Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

More than Just the Ryder Cup

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 brings a few important innovations to the game along with a number of small tweaks. Obviously, a big emphasis has been put on the Ryder Cup (golf’s premier international tournament), and, for the most part, the game does a good job of recreating the event in all its glory. Another major update is the ability to play online team matches with a total of 24 players. If you can deal with dreadfully slow pacing, it’s a cool feeling to best players online within the confines of the Ryder Cup formula. Finally, the addition of a Focus meter is supposed to add a kind of economy to the game that forces gamers into picking and choosing when and where to access power boosts, spin control, and increased accuracy.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 screenshot

Despite these innovations, PGA 11 is essentially the Tiger you’ve been playing for the past several years now. Even though the devs tried to shake things up by adding new mechanics to the swing, good players will jump right in and master the new techniques within a round or two. That’s probably a good thing, as alienating long-time fans would not be smart. Also, the Ryder Cup is an important competition to have access to, but after playing through it a couple of times (whether online, solo, or with friends), you’ll likely leave it alone.

Unfortunately, PGA 11 isn’t all roses. These games have become increasingly more intricate over the years, but this complexity comes at the expense of efficiency. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 is one of the slowest-paced games you’ll ever play. For starters, just getting into the game takes an extraordinarily long time. The title truly suffers from a bad case of menu-itis; it takes forever to wade through the superfluous layers of menus, online connections, EA account verification, Online Pass redemption, swing tutorials, etc. You have to wade through all of this just to get to the main title screen. Sure, one you go through it the first time, subsequent boots will be much quicker. But even then, excessive menu surfing, long transition loads, and seemingly interminable, in-game load screens will still foil your rapid succession. Speed of play is perhaps this game’s biggest issue, and it even rears its ugly head when playing in the Ryder Cup, because you’ll constantly have to wait for teammates and competitors to finish their shots. This keeps things immersive, but it also becomes yawn-inducing quickly. I’d love to see the menus and load times seriously streamlined, and I’d also love a quick-play feature included, almost like speed golf.

The addition of Focus to the swing mechanic this year creates an interesting in-game ability economy by giving players a limited (though regenerative) reservoir from which they can draw to pull off spins, power boosts, and even add extra accuracy to their shots. On the one hand, I like that top players won’t be able to just reef on the boost and spin buttons to carve extreme shots every time they step up to their ball, because sooner or later, no matter how well they’re playing, the built up Focus will drain.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 screenshot

On the other hand, after years of playing the other way, the game sort of feels like it’s been handicapped. Imagine playing through an RPG with an unlimited amount of mana to fuel your magic just to have the devs come through and release a patch that limits your magic-user; sure, the game is probably a lot more balanced, but your mage has been Nerfed to the point where you’re thinking about trying out the barbarian – that’s kind of the feeling Focus brought to the game for me. That’s probably just bellyaching, though; I’m sure I’ll get used to a tamer Tiger and actually have less-lopsided contests against my friends.

As far as controls are concerned, things are as solid as they have been recently, but I still yearn for the old days when you could choose to use either the right or left analog stick to swing. Yes, Tiger fans that aren’t left handed (almost everyone) will still have to deal with their left thumb bollixing up their shots every now and again. Regardless, controlling your golfer with the analog stick is natural, so you shouldn’t have too many problems scoring. That being said, because of the intermittent use of Focus, muscle memory is often put to the test when trying to add power and spin; because of its on again off again implementation, expect to block or straight up shank shots. This can take away from what otherwise should be fluid analog stick strokes. Thankfully, the putting mechanic is exceptional – it is very easy to drain putts like a pro once you’ve had a few rounds of practice. If you’re a Sony owner, the PS3 is also going to get a firmware update in the fall that will support PlayStation Move motion controls.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 screenshot

The new True View mode is very neat. It adds another level to gameplay that core players will enjoy, assuming they are willing to master a new way to play. Rather than being able to pinpoint exactly where your ball is going to end up like some kind of golfing robot, players can now test themselves with a much more natural point of view. Overhead perspectives with yellow circles are not an option in this mode, you’ll have to judge your shot selection strictly on yards to the pin and wind speed. For most people, True View will just be too difficult to manage, but for those who want a more immersive, realistic experience, True View is tough to beat.

As mentioned previously, the inclusion of the Ryder Cup Matches is a real blessing for true golf fans looking for epic international showdowns. For those of you unfamiliar with the competition, it teams up the top-ranked professional golfers (who’ve earned their place by accruing points through top finishes) into a European and an American squad. The Ryder Cup is steeped in tradition (originally held just between American and British golfers) and really is a necessary addition to the PGA game franchise. However, upon firing up the game, there aren’t enough top pros represented. Also, it is really silly that you can pick professionals such as Retief Goosen, Colin Montgomery, and Rory McIlroy to play for your United States’ squad. Other than these glaring errors, playing match, best ball, and alternate shot events as part of a team is a lot of fun, especially when you do so with friends, either online or at home.

One of the more subtle tweaks to PGA 11 is the inclusion of an XP mechanic. Rather than earning cash to blow, players will be awarded XP for pulling off tough shots, finishing well, staying in the fairway, getting on the green in regulation, etc. This is a really nice way of rewarding players for their efforts across all the game modes. Experience also makes character creation a bit more rewarding than in years past. I liked creating my golfer, Shooter McGavin, and pimping him out with ever sweeter stats and even honing his swing to a Faldo-like edge in the swing tuner. The addition of XP proves to be a boon for the series that should holdover for the foreseeable future.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 screenshot

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 also marks the first time EA SPORTS has implemented its Online Pass structure. For those of you uninformed, EA SPORTS is going to offer vouchers included in every brand new copy of their sports games, which can be redeemed by the first owner of the title for unlimited online access. For any subsequent owners, the code will no longer be valid. In that case, you’ll have to cough up an additional $9.99 to get access to online team play, daily, weekly, and live tournaments, and even standard online multiplayer. I have no problem with this, as the secondary game market is quite costly for publishers to support. Moreover, the online features offered in PGA 11 are quite robust, it is only natural that EA should only want to support paying players.

Speaking of online features, being able to play with 23 other players in team events is pretty cool. However, as mentioned earlier, it does get painfully slow. Nevertheless, it is nice to have the capability, and I could see hardcore gamers with similarly hardcore friends having a most excellent time playing each other for Samuel Ryder’s hardware. As always, connections are usually rock solid, and there’s a huge community of players that can be competed with or against at any time of day or night. Finally, GamerNet Challenges, which boost your EA GamerNet score if you complete them, are a nice addition, especially whilst playing solo. These challenges crop up on the in-game ticker when one is available. They will test you to hit long, straight drives and get near to the pin with your irons. If you do beat the challenge, your score will be recorded and sent to others playing the game whilst connected to the Internet.

If you plan on playing alone, or at least keeping things local, there are plenty of game modes to play (pretty much every important variation of golf is represented) and 17 courses are available at the outset plus a random 18 option. New courses can be purchased from the EA Store over time; the Highlands is currently the only premium course content offered. Also, these courses play quite differently depending on how you set them up. In PGA 11, you can nicely adjust courses to your specifications – you can change fairway and greens speeds, softness of greens, length of rough, type of pin placement, weather conditions, and, most importantly, wind conditions. You can even add Pro Challenges to the mix, which force you to play without woods or irons, make sand or trees OB, take away power boosting and spinning, etc. All of this tweaking, especially pin placement and wind condition, really keeps the course selection fresh and challenging.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 is another class-act entry in the Tiger Woods franchise. The addition of the Ryder Cup and the tweaks to the swing mechanic make this year distinct enough that fans of the series will likely want to upgrade. I had a lot of fun with this title despite its missteps, and I plan on playing it often. That being said, the thought of waiting through the seemingly endless load screens and navigating the stifling menus is about enough to turn me away. Still, if you can handle the tortoise-slow pacing, there’s a deep, fresh take on “the greatest game” to be found.

The Tiger Woods franchise looks really good. Time of day cycling is a nice touch. I wonder if the realistic graphics contribute a bit too much to the slow loading, however. 4.1 Control
Old and new players alike will be challenged by the Focus mechanic. After a few rounds, though, you’ll easily be tearin’ up the courses. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Announcers are sufficiently dull to nicely replicate the broadcast presentation of professional golf. 4.3 Play Value
Loads of courses and the addition of the Ryder Cup make this the deepest Tiger to date. 4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Bring Home the Ryder Cup – Represent either the U.S. or European squad and play your way through the prestigious Ryder Cup tournament on the beautiful Celtic Manor course. Assume the role of captain and tweak match-ups on the fly and participate in the various competitions – better ball, alternate shot, and match play. Lead your team to glory in the last great sporting event founded on prestige, rather than prize money.
  • Take the Team Online – Compete in an all-new team golf mode that allows up to 24 players to compete head-to-head as members of a team. Join a team or create your own, then hit the links to see if your team can rise to the top of the leaderboards.
  • Graphical Enhancements – Even more graphical detail has been added to the game via textured clothing, flowing hair and apparel, and time of day changes during the round.
  • Championship Courses – Take on the best of the best on many of the PGA TOUR’s most renowned championship courses, including TPC Scottsdale.

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