Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 Review - 18/09/2008

The obligatory yearly sequel, but this time EA have built on their consistent improvements to make a golf sim game that really, couldn't be much better.

It has been my job each year to review the respective Tiger Woods game, and honestly, it's hard, even 12 months after the last instalment to be motivated to write about it in any real detail, let alone play the game for long enough to give an accurate opinion on it. Multiplayer is usually the staple of the game for me, but finding someone at a similar ability, good or bad, is quite difficult. This year I was actually looking forward to writing this review. It brings back memories of the great, sprawling courses, impossible shots pulled off, and aggravating lateral hazards causing many a shot-limit to be exceeded from my time with the game.

Tiger himself does a good job with these games, especially the adverts. It makes you feel attached to him in some way, and while hardcore golf fans will have their opinions on him no doubt related to their favourite golfer, the fact that Tiger's coach (Hank Haney) is in the game this time to give you tips and improve your all round game follows suit from the NASCAR series, which boasted an in game Jeff Gordon to guide you through. You will need this coaching as the difficulty of the tournaments ramps up, but it's also a great way to fine tune your game in a menagerie of new features crammed into this year's game.

The graphics have had a major overhaul.

Starting with a photo of yourself, either from the Internet or using a compatible camera e.g. Vision Cam (you can obviously still use the face-creation facility if you want a unique character) you go through the same process as last year. This time though the 'levelling up' of your golfer is much more dynamic and the progress is clearly shown to you through some great navigational and presentational tools. There are four categories: Power, Accuracy, Short Game and Putting. Your performance in every single hole of every single course can improve your stats for each section. It can, however, also reduce them. Just like real golfers who go through blips in form you can suffer a poor tournament and your overall ability will suffer until you begin to pull it around. You can take part in coach's challenges, one for each section after each round of 18, giving temporary stats improvements. They, for example, will allow you to hit further for 18 holes, bringing your average up and raising the Power stat permanently. As you can also buy accessories to help with improving these areas (the most vital ones unlock after you complete various Tiger Challenges) changing the shaft on your club may turnaround your fortunes – the whole mentality of this area of the game really makes you think of real golfers playing on real courses.

Speaking of which, the graphics have had the biggest improvement for a long time, possibly since the transition to this generation of consoles. I found myself actually wanting to sit through the usually sleep-inducing course fly-through at the start of each hole. Textures have been improved all round, but most notably the water now looks great, absolutely incredible in fact. You can definitely pick the older courses from the new based on their graphics, but all have been given a nice sheen so that you'd recognise last year's game in an instant due to the lower level of texture detail. The commentary, such a vital part of the game but which has never been done to a satisfactory level again falls short. It's probably still better than before, but you get shouts of 'I think this will end up on the green' once the ball has already landed and stopped, and cries of 'I hope you brought your sandals' as soon as you connect with the ball to warn you that it's physically impossible to avoid ending up in a bunker. You find yourself desperately adding spin to the ball to try and prove the commentators wrong, but alas, it rarely works. It's certainly very frustrating to get their belated or ridiculously advanced calls on your shots.

You now receive 'expert' coaching from Hank Haney.

The tournaments are more compelling this time, while four rounds of 18 is probably still a bit long to play on the same course in a row, encouraging you to move away from the career mode for a break. Seeing real life golfers climb up the leaderboard on day 4 is a great thrill, and with the gameplay easier to get into this time around you will feel like you can get out of tough situations with a few well played shots. It is now much harder to completely fluff a shot, though you may still find yourself baffled as the ball lands 50 metres short or 50 metres long with no wind or elevation. You can use either the three click shot or the shot stick, and can switch between the two whenever you want. Spin and extra power is added in the same way as always, tapping LB or A while the ball is in flight for the former, and as you start your backswing for the latter.

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