As Mark Twain once said, golf is a perfectly good way to ruin a nice walk. Personally I would have to agree. So the question is, should I be reviewing a golf game? We here at NZGamer believe in objective writing – so the following is from someone who wouldn’t know the difference between a Nine Iron and a turkey sandwich. With cranberry sauce. And a pickle.
EA have pleased sports fans over the last couple of years by adding new, much welcomed features to their range of titles – especially to the FIFA series for example. But the Tiger Woods franchise hasn’t evolved too much with regards to the gameplay since their 2008 release. Now EA have taken big steps forward in their 2010 version with regards to the inclusion of some of the biggest tournaments in golfing history. This time round fans can finally hit the green in the coveted US Open at the notorious Bethpage Black course in Long Island.
Another impressive new feature lies in the weather conditions that can now play havoc on your handicap. Rain and wind can now affect your ball’s flight, requiring you to adjust your techniques to suit the conditions. Tiger Woods 2010 even goes so far as to include real-time weather conditions, meaning that if you are connected online you can opt to have the game pull actual weather forecasts off The Weather Channel and play the course as if you were really there. For example, if it’s raining with Northerly breezes in California’s Pebble Beach, you can play that course in exactly the same conditions.
These weather effects are beautifully portrayed in the game, along with all of the graphics both on and off the course. EA Sports have carried their sleek, professional menu system across to this title – allowing for a massive array of options but keeping Quick Play and Tournaments accessible for instant gaming. The roster of characters represent their real-life counterparts nicely, especially the lead star Tiger – whose facial detail and trade-mark animations are captured perfectly. The environments are breath-taking and supposedly mimic the actual courses with every bit of detail (I wouldn’t actually know, but they are varied to include all varieties of landscapes and challenges with water hazards and bunkers galore). EA have also expanded the course-side crowds in their numbers and improved their reactions too. This means every shot you take is responded to in an appropriate manner, from raucous cheering through to groans of disappointment. I’m certain I even heard a “You can do it!” shouted out at one stage. Of course, the crowd is hushed by dudes with big signs before each shot so you have no distractions.
This made absolutely no difference to my golf game though. My initial experience was filled with excessive cursing, forehead slapping and controller throwing. To say that this game is frustrating would be an understatement. In fact around the third hole with +5 on the tally I just started taking pot-shots at the crowd. To my happy surprise, crowd members even react when struck by the ball – often clutching their backs in pain or throwing their arms up to protect their faces. It became a game in its own right. But with enough patience and practice, I did get the hang of the demanding controls and was soon finishing courses under par and competing in professional Tournaments with my head held high.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2010 offers two different control systems. One is aimed at beginners and is the 3-Click Meter method that was introduced in Tiger Woods 2008 (and will be familiar to players of Everybody’s Golf). Pressing the A button starts the swing; pressing it again determines the power and pressing it the third time affects your accuracy. Getting that last click is usually the most challenging, with your timing affecting how the ball is hit – possibly slicing the ball and sending it miles off course. The 3-Click system is only available at Beginner and Amateur levels. For the real fans, EA have included a more realistic Swing Stick control option that has to be used to compete in the harder difficulties. It hasn’t been updated, but for those who haven’t tried last year’s Tiger Woods title, it requires the analogue stick to control their swing. The left stick is your shot stick and getting your power and accuracy right is all about the speed and timing of your movement. Moving the stick down starts your backswing, releasing it and moving up on the same stick starts your downswing to hit the ball. Getting your backswing to its peak before changing to the stroke will determine the perfect shot – or an effort that drives the ball into a mighty Oak tree and then into the rough (a technique that I mastered quickly). The same applies to the right stick which is used for Loft Shots for a higher trajectory (ie: for getting out of bunkers or for small chips to the green).
Once mastered, players can then start playing around with adding spin, or changing their shot types from punches (low trajectory), flops (higher but with less roll on the ball) and so fourth. The end result is a highly detailed, realistic simulation of the real sport. There was only one strange omission from the reality of the game – the angle of the surface your ball lies on doesn’t seem to affect the trajectory appropriately. For example if the ball is on a sloped part of the fairway it only makes sense it should affect the ball’s flight when hit. I can only imagine EA have missed this out to avoid any potential situation where the ball is almost “unhittable”.
Meanwhile, the putting controls have been slightly refined for the 2010 edition. The Precision Putting is a new feature and uses a similar approach to the Swing Controls with the left stick controlling the power of your shot. However one major difference is the absence of your club type. Instead of your golfer choosing a 10 foot putter or a 20 foot one according to the green, there is one club that fits all now. This means that reading the green (angle, elevation, etc) and getting the exact right touch on the ball is essential. Initially, draining putts becomes extremely frustrating. Under or over hitting the ball all around the green is enough to go into Happy Gilmore mode screaming “WHY DON’T YOU GET IN YOUR HOME!!! THAT HOLE IS YOUR HOME!!!”. But truthfully, with enough practice the results are worthy. For previous golf gamers – this learning curve will definitely be reduced.
Overall, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2010 is a lot of golf for your money’s worth. You can create your own custom avatar and compete in some of the most prestigious tournaments on the planet across famous courses and against the biggest names in golf. EA have ensured a very comprehensive online experience too, with tournaments and course records being held at all times of the day across the globe. The audio also deserves a mention, with detailed commentary from ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt and the Golf Channel’s Kelly Tilghman. If it impresses me, then it is safe to say that fanatics of the sport should be able to while away many hours of their time with it. But to quote another non-golfer, Winston Churchill: "Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into a even smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose." Despite EA’s best attempts, I think I still have to agree.