|System: X360, PS3, Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Tiburon||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 8, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-24||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
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.
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.
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.
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.