses. Once you find your stroke, you won’t want to put this game down.
Entertainment Value: If you are a fan of golf, video game golf, or just like motion-controlled games, you will be enjoying this game for months, maybe even years.
Online: Live tournaments against the pros will keep you busy for months.
Score: 8.5 (Excellent)