Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Tiburon
Release Date: June 8, 2009
For years, the Tiger Woods PGA Tour franchise has been the only series for golf simulation enthusiasts. Though there have been a few games that have tried to go against the series from a simulation stance, fans have stayed close to EA's game thanks to some deep gameplay and a feature list that has grown larger with each new version. This year is no different, with another game in the series introducing new features while going uncontested. Will the changes keep fans coming back for one more year, or are the people finally clamoring for more from the series?
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 shares plenty of similarities with the previous versions from a feature perspective. Career mode is virtually unchanged, with you creating a golfer before your career begins. Golfer creation is still easy, whether you choose to use sliders or the GameFace feature with a photo or PS Eye. While both processes take a good amount of time to complete, the result is just about perfect. Before you begin your journey to the top of the PGA leaderboards, the golfer evaluation begins as Tiger's coach runs through some exercises that will determine your starting attributes. It's very basic material that you've likely seen if you've played any of the Tiger Woods PGA Tour games in the last few years.
There are a few new features included in this year's version, but players will only get to experience most of them if their consoles are connected online. This year's version adds online tournaments that range from EA-sponsored ones to daily and weekly affairs, with leaderboards that reset depending on the one played. While these are good, it's the Play-The-Pros tournaments that will get people excited. These tournaments coincide with existing tournament actually being played by the real golfers outside of the game. The participants are the same, and it gives players a good chance to see how they would rank with the pros if they had the real-life skills of their chosen golfer.
The weather is also mimicked, thanks to a partnership with The Weather Channel that makes the game have the exact weather conditions for the courses inside and outside of the tournaments. If it's raining in Pebble Beach, for example, you can expect the same downpour and temperature to be reflected in the game. Finally, the latest addition to the series is one that is experienced offline. Alongside the FedEx Championship are the USGA Championship and US Open. Since the USGA plays with a slightly different rule set compared to everyone else, the game provides an instant glossary of rules that you can call on anytime to ensure that you understand them and don't violate any.
Multiplayer is just as extensive as the previous version of the game, mostly because it is a carbon copy of last year's multiplayer modes. Everything that was available from last year, including the tournament play and quick matches with full customization, are here and perform the same as before. Lag is virtually absent from the title, and games online feel exactly like they do offline. While the modes still work out well in this version, here's hoping that next year finds the online mode a bit more tweaked. This is especially true for the Friends option on the PS3, since it's still rather difficult to invite friends over for a quick round on the links.
The controls have received one major change that may or may not go over well with some players. The majority of the controls remain the same, with the left analog stick taking center stage for all club strokes on the fairway and the face buttons performing actions such as ball spin, club changes and camera angle changes. For the fairway, the new addition is the use of the left analog stick for putting. Like the other areas of the course, left analog stick movement determines just how powerful and how straight your shot is going to be. Players who are already used to the way the game controls will be thrilled to have a more realistic way of putting while those still learning the ropes will immediately curse the change. The good thing is that the controls can be changed to a more traditional three-click system at any time by clicking on the right analog stick, so people who really hate the analog controls can still enjoy the title.
The graphics have not seen any improvements at all, though what they had to start with was pretty good already. All of the golfers, from the most recognizable ones to the created ones, look great and animate smoothly. This is especially evident during their win/lose animations at the end of every hole. Facial expressions also animate nicely, with just about every muscle moving whenever a move is made. The courses all look beautiful, and avid golf fans will recognize each and every hole before the game gives you the relevant information. Weather effects also help the already good-looking graphical package shine even more.
Despite all of the aforementioned praise, there's still room for improvement, and it's a bit surprising that not everything has been addressed as of yet. The crowds, for example, still aren't as detailed as the golfers since they sport lower textures and polygon counts and their animations are a bit stiffer as well. On the courses, some trees are still made of two polygons intersecting to give the appearance of a full tree. Again, these graphical gaffes aren't enough to pull down the quality, but it would be nice to see them addressed by the next iteration of the game.
The sound in the series has had a few changes, and while they don't necessarily improve the game, they don't negatively affect the quality either. The music remains the same type of light instrumental music that the series has had in the last few years. Even if you aren't a fan of the mood music, it only plays during the menu screens, making it a non-issue if you completely dislike the calm, soothing tunes. Sound effects are nice and crisp but really kept to a minimum, thanks to the nature of the game. You'll hear ambient noises, like bird chirps, go alongside the sounds of clubs being swung and balls being hit, but you won't get anything else. The one change to the sound comes from the commentary. The team has been replaced once again, with Scott Van Pelt and Kelly Tilghman taking over this time around. The commentary they have is much better than the one from last year's game, but, as a fellow writer noted in a review of the Xbox 360 version, the commentary team seems to critique you more often than they do the opposition. Unless you have the right shots and perfect control over your swings, don't be surprised to hear more negative words when your golfer is on-screen.
EA's golf series has always been able to provide a solid and entertaining simulation of the sport. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 is no exception to this, as the core mechanics of the game still prove to be excellent in their field. However, most of the new mechanics add considerable depth to game, and the inclusion of the USGA further legitimizes the game to even the most hardened of critics. While more improvements can be made, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 still remains the best non-arcade golf game to hit any system until next year's version rolls around.Score: 8.5/10
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