With a monopoly on the genre such as EA have, it would be easy for them to sit back, rest on their laurels and slap a new coat of paint on the previous years release – and to be fair, that’s arguably what they do with some of their other IP’s.
But with Tiger Woods, it seems clear that they are constantly striving to make it a better, more realistic golf simulation while keeping it accessible to all levels of players.
Having played golf at a reasonably high level for a number of years in my younger days I could wax lyrical for hours about the levels of technical realism in Tiger Woods 10, the swing dynamics, ball control, individual club customisation and grass types. But having played video games for even longer, I know as a gamer all you really want to know is what makes TW 2010 worth buying over TW 2009. So let’s tee up the new features and see whether they come in sub-par (which is a good thing, in golf!)
Firstly, and this is something that’s needed improving on for quite sometime now, is the putting system. This has been both simplified and given a sense of ‘feel’ to the putting action by giving you a marker on your swing meter which indicates the appropriate power to hit the ball. All you need to do to hit a decent putt is swing the analogue stick back to match the suggested power and back again. It gives you a genuine feeling of a weighted pendulum swing, but does not allow for green speed and elevation – this can be accounted for by setting your distance marker before putting, which in turn adjusts the suggested power of the putt. Of course you still have to aim, with the aid of the contour grid, and you are entitled to one ‘Putt Preview” which gives you an indication of what line your putt will actually take.
Gameplay wise, the putting dynamic is the only significant change, and to be honest, the only real improvement that the gameplay itself needed. Other additions serve to integrate TW 2010 with what’s going on in the real world as much as possible.
For the first time you can take part in the prestigious US Open at the challenging Bethpage Black Course and experience the throngs of crowds reacting along the fairways and around the greens. You will hear crowd reactions in the distance as other players sink putts and climb the leaderboard.
Online, the game can connect to live weather updates from The Weather Channel so you can play the courses in the conditions they are currently experiencing. Wind and rain will affect the flight and roll of the ball dramatically. In the wet, the ball will stop very quickly when it starts rolling. But dynamic weather conditions means that rain can stop and start at any time, and this is where TW 2010 reveals one small chink in the realism stakes. If there’s torrential rain for 16 of the 18 holes and the rain suddenly stops, the conditions at grass-level revert to fine weather conditions pretty much straight away. When in reality it would still be very wet and the ball would react accordingly. It would have been nice to see this reflected in the game, with perhaps some visible surface water for example and a change in sand consistency in bunkers. They may seem like minor details, and they are, but for a game that prides itself on such things then these are details that should be taken into consideration.
In the new Play the Pros mode you can place yourself in major tournaments and compete against the Pros and the scores they actually posted. The game will even sync with scores from current PGA tournaments so you can play alongside them and challenge for the silverware. It’s a very clever feature, and one that will no doubt feature prominently in all of EA’s sporting franchises to come. Of course there are the usual array of online tournaments to compete in and leaderboards.
Graphically, it would take a trained eye to notice any difference between this and last year’s release. The water effects and some lighting has been tweaked a little, but as far as the character models and player animations are concerned it’s status quo for the series. One nice touch I noticed was when I overclubbed an approach shot and my ball went into the gallery, the poor guy who got hit immediately doubled over and held his groin (yes, that’s where I hit him) while bystanders circled around somewhat bemused.
The game once again shows off EA’s in-depth character customisation feature and the ability to utilise Gameface and get your own mugshot mapped onto your golfer is welcomed back. There is a great variety of top professionals to choose from – Mr Woods himself of course along with the likes of Furyk, Montgomerie, Singh, Sorenstam and Gulbis, plus a few crazy looking extras with equally crazy stats. Available also is our very own Michael Campbell as a playable character. Tiger’s coach Hank Haney makes a re-appearance too and runs you through the basics of the game.
Scott Van Pelt and Kelly Tilghman dish up the excellent and relevant commentary with Van Pelt especially providing some of the better lines in the game. Having played a number of rounds now I must say that I haven’t heard too many repeated comments from either of them.
So is Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 worth buying for golf sim fans? Well the answer is two-fold.
- Yes. Because you really don’t have a choice in the matter apart from previous versions.
- Yes. Because it’s more comprehensive, rounded, polished and playable than ever before.
Having said that, TW 2009 is a great game, as was 2008. But 2010 is better, without a shadow of a doubt.