|Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10|
|Developer: EA Sports
Release Date: Out Now
As a games reviewer sometimes you think you have the best job in the world. The there are other times when you get a run of awful games to play that you find it hard to say a good word about. Other times you get emails from readers complaining that “you must have taken a bribe to give that game 7/10, because it’s crap”, or I want to marry this game and have its children because it changed my life, I have been know to play it for three days straight, how dare you give it only 7/10!.” Other times we’ve even been contacted by disappointed or even angry developers, wanting an explanation of why we thought their game was so bad. But most of the time you think nobody reads your work at all, and then there’s the rare occasion when you note a game’s failings in a review that nobody else seemed to notice, and the sequel actually does something to put things right, and you think: did they, did they read my review, did they act upon the criticisms I raised?
Nah, probably not. But going by a couple of insignificant but noticeable changes they could have. Gone is the Cal punk EA trax soundtrack that was better suited to a skate or snowboarding game, and the water in the game has improved mightily, now where lakes and ponds lap the edges of greens and fairways it looks right, and while this may only be a tiny visual effect in the periphery of the game, it’s very pleasing to the eye… The game has also addressed a couple of problems it had with the basic rules of golf, but more on that later.
As usual the career mode its probably what Tiger 10 is going to be all about for you, and naturally you can design your own player, the Gameface editor allowing you to use a digital version of your own mug shots via a Live camera. You can further personalise your player by earning or buying more clubs, equipment, different celebratory animations and reactions to poor shots as in previous games. Once you’ve created your player character (which can thankfully be completely changed now if you make a horrible mistake or just get fed up with your player’s look) you’ll probably head for the ‘Tournament Challenges’ like I did - like I in fact - always do. They’ve been a feature of the TW games since the dawn of time, and long may they be so. They’re basically a series of tests or scenarios designed to help you master the game’s different shots, familiarise you with the game’s trickier holes, award you with some upgrade points and relive some of the top pro most amazing real life shots. It probably sounds boring as hell but mixed up with the game’s tournament season mode it’s Golf’s answer to Pro Evo’s Master League, and can be as addictive as nicotine.
The courses look truly lovely, and more organic than before with individual blades of grass on show everywhere, and shading that makes the contours of the land pop out more than ever before. The trees have really had a makeover, and now look much more natural, varied and realistic as they sway in the wind, and for the first time it’s impossible to spot two the same. A “real tournament atmosphere” was really attempted for the first time, and they’ve done it quite well, with hundreds of fully-3D-ified spectators clapping and cheering every shot mindlessly – just like real American golf galleries. I haven’t heard some idiot yell “you’re the man!” yet, but I’m sure he’s in there somewhere. The crowds even act like real golf spectators and stand in some incredibly stupid places, and you can actually hit them with an errant shot, which will result in an amusingly pained animation, so expect Tiger Woods 11 to feature an injury lawsuit mini game featuring Judge Judy.
As before they aren’t all unlocked at the start for offline play, but you can play them all online straight away. This means that for the first time that I can remember in a golf game, you can relive the US Open, the British Open and the US PGA on the actual courses – now all they need to do is ask Tiger to go to Augusta and smooth talk the powers that be until they allow EA to model the National course and we’ll have something special indeed.
Once again you can play all the different game types; Strokeplay, Matchplay, Stableford, Skins, Bingo Bango Bongo, Alternate Shot (or Foursomes if you’re British), Best Ball, Fourball, Greensomes, Bloodsome, Battle Golf (you get to remove one of your opponent’s clubs if you win a hole) and One Ball, as well as a selection of minigames (target golf, putting contest, long drive competition etc.) for one or more players. Sadly, and amazingly I can report that the TW PGA team still don’t seem to grasp the basic rules of golf as far as hazards, out of bounds, penalty drops or even the basic order of play are concerned, probably because none of the developers actually play golf, or more charitably maybe it’s because of the developer’s stock get-out: “gameplay purposes.” Whatever the reason behind it you’ll find yourself sometimes being forced to play 3 off the tee if you hit the water on a par 3 (not necessarily what you’d do in a real game of golf), and ruled arbitrarily “out of bounds” or “in a lateral hazard” when there is no indication of that when planning a shot or an escape. You can’t even use adjoining fairways as you can on some courses in real life, the game decides that the ball is out of bounds – and that’s incorrect, particularly at somewhere like the wide-open Old Course at St. Andrews, a place where this slapdash approach to the rules of golf seems even more insensible. You’ll also often find yourself playing your chip shot onto a green before an opponent, despite being closer to the hole than them, again flouting the basic rules of golf.
At this point I’d like to say Aaarrrgh! Can you imagine FIFA being allowed to get the offside rule wrong every year? Bizarrely this year the game even features various USGA golf rules and examples thereof between shots, so any in-game errors glare even brighter. More golfing incorrectness (presumably born from developer ignorance or a lack of interest) comes with the series’ steadfast insistence that “you can’t use a driver off the fairway or a wood out of a bunker, and shots from the rough must always go less distance than shots from the fairway” – any golfer will tell you that this is completely the opposite of the truth (particularly with the advent of “Hybrid” woods designed precisely for the purpose of getting out of trouble), so why does the official PGA game insist on it being this way? Huh? WHY?
And while I’m ranting, what about replays of good shots or even holes? You can turn them into an EA Gamernet Challenge, available to play again and again and even upload them to the EA Gamernet servers so everyone else on the planet can try and match or beat your shot, but a simple saved replay to show the missus your hole in one? Nope, not unless I’m missing something. It’s incredibly fiddly to review a saved shot (but you can) but only as a preview to challenging your own shot as a Gamernet challenge! It’s quite simply, daft. I just want a replay for goodness sake!
The difficulty level in the TW games has always been way off the mark and it’s still too easy at the default “Amateur” level, but is getting better. They’ve been quite clever in as much as the distance you can hit the ball has been reduced to more realistic levels, and dynamic skills statistics and club tuning means that you might be able to hit your driver 360 yards right now, but your swing will have to be more accurate to get it on the fairway. As with the other categories (Accuracy, Short Game & Putting) hitting lots of wild drives will also affect your distance stats at the end of a game, although these can be regained with good play and visits to Hank Haney (your coach, who sounds a lot like Hank Hill from King of the Hill) for practice drills on the four basic shot types. Upping the difficulty to “Pro” or “Tour Pro” soon brings the guys who shoot 52s down to earth, but removes one of the elements that makes the Tiger Woods games a bit different; being able to apply spin to the ball after hitting it, a thing that keeps you involved in the shot right the way through. I find ‘Amateur’ too easy and ‘Pro’ difficult to enjoy and strangely non-engaging, I need a setting somewhere inbetween.
As a golf simulation Tiger Woods 10th incarnation still needs improvements in several departments, but as a golf game it’s never been more accessible, or provided a more varied challenge thanks in no small part to several new dynamic features. Visually it’s a treat and the ball physics are amazing. Online play now has so much depth that it could keep you playing until next year’s game, and offline the tour mode and tour challenges will keep you going for several weeks or even months. TW10 is a worthy sequel and an improvement on last year’s game, and most importantly it’s fun to play. It’s just a pity the same old flaws are allowed to show up year in year out.
- New putting system
- 3-click control method for non-swingers
- Improved dynamic skills/attributes system
- 16 great courses including the venues for 3 of this year’s majors Loads of real golfers and modes of play
- Enhanced online modes
- Postcard looks
- The odd bug and AI flaw
- Still seems to be too easy, or too hard for most
- Errors in basic rules and etiquette grate with real golfers