Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Tiburon
Release Date: June 8, 2009
Oh, Tiger, it seems as if it's been a year since we last played. I missed your challenges, your character creator, the club tuner and frustrating bunker slices. I swear it was the controller, not me.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 is the latest and greatest in the golf god's franchise, and TW10 brings some new features to the game, which has its pros and cons. The biggest drawback is that Tiger Woods 10 almost feels like a franchise reboot absolutely geared to entice new players to the game. The sheer amount of video, audio and licensed PGA media is enough to make it as much of a documentary as it is a game. The bad, for what it's worth, is that the menus and general pick-up-and-play has changed ever so subtly so that hardcore fans of the series will find themselves digging a little bit deeper to find certain options.
I've been playing the Tiger Woods franchise religiously for the last five versions, and anyone who reads my reviews knows I'm an absolute sucker for the character creator. Sadly, there is absolutely nothing new in TW10 when compared to TW9. I still stand by the fact that TW8 had a much more versatile character creator compared to both TW9 and TW10. For that reason, I took the plunge and decided to give EA's Game Face option a go. You have the ability to use your Xbox Live camera to take front and side profiles of yourself, or go the route I did, and upload photos directly on the Web site. I don't want to nitpick, but that process was long, painful and overly complex — and that was just in finding the option to upload the photos into my EA account, which was tied into my Xbox Live account. Once I went through all their hoops, though? Bam! Digitized Otter. I'm like one step away from Tron. All told, the entire process took about 30 minutes to upload, digitize and then tweak little things like key face points (identifying the chin, eyes, mouth and nose). The end result is pretty sweet.
The one thing that I loved about the past few Tiger Woods titles was the ability to pick up the game and play through a few quick rounds of the Tiger Challenge. They weren't quite mini-games, and they weren't full 18-hole matches. They were fun little tasks, like long drive competitions, closest to the pin contests, or having to play against the computer in the best match on par 3s. They were all things that you could do in 10 or 15 minutes. Sadly, it seems that TW10 has taken a different approach to the challenge. Now, it's all about recreating famous happenings in golfing history. The lock/unlock feature of the challenge is still there, forcing you to step up your game and complete early "easy" challenges in order to open up other challenges. It's not a bad system and feels far more golf-oriented than the previous titles, but it's also definitely more time-intensive. One of my very first "easy" challenges was winning a nine-hole match playing against a girl who could out-drive me by a good 50 yards. It started off very frustrating because, well, let's face it: You start the game as a low-stat, low-ranked golfer and have to win challenges in order to improve, and it's hard to win when you suck, so you can see the catch-22 here.
Another new, yet welcome, change to Tiger Woods 10 is the addition of Live Weather, which works in conjunction with the Weather Channel to pull real weather stats for real holes, as you're playing. If it's really raining at Sawgrass, it'll be raining in your Xbox Sawgrass. It's a nice little visual addition that admittedly doesn't drastically change the game, but is a great option to add another layer of realism. Don't worry, though; you can disable the feature too, so you won't be stuck in permanent gusty winds.
Keeping with the Xbox Live theme, Tiger Woods 10 also adds Live Tournaments, which is a pretty sweet feature for those who love to follow the PGA leaderboard. Essentially, each week you'll be able to play against real pros. No, Tiger isn't going to be sitting in his living room playing against you, Mr. Fancy Pants; it'll be a score-based system. The way it works is that your skill rating will help determine which tournaments you can enter online, using a unique system to determine match difficulty.
Yet another major change to TW10 is in putting. The new Precision Putting system utilizes a similar on-screen interface and mechanic as your swings, requiring you to pull back and follow through on a put. You can still check the lay of the green and get a putt preview in the non-expert mode, but now you'll also have to have a steady thumb to judge power and accuracy. If nothing else, the game has now mirrored my real-life horrible putting game, as I tend to either hit far too short, or way too long. You can always go into the options to go back to the old method if you prefer, but the new option again adds another layer of unique gameplay that feels far more immersive and hands-on.
All right, so the putting is new, the Live Weather is new, the Tiger Challenges are new. What's left? Well, that's what happens when you have an annually recurring franchise title: You inevitably end up rehashing some of the same old, same old. Hank Haney is back again, though given a little more screen time this time around. Character modeling and animations are recycled from the previous version, as are a lot of the same canned voice responses. Man, if I had a dime for every time my virtual me shanked a bad shot and yelled, "Not over there!" Scott Van Pelt and Kelly Tilghman provide commentary that is fairly fresh in TW10. Scott at least has a few funny lines here and there, though Kelly comes across as pretty stiff. Plus, I swear they're biased against me. I chipped a shop six yards from the green only to hear Scott and Kelly complain that it was an awkward shot that would leave me with a long putt to try and win the hole. Meanwhile, my opponent hit an even uglier shot landing 18 yards from the green. What do Scott and Kelly say? "Oh, what an amazing recovery! That was a great land on the green." My point here being that the voice response on the shots are still a bit off and could use some tweaking. Or maybe they just hate my golfer.
The background music has subtly changed again, though it's very similar to TW9 in the sense that it's all soft jazzy instrumental "safe" music. Long gone are the Happy Gilmore days of golf with loud hip-hop and rock and roll, I suppose. It's not a bad thing, but it's one more aspect that shows the game is trying to reboot as a serious golf title in every respect.
Of course, Tiger Woods 10 wouldn't be right without its online multiplayer capabilities. While generally removed from many of the initial challenges, all of the standard game modes are back and available once again: battle golf, match play, one ball, skins and a handful of other familiar modes are back. Similar to TW9, there are still some issues with the online multiplayer that EA just doesn't seem to want to address. I'd love to see a lobby system created, similar to Left 4 Dead, for example, that allows me to play game after game after game with a bunch of the same online friends, without constantly having to drop back to the menu to relaunch things from scratch. It's such a time waste and could be easily fixed, so it just ends up being more annoying than anything else.
All told, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 is solid. There is plenty of common familiar ground for established fans and players of the previous titles, as well as a tuned and inviting menu system for new players. Additions of Live Weather and Precision Putting put even more realism onto what is already the most established and recognized golf simulations out there. Aside from some stale animations and recycled player options, the replayability is likely to exist until TW11 comes out next year.
More articles about Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10