Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 Next-Gen Review - 10/09/2007

Tiger's back, and with new golfers, courses, modes and options to boast about to his fellow sportspeople. However, is this merely a case of the yearly update with a few extras, or has next-gen golf finally been made next-gen?

Last year's Tiger Woods for Xbox 360 really didn't feel next-gen, except perhaps in accessibility. It was easy to play and enjoy, and good fun at the same time. This time around Tiger has had a graphical overhaul, a difficulty hike, and more options than you can shake a golf club at. The main new innovations from EA are the Photo Game Face feature, which allows you to paste a copy of yourself into the game; the extended PGA Tour options; the GamerNet online component; new courses; and new golfers.

The main one of those is really the Photo Game Face, which lets you skip the still impressive golfer creation mode that EA are famed for, and just tweak minor settings on your implanted character. On Xbox 360, the Vision Camera allows you to put yourself in the game with a minimum of fuss, taking a front and optional side photo of yourself, placing circular pointers on key parts of your face, and leaving it for 10 minutes to render. Once it's done, you can add hair, different clothes etc. although the hair is still what lets the system down. It can look remarkably like you, though the poor quality of the Vision Cam and no option to change your skin colour in the game if you used Game Face will either have fantastic, or hilarious results. Ultimately frustrating unfortunately. For those looking to the PS3 version, or without a Vision Camera, you must upload photos to the Tiger Woods 08 website, which is erratic at best. It's been going on and offline since release, although we have succeeded in using it to get a front photo into the game at least, and these provide much better quality.

An option to take the photo from the hard drive would have been best. EA are working on it though, so it's not a reason to avoid the game.

Controls have been tweaked somewhat, with a three-click-swing option now available to those of you with a distaste for the swing stick. The swing itself is now even harder to pull off, particularly as a rookie golfer, but thankfully you're now told where you've gone wrong, rather than just assuming the game somehow calculated that you're an awful golfer. You can either hook or slice the ball, or get it perfect, with arrows used to show the severity of the miss-hit. The three-click system just involves one click to start the swing, one to select power, and another to select accuracy. It's far easier, but takes the realism away from the game. It may feel too hardcore for some at the start, but once your stats go up a little, it gets easier.

You can also add draw or fade to the ball, where the ball curves from left to right or right to left respectively, for a right hander. This replaces the system last year where you just had to hit the ball on its side – now there is a visual representation on the course of where the ball will land if hit perfectly with the draw or fade added, and a mark for where it would land otherwise. It's now far easier to skirt the ball round trees or hazards, which was sorely needed for this year's game. There's a new putting preview option as well, replacing the one last year which you could use as many times as you like, this can only be employed once per shot. It's pretty accurate, and only being able to use it once means it doesn't detract from the skill involved with putting.

The graphics have been markedly improved on the golfers, and even the Game Face rendered characters look as good as the celebrity ones, albeit racially inaccurate thanks to the dodgy editing. Courses is another matter, with the new ones looking superb, really fantastic, but the old ones with no change whatsoever, except when depth of field is employed for the cut-scenes before and after shots. This contrast is really stark, and while emphasising the most beautiful golf courses in a videogame so far, just show how far behind last year's Tiger was, and old Tiger 08 courses still are.

The career mode can have you start as a rookie Tiger, or using a created character. You can't upgrade Tiger in the same way as your own golfer, i.e. giving him a pink hat or blonde sideburns, but there is a certain joy to playing as him throughout the game. The main attraction of the career mode of course is the progression as you move through the challenges and PGA Tour mode. This time around, you get points as you play, so if you make a powerful drive using the power-up button as you back swing, or put top spin on the ball in mid-air, your spin and power attributes are raised. Similarly, if you successfully rescue a shot out of a bunker, or narrowly miss a hazard, your recovery and luck attributes will go up. It's a more interactive way of doing things, and a chart at the end of the level explains what you did well enough to earn points for.

There are two basic ways to increase your skills, firstly, by playing through a PGA Tour season. This is inhumanly difficult as a rookie, and I think I finished last and on 20 over par on my first round. Not ideal. However, there's also the Tiger Challenge mode, which is a series of mini-tasks, either playing from a position to beat a score or AI golfer, such as out of a bunker, or one of the gametypes, such as Bingo Bango Bongo against an AI character. Every so often you face off against a more famous golfer, and have to play a front or back nine, or an entire hole to prove your worth, earn some cash, and boost your stats. Once you've done that, you can buy better equipment (not for rookie Tiger though remember) to further increase your ability and return to take on the PGA Tour when ready.

The two modes combined (as well as a mode to practice your skills and further improve your stats) add up to a huge amount of content, with Tiger Challenge having a great amount of challenges on offer as usual, but with inexcusable problems. The Internet is awash with people stating that their game is crashing making it impossible to complete Tiger Challenge, including us. It seems to be a cache or Hard Drive related issue, and is clearly inexcusable in modern console gaming.

There are in fact widespread reports of issues with the game, with the main one coming in Tiger Challenge mode, in that you can't complete it on Xbox 360. So you can cross that achievement off your list in advance. Basically, the game crashes before you can progress to a certain stage of the mode, even causing other game modes to crash too. This is insane, surely, but until we get official word on the issue from EA, they won't be getting any Christmas cards from Tiger Woods fans this year. The rest of the problems come with creating a Game Face online, which we've talked about, as well as using a Game Face created with player one's controller for player two – so basically, you have to create the character with your guest's gamercard profile activated on that controller if you want them to be able to use it. To be honest, Microsoft's profile system has always struck me as idiotic, and the fact that you can't move save files or data on the dashboard between profiles exemplifies this.

Reports of not being able to connect to the Internet on 360 have also surfaced, but this is a pretty regular thing for EA games which don't use the Microsoft way of doing things i.e. requiring an EA account to play online, and that seems to be the problem here. But unlike the Tiger Challenge issue, we've had no problem with this, though we've been playing EA games all year online with our EA accounts, so maybe it's a thing for newly created ones. Head over to < a href="http://forums.ea.com/mboards/forum.jspa?forumID=3201&start=0"> the game's official forum to allay or confirm your fears anyway where people are all frantically looking for solutions.

With that aside, there are reams of gameplay options and modes as always, and the new GamerNet feature, where you can record shots, holes and even entire rounds to upload to the EA servers as challenges to others is brilliant. This works perfectly, and accepting challenges is a breeze. Completing them is another matter however. Some of them are devilishly hard, but the game allocates and awards points based on the difficulty, which is a nice touch – there's plenty of Rookie ones out there too. It would have been nice to be able to upload them to a website for people to watch, but you can't at the moment.

The Fed Ex Cup is the new tournament in the game, which you can compete in by taking part in the playoffs for in PGA Tour mode, and there are a handful of new golfers, including women golfers from the LPGA tour, such as Annika Sorenstam.

The stability issues plague the game for some, with online play either lagless, or crashing out after a few games. These inconsistencies need to be fixed, and fast, to rescue the game for EA. This should be the best Tiger for years, the gameplay and graphics are there, but the advertised features just don't work all the time, it really feels like a rushed job, despite the glorious presentation.

A few more niggles come from the commentary, which is the last thing you need when the shot stick nudged a millimetre to the right, causing your ball to go out of bounds, to be insulted by a drunken sounding American. Repetitive comments, as well as cut-scenes before and after every single shot are frustrating if you're playing for points. Personally, I found playing this edition pretty relaxing with the commentary off, as the ambience is fantastic. However, it's clear not everyone is happy to just play a nice round of 18 regardless of their score, and the aforementioned issues surface to make competitive play often frustrating.

It's a tough issue to score this, as there are a number of features which don't work, something you may expect from a 9.99 PC game, but not a 50 Xbox 360 game, even if it is EA. Thankfully the PS3 version is so far fault free however, but how something like reproducible crashing in Tiger Challenge could slip through the quality-assurance net is mind boggling – sort it out EA, and you'll have the best Tiger Woods golf game on your hands. We'll endeavour to update this review with news once a patch surfaces, although clearly that won't save people without Live. We've made a separate score for the PS3 version, and as they're graphically almost identical, we'll remove the lower one once/if EA sort out the crashing issue.

- Mike Hazleton

UPDATE: A patch is now on the way, and a workaround by holding down the 'A' button when starting up the game to clear the cache should fix the issue before the patch launches.

PS3 Score:

Xbox 360 Score:


Warning: Use of undefined constant altimage - assumed 'altimage' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /homepages/40/d739428433/htdocs/TGSN/rvwxbox360gen.php on line 62

Warning: Use of undefined constant altimage - assumed 'altimage' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /homepages/40/d739428433/htdocs/TGSN/rvwxbox360gen.php on line 63

Warning: Use of undefined constant altimage - assumed 'altimage' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /homepages/40/d739428433/htdocs/TGSN/rvwxbox360gen.php on line 64

Warning: Use of undefined constant altimage - assumed 'altimage' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /homepages/40/d739428433/htdocs/TGSN/rvwxbox360gen.php on line 65

Warning: Use of undefined constant altimage - assumed 'altimage' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /homepages/40/d739428433/htdocs/TGSN/rvwxbox360gen.php on line 66

Warning: Use of undefined constant altimage - assumed 'altimage' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /homepages/40/d739428433/htdocs/TGSN/rvwxbox360gen.php on line 67

Warning: Use of undefined constant altimage - assumed 'altimage' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /homepages/40/d739428433/htdocs/TGSN/rvwxbox360gen.php on line 68

Warning: Use of undefined constant altimage - assumed 'altimage' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /homepages/40/d739428433/htdocs/TGSN/rvwxbox360gen.php on line 69

Warning: Use of undefined constant altimage - assumed 'altimage' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /homepages/40/d739428433/htdocs/TGSN/rvwxbox360gen.php on line 70


EA Sports
EA Tiburon