Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Tiburon
Release Date: August 26, 2008
Tiger Woods PGA Tour '09 All Play marks the first entry into EA's Wii-specific sports titles for the PGA series, and it also marks the arrival of the best golf game you're going to play on the Wii — or possibly all systems — this year. Seriously, it's that good, folks. Developer EA Tiburon really poured a lot into the making of this game, doing its best to give us some true-to-life golf controls using the Wiimote and including quite a few other system-specific features that everyone can enjoy. It truly makes PGA '09 All Play a game that the entire family will love, but without dumbing down the difficulty or stripping away the core gameplay into a watered-down replica of the X360 and PS3 entries.
PGA '09 All Play features a variety of modes, the biggest being the My Career section. It's here that you'll play through the entire 2009 PGA season, competing in 18 holes of golf across 35 matches, which can take quite a bit of time if you're looking for some longevity in your sports titles. As you begin the mode, you'll create a golfer from various sets of options, like faces, body types, clothing, hair and so on. This is your typical create-a-character mode found in quite a few other sports titles, but Tiburon didn't skimp out on the selections, so there's a lot of stuff here you can mix and match, making your golfer as serious or comical as you'd like. As you advance through the tour, you'll also be able to change up your stats by filling up certain areas like Accuracy and Power, so there's an RPG element to the main career mode as well.
The controls really stand out for Tiger Woods this year and help to propel this version to the top of the heap. The previous games have used a similar control method with the Wiimote, and while you're simulating a swing, it was also pretty easy to fake it if you wanted and still be able to get passable results. Basically, it didn't feel real enough, which is a shame because if you're playing this type of game on the Wii, you want to feel like you're getting an experience that you can't get elsewhere.
This year, Tiger Woods finally feels like it delivers that experience. It's not quite 1:1 ratio controls, but it's really close, and I think it's a great start to what we'll be able to get out of that Motion Plus accessory for the Wii next year. You can test this out before your swing, and you'll notice that even the slightest movements register with your on-screen avatar. Simply moving the Wiimote back and forth will have the same effect on-screen, and it becomes easier to judge the power of your hit and figure out your backswing when you can see it relate in real time right on the TV. It also takes into account how hard you're swinging, so you'll want to equip that Wii strap just to be safe, and make sure you don't send the Wiimote flying after an initial par 5 drive. Tiburon did a fantastic job with the controls this year, building up on the empty promise from years past for the franchise, and finally letting us feel like we're on the green from right inside our living rooms.
Granted, the Wii version of Tiger Woods doesn't quite deliver on the visuals, when compared to the other next-gen versions of the game, but the controls present here more than make up for the lack of visual flair you'll find on other consoles, at least from what I've played on the other versions. With this title, it's literally all about the controls, which ends up making it the superior version in my book.
Keeping in mind that the game is called "All Play" for a reason, there are a few available options when it comes to actually swinging the club, to help give new users a better idea of what they're doing. The control option called All-Play is more of a beginner's mode, detailing the path the ball will take when you hit it, similar to the more arcade golf titles, like Hot Shots Golf, and if you're unfamiliar of what to look for when it comes to course hazards, sloping greens, and other standards of video game golf, this is a good mode to start with, since it'll help you get familiar with the basic mechanics. Then there's the standard mode, obviously meant for the more advanced player, which puts the guesswork back in, but also displays more information about your actual swing, making things a bit more technical and involved than the All-Play method. There's also an advanced setting meant for the truly hardcore, but I didn't find it to be all that effective, and ended up settling on the standard mode after spending a bit of time with All-Play to get my feet wet with the game.
In addition to your core career mode, there's a variety of online and offline multiplayer matches, as well as quite a few golf varieties, featuring stuff like Mini-Golf, Battle Golf, and even Capture the Flag. This is in addition to a slew of mini-games created strictly for the Wii platform, featuring multiplayer with up to four players, and just about every single game included is a lot of fun once you get a group together to check them out. This is where the family appeal really kicks in, especially considering that there are over a dozen of these mini-games included, which is pretty exceptional when you think of how much content is already available from the Career mode alone.
Online multiplayer also features a four-player option, and it seems to work really well. I tried out a few games in the time I spent reviewing PGA '09 All Play, and every one of them came off lag-free, and while Nintendo's online service isn't well-known for being easy-to-use or for hooking up with other players, EA offers up its own online service, which is far better than using the standard Nintendo setup. You can jump into various lobbies, split up by casual or competitive, and even invite your existing friends to play. It's easy to match up with other players and find games to jump into, instead of scouring message boards for friend codes to use so you can find someone to play with.
Altogether, Tiger Woods PGA Tour '09 All Play is definitely the best version of Tiger Woods you're going to get your hands on this year, and it offers a lot of promise for versions to come, especially with the Motion Plus accessory being available just around the corner. As long as the next Wii iteration keeps up with the various modes, Wii-specific mini-games, and the excellent online play for next season, than EA will definitely be on the right track for this All-Play line. It's a great golf game that fans young and old can jump right into, with intuitive controls and overall fun gameplay for everyone. It might not look up to snuff when compared to the other versions, and there's still a feeling that I'm looking at PS2-plus visuals, but it's easy to ignore the lack of flair when you sit down to play the game. Be sure to check out this one, sports fans; PGA '09 All Play is definitely a game that the entire family can get a kick out of.
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