As good as Tiger on Sunday
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 takes the series further down the road of excellence. There have not been a tremendous amount of changes, but the refinements do make for a more enjoyable overall experience. The graphics are stellar, the sounds are fantastic, the controls are more inclusive, and the modes of play are even more varied. The new face creator is a trip, and it should really enhance online play. All in all, you’re really going to like this year’s go ’round.
If you’ve never played any of the Tiger Woods games in the past, then you’re in for a treat. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 is a golf simulator that captures the atmosphere, fun, difficulty, frustration, and joy of the game. The sheer complexity and varied modes of gameplay let the gamer play leisurely through minigames and friendly foursomes, or take a professional tact by upping the level of difficulty and taking on the best pros, courses, and tournaments the PGA Tour has to offer.
For those of you who purchase the series year in and year out, you’re also in for a treat. The gameplay and attention to detail are better than ever. There are tons of unlockable courses and gear. Executing fades, draws, flops, getting up and down, and playing to your golfer’s strengths are very easy. The addition of the 3-Click Swing has tweaked the controls slightly, but still feels familiar. The presentation, including sights and sounds, is spot on. Veteran fans of the series will be able to jump right in and nail birdies. Fortunately, the new additions of player Confidence, GamerNet, and Photo Game Face are great and not only pull you into the PGA Tour experience, but keep it all fresh and appealing.
Game modes are the same as last year and include Play Now, PGA Tour Season, Tiger Challenge, Traditional Game Modes, Arcade Modes, Mini-Games, and a Practice Mode. The only exception is that of the addition of Bingo Bango Bongo in Traditional Game Modes. Bingo Bango Bongo is based on match play scoring, but is broken up into three parts; Bingo is the first to get to the green, Bango is the closest to the pin, and Bongo is the player with the lowest overall score. This is an interesting scoring system that doesn’t necessarily reward the best player, but it does provide for a very fun betting game. Other than Bingo Bango Bongo, stroke play, match play, skins, stableford, best ball, and the like are all here to entertain you and your buddies. The PGA Tour Season is deep and customizable, and the Tiger Challenge will improve you and your character’s abilities. The Arcade Modes include Battle Golf and One Ball. These games are clever, but not my cup of tea. I would never choose to play these games, but they do add to the variety. The Mini-Games are nice diversions too, but again, the core gameplay of the PGA Tour Season and the Traditional Games stand head and shoulders above the rest, and will receive the lion’s share of your attention. The similarity between last year’s version and ’08 are obvious, but don’t let that discourage you from picking up the new iteration. The subtle refinements and new features make it worthwhile.
One of those new features is player Confidence. It is an interesting development that I’m not sure everyone will like, but I love it. Golf is a game of skill and judgment. The greater your skill and the better your judgment, the more confidence you have as a golfer. Confidence is also a product of time and experience. The longer you practice specific skills and the more situations you see, the better equipped you will be to handle less than ideal conditions. A confident golfer is able to play above the weather, their lie, and their competition. EA Tiburon has captured this dynamic by creating the Confidence Meter. This meter measures your golfer’s confidence heading into each shot by gauging and tracking a multitude of factors over the course of his or her career. Shot selection, lie quality, adverse conditions, club selection, situational experience, and shot difficulty all come into play. Why should you be concerned about your golfer’s confidence? The reason is because the Confidence Meter will increase or decrease the margin for error on any given shot. Your targeting circle will actually shrink, allowing you to take dead aim at the pin. For example, if your character has played the game for a while and you have increased his skills and he has seen a lot of challenging scenarios, then you will be able to pull off some pretty crazy shots no matter what the circumstances. If your avatar is just starting out however, then you will have to play far more conservatively. Inexperienced players with moderate confidence ratings will have to aim for the fat side of the greens and lay up with long irons. You can increase your golfer’s confidence by shooting low scores, getting up and down, hitting the fairway, sinking long puts, etc. Conversely, if you go through a stretch of poor rounds, then your golfer will begin to slump.
Multiplayer online play is well constructed. The menus are clear and the matching is easy. You can play against others based on skill level, host games according to your own parameters, play EA Sports hosted tournaments, or you can even play the arcade modes of Battle Golf or One Ball. I really like the new GamerNet function. This year you can actually save your favorite shots, holes, front or back nine, or an entire round and then upload them on GamerNet. Other players can then try to best your handiwork. This feature is fun and interesting. I think it could be made even more interesting by rewarding the posting player with some kind of quality content points that could be spent on special items, downloads, or gaming gear. Look for this feature to be expanded upon in future Tiger Woods titles.