Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 11 Review (Xbox 360)
Tiger Woods 11 has arrived with an arsenal of minor improvements this year. The development team also clearly focused on creating a golf simulation that catered to the needs and wants of the franchise’s biggest fans and die-hards. With that said, Tiger 11 has posted another solid outing and become the best Tiger title on this generation of consoles.
Tiger 11 is the same golf game at its core. However, the developers have added a few key gameplay improvements to blend realism into their golf simulator.
The first big new feature is the Focus Meter. The Focus Meter is used for spin, power, Tiger vision (putt preview) and for accuracy boosts. Each time you add spin, power or zero in your accuracy circle, the meter depletes. As you play, make great shots and time passes, it rebuilds and replenishes your focus. Focus is also drained from putt previews on the green.
The Focus Meter brings strategy to the course by forcing gamers to decide when to use their focus, and when to save it for more difficult times during a round. I find the Focus Meter to be a bit gimmicky, but it does add new elements to the game. Simply put, it is nothing to write home about, and it does not do enough to drastically change the game.
Experience points (XP) is another focus this year. The all-new attributes system in Tiger 11 allows you to focus on some unique skill upgrades after earning XP on the course. To earn points, gamers must hit fairways, greens, and sink putts for birdies and eagles to get big boosts, or play online, defeat challenges and make the cuts.
The customizable attributes include Power Swing Speed, Power Boost, Accuracy Swing Plane, Balance, Draw, Fade, Touch, Green Reading, Putting Swing Plane, Feel and Tempo. As you can see, Swing Planes, Touch, Feel and Tempo are fresh elements that fans of the franchise have been waiting for.
You also no longer lose your attributes when you struggle on the course. While most fans are probably happy about that, I found the performance-attribute element to be very realistic in Tiger 10 -– every shot counted for something.
Another new addition is True-Aim. This is a brand new camera angle that completely changes the game. It acts a bit like a brother to True View -- the camera angle found in Tiger 11 on the Wii -- but True-Aim still delivers its own unique qualities to the game. Now, we also know how EA markets "revolutionary features" in each year’s games. However, this one actually delivers.
In True-Aim, the aiming circle is gone, replaced with a view of carry distance yard markers from your GPS view of the hole. Players must now attack the course from the perspective of the golfer and not from the overhead blimp view we have grown accustomed to. This view adds difficulty and puts you in the shoes of the golfer. The challenge is worth the reward here.
(A quick side note, True-Aim may be toggled on or off and is not available online.)
As you strike the ball, the camera will no longer follow the ball in the air. Instead, the camera stays next to your golfer while placing a colored tracker on your soaring ball. As the ball cuts through the wind, the ball tracer masterfully tracks it. At the same time, the view can be frustrating because you are not able to view the course and your ball’s path once it has hit land.
You will also not know if your shot has been a true success until you hear the roar of the crowd letting you know that you stuck your shot. This means it is difficult to put any spin on the ball when you do not know where it will land, which adds much more value to your setup and swing.
So what do you do to aim in this view? Try picking a large target behind the intended landing point and then swing away. Some of the yardage markers have no GPS marks next to them, which makes it hard to figure out where each marker is located. With that in mind, those who study the courses and take notes in a yardage book while playing will be rewarded –- true golf right there.
The most interesting aspect of this new True-Aim feature is the fact that the game no longer provides you with an exact swing percentage. Instead, it provides a carry distance of your maximum club distance.
In other words, you have to calculate your swing on your own rather than be told what percentage power you should use -- your swing’s tempo and percentage rating are no longer measured during your shot. It is up to you to master the feel of your swing and stick your shots. This is where the practice swing can come in handy –- this still measures the percentage on your swing.
So, say you are 90 yards out from the pin, and your pitching wedge has a max of 120 yards. Hit your practice swing and determine the strength and tempo needed on your shot. In this instance, I would practice swing and aim for about a 75-80 percent swing to attack the pin. After you feel comfortable, have at it.
There are other gameplay improvements that play into your swing as well. Speaking with Cameron Lee, a developer from EA Sports, I was able to gain an understanding behind the new Backswing Power Degradation.
Backswing Power Degradation is the answer to the gameplay abuse of pausing at the top of your swing. If you played the game enough in the past, you would begin to notice that if you held your backswing at certain precise moments and stopped, only to take a full follow through from that point onward, you could pinpoint exact percentages on your swing. This is not how a real golf swing should look and feel.
To combat this abuse, Lee and his team added random swing degradation. Now gamers will be forced to use a more fluid swing type without holds and pauses. So if you want to master your swing, now you have to work with your specific irons and the tempo of your shots to gain a good feel for the club and your environment.
Another nice gameplay addition is the variable winds. The wind actually changes while the ball is in flight and even during your backswing. Realistic shot spreads within your aiming circle have also been added, which means golfers can no longer land the ball in the absolute center of the aiming circle at will.
Variable lie percentages will tell you how your lie will affect your shot -- variable means the process is not exact. Lastly, approach green grids have been added along with triple the amount of pin placements.
The first thing I noticed about Tiger were his clothes on the breezy tee box. Tiger’s clothes were flowing in the wind. Visually, the game has been upgraded yet again. The clouds move and shadow the sun, which adds some much-needed dynamic lighting to the courses.
Scott Van Pelt and Kelly Tilghman are back, but I believe they need a better approach to their commentary. All we get is one-liners after every shot. I believe a more conversational dialogue during gameplay would benefit the game. However, at least the sounds of club-to-ball on the tee box ping more realistically.
The 17 courses also look amazing as usual. The course architecture is developed in part with Tiger himself walking through each course design with the developers, so I guess I should not be surprised. New courses that have been added to Tiger 11 include Celtic Manor Resort (The Twenty Ten Course, home of the 2010 Ryder Cup), The Greenbrier (The Old White Course), Liberty National G.C., TPC Scottsdale, Whistling Straits (Straits Course, home of the 2010 PGA Championship).
Ryder Cup is the name of the game here. This is the one big addition to your main modes of play in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11. You can launch into Online Team Play (OTP) Ryder Cup and have a chat with your team to discuss strategy. Up to 24 players can compete in a Ryder tourney.
When one of the teams gets into trouble within the Ryder Cup in Career mode, players can swap to a different match. However, there is a level of balance here that is needed if you want to lead your team to victory. You cannot control each team for each hole so it’s important to strategically choose when to switch between players on your team to control and help improve their scores.
Career challenges return this year and are harder than ever. Each challenge targets specific attributes, and perfection is the only way to defeat some of the more advanced games.
Your Tiger 11 Career mode will put you through the entire golf season. There are not many additions here in terms on how you navigate the season, but players can go out for practice rounds before entering big tournaments.
Basically, beyond the Ryder Cup, this still feels like the same old Career mode from the past three Tiger video games.
Online takes a new step forward with OTP. OTP allows for up to 24 players to play in a match, 12 for each team. After choosing a team, you may also move up or down in the game room to pick a specific person to play against.
GamerNet returns to provide golfers around the world a chance to upload challenges of their most precious and outrageous trick shots.
Play the Pros gives gamers a chance to play against live PGA scoring during the US Open and other tournaments present in the game. This is one of the more creative online game modes I have seen, and I am happy to see it return. It is also pretty cool playing through Pebble Beach while watching the real pros on television struggle with the same holes I struggled with in the game.
Needless to say, there is a strong level of depth in the online arena.
In today’s world of short development cycles, Tiger 11 provides gamers with just enough to keep things fresh. Minor adjustments to swings, shot control and dynamic environment elements add value.
True-Aim is a purely unique addition to the franchise and the sports genre as a whole. Thinking back, we have now seen a helmet cam in NFL 2K, a new defensive camera in NCAA Football, and now we have a first-person view in golf. For golf die-hards, it provides a reason to go out and get this title –- it is that challenging and engaging.
On the Course: Tiger 11 feels the same, which is not a bad thing. The new additions prove that EA Sports is listening to its fans. I am loving the realism of True-Aim.
Graphics: Dynamic winds, flowing clothes and hair and improved lighting make this game look all the more beautiful. Course designs are awesome as usual.
Sound Design: Kelly Tilghman and Scott Van Pelt are good but not great. We need more dialogue to keep us awake.
Entertainment Value: Career mode and challenges, online play, created characters, Ryder Cup and all sorts of gameplay modes keep Tiger 11 in your game rotation.
Learning Curve: You can pick up and play, or compete in the ultimate challenge on Tour Pro difficulty. The game is as challenging as you want to make it.
Online: Online Team Play adds to an already established group of quality game modes online.
Score: 8.0 (Very Good)