Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 Review
Written Wednesday, July 15, 2009 By Nate Gillick (GT: ThrawnOmega)
EA Sports loves to crank out their annual updates for each to most of their sports franchises, and the Tiger Woods PGA Tour series is no exception. While roster changes can make teams significantly different from year to year in titles like NBA or NFL; golf pretty much stays the same so making new innovations is especially critical to making it a worthy purchase. Fortunately, the folks at EA Tiburon seem well prepared for the challenge, and have added some welcome additions to this year's game.
This challenge took me 50 attempts. Seriously.
Tiger Woods 10 retains the incredibly extensive character creation system the franchise is known for. Upon loading up the game, players can create a character that is male or female, and go through an incredible variety of options to tailor their golfer's face and body features to what you see fit. There's even the option to have your own face put on the character using the photo game face feature. As players progress through the game, they can use money earned in various events to purchase new clothes for their character, many of which provide stat bonuses, which further aids in character customization. In Tiger Woods 10, your character can truly be unlike anyone else's.
Hank Haney, Tiger's golf coach, returns this year, as does the character attributes system, where players have ratings for their power, accuracy, short game, and putting abilities. New characters start off with pretty weak abilities, but good play and taking advantage of Hank's training challenges after each round of golf can help pump up attributes in a hurry. The overall level of your character's attributes fluctuates with performance, so it can be frustrating to see your short game abilities take a nosedive after a bad round. Increasing attributes creates a great sense of progression with one's character, though it would be nice if stats didn't decline quite so easily.
The new changes to the putting system aims to make the challenge of putting equal for both beginners and veterans alike. By pressing the left bumpers, players can call up a putt preview to see where their putt is going to go. This ability can only be used once per stroke, so players can't abuse it to constantly check out how well they are lining up their putts. This feature isn't available on Tour Pro difficulty, giving advanced players a greater challenge. The putting meter is now the same, regardless of the length of the putt, forcing players to do more careful analysis of the amount of power needed for a shot, whilst the precision putting system demands a careful follow-through. All in all, the putting system can be both easy for beginners and challenging for veterans alike.
The addition of weather changes is also a welcome addition to Tiger 10. EA Sports has partnered up with the Weather Channel to provide weather conditions in the game that mirror the course's current conditions in real life (if you play while connected to Xbox Live). In the rain, fairways and greens become much slower, making game play more challenging. Fortunately, the game can differentiate between light rains and full-on storms, so the rain feels like a varying challenge and not a fixed event.
Live Tournaments are easily the best new feature.
Besides the standard PGA Tour season mode, Tiger 10 introduces a new "Tournament Challenge" mode, which features dozens of different scenarios to clear, ranging from playing certain holes in a set number of strokes or less, defeating a pro in stroke or match play, matching a pro shot for shot on a hole, and more. Progressing through the Tournament Challenge is necessary to unlock a fair amount of the game's content. While variety is pretty decent in the available challenges, some can become frustrating, particularly the challenges where players must match a pro shot for shot. These challenges can devolve into trying again and again to match one pro's incredible putt, which can be more frustrating than fun. Tournament Challenge mode is a fair diversion from the other modes, but isn't particularly compelling.
Tiger Woods 10 reaches its full potential when played while connected to Live. GamerNet challenges return, tasking players with trying to match shots uploaded by other players, and success earns players GamerNet points, which are as useless as achievement points, but fun to collect anyway. These challenges can show up during any round played when connected to the internet, even in offline modes like a PGA Tour season, creating the feeling of a social atmosphere even when not in multiplayer. Of course, players have the option to load up people's challenges and try to beat them without having to play a full round of golf in its entirety.
Live Tournaments may easily be the coolest new feature in Tiger 10. There are numerous tournaments for different skill levels, from beginners to an extreme challenge level, with daily, weekly, and special tournaments. Besides the variability in difficulty level, EA has done a great job spreading these tournaments across plenty of the game's courses with players being ranked on a worldwide leaderboard. There's even a "Play the Pros" tournament type, where a player’s scores are compared against the leaderboard of a current PGA tournament. The variety of options and the worldwide competition offered by these tournaments makes them by far the nicest new addition to the Tiger Woods franchise, and can add significant longevity to the title.
Visuals in Tiger 10 tend to be hit-and-miss. The courses look beautiful all around, with crisp greens and long slick fairways. Leaves blow in the wind, bodies of water look realistic, and bunkers also look as they should. However, the level of detail on trees, and of fans watching the events, still leaves plenty to be desired. Character models tend to look blocky, with some professionals not looking quite right at all.
All the courses look fantastic.
As far as audio goes however, the sounds of golf are well represented, from the swing of the club to the sound of the ball falling into the hole. The crowd sounds enthusiastic and realistic, which makes the monotonous commentary even more apparent. The commentary in Tiger 10 gets old fast, and they really don't even sound interested, nor are they very forgiving on missed putts - hearing them go on-and-on about how bad a putt is can get aggravating in a hurry. The bland commentary seriously detracts from an otherwise excellent audio, and it's my hope EA brings in a new commentary team next year and gives this aspect of the game a major overhaul.
The Tiger Woods franchise has never had particularly easy achievements, and that trend continues here. There are some fairly easy ones, and others that will eventually come with play, but others, like netting 10,000 GamerNet points, posting a top 50 score in a Live Tournament, or earning five million dollars in Live Tournaments may be out of reach for all but the best or most dedicated players. The amount of variety here is appreciated, and many of Tiger 10's achievements feel satisfying to earn, but don't expect them to come easy.
Tiger Woods 10 brings some nice new additions to the franchise, namely in the form of variable weather and the excellent Live Tournaments feature. The new offline Tournament Challenge feature, which tasks players with reliving famous moments of golf history, is interesting in concept, but can be a frustrating mode to play through, and simply can't compete with the game's online offerings. Graphics could use a tune-up, and a new commentary team is needed badly, but Tiger 10 packs enough new offerings to make it worth a look.
The sounds of the game are spot-on, but commentary is uninspiring and painfully dull.
Except for the trees and some blocky character models, the graphics are top notch.
Tiger 10 does a good job of being approachable for newcomers and provides a challenge for seasoned pros.
The addition of weather changes and live tournaments are great to see. The single-player tournament challenge mode, however, doesn't live up to its full potential.
There's a fair amount of variety here, and the points feel satisfying to earn. However, full completion will only come to the very best or most dedicated players, and don't expect the bulk of the points here to come easily.
Tiger '10's new Live Tournaments feature, and the addition of varying weather conditions, make this a great place for newcomers to get in on the golfing action, and provides enough features and online support to make it worth looking into for series veterans.
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