Another year, another Tiger Woods PGA Tour game, but what can fans expect if they upgrade and what can virgins expect from the experience?
PGA Tour 09 offers some impressive new features over its predecessors. For starters, Tiger Woods’ real life coach, Hank Haney, will now act as your coach. He’ll offer advice, give you practice drills, and basically help you improve your game. If he’s good enough for Tiger Woods, then he is more than good enough for you.
Another new feature is the ability to tune your clubs on the fly, meaning that you get the maximum performance from each shot. The game also adjusts player stats as you progress throughout the game.
The game also has a new and improved online mode, where all players play simultaneously. This means that you no longer have to wait for other people before you can take your shot. It would be impressive, but like many of the new features in PGA Tour 09, it was done in Everybody’s Golf: World Tour already.
In terms of improvements, there are now five more courses, with eleven previous ones getting some nice visual upgrades. Indeed, the whole game looks stunning in high definition. The water ripples as it should, grass looks like real grass, and even the player models are fantastic.
There are also EA challenges that you can download off the EA servers to test your golfing skills. These alone increase the value of the game exponentially.
Additionally, players can create their own golfers. There are stock options to select from, although these are cumbersome – a “feature” of the game that will be addressed later – and aren’t really worth the effort. You can, however, scan in your own face from a USB camera and include yourself in the game. It’s certainly a neat feature that helps it set itself apart from its competitors.
Indeed, there is no doubt that PGA Tour 09 is perhaps the most fully featured sports game ever.
However, there are a few major problems with PGA Tour 09. The first is the audio. Not only are players once again subjected to the horribly inappropriate choices that litter the EA Trax, but new commentators Kelly Tillman and Sam Torrance are perhaps the most annoying commentators to grace a video game ever.
They sound flat and disinterested and really bring down the tension of the game. It’s hard to care about that birdie putt when the commentators sound like it’s as important and taxing as bringing in the morning paper.
This leads into the game's complete lack of charm. It feels flat, boring, and ultimately a good walk spoiled. You just don’t seem to care about anything, and being seven over par only induces feelings of apathy. I’m not asking for castles and windmills; I’m just asking for some kind of visceral feel for what I’m doing.
Of course, this could largely be due to the gameplay mechanic that PGA Tour 09 uses. It’s ridiculously and needlessly complicated, while removing key features that make golf games so accessible. The analogue swing mechanic feels unnatural and doesn’t allow for proper swing control, meaning that you are likely to always smash the ball at 100% power.
The game also bombards you with too many options and features, meaning that each shot feels like taking a physics exam. What’s worse is that those damn commentators decide to chime in while you're lining everything up by saying “Golf can be interesting, but not with you.”
The end result is one of feeling totally overwhelmed. I play golf, and even I found that this game was taking something that is simple and often instinctive and turning it into something cold and calculated. It will leave casual fans completely isolated.
Ultimately, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 is a feature packed game that offers ridiculous value for money. It’s also gorgeous, really showing the power of the next-generation consoles. However, the core gameplay mechanics are unintuitive and overly complicated and coupled with the autricious commentary drastically reduce the fun from the game.
Hardcore golfing fans (and I do mean hardcore) will probably find this a contender for game of the year, but for everybody else there are more charming, accessible, and fun golfing games on the market.