A Bogey for Tiger
From a consumer’s standpoint, the idea of annual sports titles is to improve year after year. Developers do this by offering new features and enhanced gameplay functions along with updated rosters and other changes that have occurred in the 12 months gone past. While Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 features a few new players and courses, it actually offers less functions and game modes than last year, making any red-blooded gamer wonder why they should even bother.
The first thing PSP owners may notice is the lack of game modes. For some reason, EA has taken out all mini-games for 09. Whereas last year’s installment received criticism after EA introduced their so-called Mental Games, they have been completely removed this year – maybe for the better – taking the Confidence Meter along with them. Unwisely, EA has also decided to leave out the fun driving and putting mini-games which were included in past installments. Now all 09 has to offer is the quick, Play Now mode, which allows you to adjust the rules of Stroke Play or Stableford; the new EA Sports Cup mode, which seems more like a tacked on feature; and the PGA Tour mode, which hasn’t changed much from last year either. With only three modes to play, it’s a shame EA hasn’t worked harder to add more re-playability and variety for this PSP release.
The EA Sports Cup mode is the only new addition to Tiger, which is a short tournament designed to be completed in about an hour. You are put in a league, then sent to play only a few holes from various courses against a range of opponents. Essentially, it’s not much different from playing a normal game other than speeding the process up by skipping holes automatically. Overall, it’s a pretty weak new feature, especially considering it is the only new game mode added this year. However, it isn’t bad considering it is intended for PSP users who may only play this game for short periods of time.
Generally, I have found that past Tiger Woods titles work well on the handheld. A full 18 holes definitely occupies your time and the relaxed gameplay style of Tiger Woods is enjoyable on a plane or in the backseat of a car. Tiger 09 offers three different options for shot making, allowing users to swing using the two or three-click shot technique or the analog nub. Users will most likely use the nub to pull back a swing and flick it forward once their power bar has reached the desired level, though it tends to be quite difficult, especially when putting. While the mechanics of pulling the analog back and forth like a virtual golf club may work well with console versions, the PSP nub is much smaller and makes hitting accuracy a lot more difficult. Moreover, it would make more sense for the power meter to fill up slowly while putting as opposed to the same speed it takes for driving. Alas, it doesn’t vary and it takes incredible accuracy to flick the nub forward at the exact desired power level. In fact, when putting or driving, I find it very difficult to be consistent and hit well.
Fans may also notice that there are only 20 courses in total as opposed to last year’s 22 courses, though this year introduces a few new ones such as the Gary Player Country Club, Sheshan, and Wolf Creek. Additionally, you also have the ability to create three dream courses by combining 18 of your favorite holes in each. There is only enough room to save three of these, though the option is nice for those who want to play just their favorite holes in one sitting.
The character models are an incredible likeness of their real-life counterparts with 27 pros in total including both male and female golfers from around the world such as Vijay Singh, Mike Weir, John Daly, Se Ri Pak, Christie Kerr, and, of course, Tiger. Visually, the PSP version is attractive; comparable to the graphics you would expect on the PS2 version. Each course is full of detail and the outdoor ambience of each location is captured well in the sound effects, which make you feel as though you have been whisked away to each location.
While you still can’t see the gathering of spectators watching you play from afar, you can hear them cheering with one funny onlooker in particular who likes to scream especially loud. He adds a level of comedic relief to the game as he hollers slogans such as, “I love this game,” and “That’s the shot!” But, it still makes no sense that you can hear hundreds of spectators cheering your good shots and gasping in shock at your bad ones, though there is no crowd of people lining the course. I think a gallery would be a nice addition to the game and add a level of realism. For those who like the tranquility of being on an open course all alone, having the option to turn the spectators on or off would be nice.
The commentating duo of Sam Torrance and Kelly Tillman doesn’t do much to add any excitement, as their dry observations of the game sound as though they’ve just woken up from a nap. I find some comments are not even appropriate to what just occurred, though they do have some helpful tips from time-to-time. The soundtrack is good, adding a level of excitement to the relaxed, slow-paced style of gameplay this is; you can play for hours without getting annoyed by the music. What I did notice about this game is there is no option to skip through the tracks or browse the play list to turn certain songs off, which is unusual.
If you haven’t grown sick of your 08 version of Tiger Woods yet, there may not be enough new reasons to entice you to buy 09. If you have completely maxed out your previous edition or were anxiously waiting for EA to do away with the pesky Confidence Meter and Mental Games, you may want to check this one out with caution. The lack of new modes and mini-games is disappointing, however.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
Graphics seem unchanged from last year. Detail on each course does a good job of capturing the golf atmosphere. 2.3 Control
Swing mechanics don’t work well for the PSP analog nub, making it difficult to gauge power and swing accurately. 3.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Excellent soundtrack and sound effects to capture the outdoor ambience. Commentating is dull and repetitive. 2.2 Play Value
Lack of new features and game modes offer little reason to replace previous versions with 09. 3.2 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.