Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 Review

Geoff White

The crowds cheer as your ball bounces onto the green and lands inches away from the pin. You take the long walk up to the ball with your putter in hand, line up your shot, take a breath and sink the putt to become the Open Champion. You drop to your knees and soak up the atmosphere as you realise you have joined the golfing greats. For many of us, this dream is never going to come true in real life. Luckily for us, we have Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09.

This is EA Tiburon's second Tiger Woods title in as many years and they are looking to build on last year's success. Will they be able to improve on what many called the best Tiger Woods every to be created or will they make things worse?

Stats - so near, yet so far...

The first change you will notice occurs as soon as you load the game. You are greeted by the newest and biggest feature of the this year's edition, the inclusion of Tiger’s real-life coach, Hank Haney. He will train you throughout the game, recognising areas of weakness in your game and giving you training tasks based on your last round. Say for example, if you hit a shot into the bunker, after your round the same shot will be there and it will allow you to replay the scenario and will try and teach you the correct way to play it.

The game has been split into 4 main areas; power, accuracy, short game and putting. Based on the performance of your last round you will either gain or lose points on each of these. In reality though, the system becomes a pain and doesn’t recognise course management. If you take a 3 wood off the tee because it leaves you an easier approach, the game won’t recognise this and will take some power stats off you, which is highly annoying. Hank should have also gone to some voice acting lessons beforehand because his voiceovers are some of the worst that I have heard in any game. Personally, I feel they should have left the confidence system they had in the game last year as it worked well, unlike this new system that seems riddled with issues.

The biggest improvement you will notice in the game occurs when you take your very first swing. The swing mechanics that bugged last year’s title have been dealt with, and the new swing feels like Tiger of old. You will no longer be shanking balls that you clearly hit pefectly with the analogue stick, and balls will no longer continuously stop on the edge of the cup when you putt. Included in the game is a swing indicator, which shows your swing direction. You can find out whether or not your back swing is straight, then whether or not your swing is straight and true or continuously to the side. You can then either practice your swing, or enter the next new feature, the club tuner.

Club Tuner- best new feature to the series

This feature will allow you to adjust the settings on your woods, irons and wedges to suit your playing style. You can alter several key aspects on each of the clubs; the power, the loft, the workability and the amount of spin. You can then also adjust the club to counter any natural fade/draw that your swing has. Each alteration to the club will affect the sweet spot. This means that people who always hit the ball straight can afford to put the power all the way up, meaning that the sweet spot will be about 50% of that of an unaltered club. This feature really aids the regular players and allows them to benefit from better equipment, whilst the casual gamer will not need to worry about tuning the club. This feature is without a doubt the best thing that EA have added to the game since last year's installment.

The next main change to the game is that of the commentary team. Gone are the familiar voices of David Feherty and Gary McCord, to be replaced by Kelly Tillman and Sam Torrance. In a way it’s nice to get some changes to the commentary team as they were beginning to get a bit tiresome. However, the new duo appear to have been given the same script book that has been used in Tiger games for many a year. I would have much rather seen an alteration in the script with the old team, than new voices going over the same script. The new team seems very serious and, well, boring. Luckily you won’t hear them too much, and you’ll be left to the sounds of the birds chirping and the crowds cheering, which seem to have been stepped up from last year (if that’s possible!).

The graphics from last year’s game pushed Tiger to the top of the leaderboard in the graphics department and were hands down better than any other sports game. This year the graphics have been given a facelift and are looking even better. The moment you step onto the tee you can’t fail to be impressed. The way the lake in the distance shimmers, to the way the grass is looking to the trees around you blowing gently in the wind, on top of the more lifelike appearing golfers. It’s hard to predict what major changes can be made to the graphics for next year’s game.

Graphics are nothing short of spectacular

The achievements for the game are relatively easy, and everyone will be able to get them if they are willing to invest the time. As usual, there are achievements for creating a customer character and then taking that character onto the PGA tour to win events and to complete the Tiger challenge. There are also several achievements for the Gamernet challenge, which will force you to play the challenges online. Luckily, you can earn points whilst completing rounds in the career mode. Challenges for longest drive and closest to the pin will pop up during normal play, and beating these will earn you points. It’s a nice touch and you can earn a lot of points during your career, making the online achievements that much easier.

Overall, this game should be a huge improvement after last years with the swing improvements and the lack of glitches that plagued the first release of the game. However, the coach aspect becomes frustrating. A lot of people want to be able to maximise their character to play online, and this just hampers that. I really hope EA will work on the feature, or remove this from next years as it is the only downside of the game. Apart from the fact that you can use MS points to buy character suits that will max out your stats, this blatant cash in should never be encouraged by the games industry, it’s going to lead you down a bad path. However, if you’re a golf fan, this is a most own game. If you’re a newcomer to the genre and not sure if this is the place to start, well let’s just say this is the Tiger Woods of golf games.

The main change in the game is change of commentators. While most will miss the old quirky duo, it is nice to have a change in voice. Hopefully next year they throw out the current script book and give it a complete overhaul.

The best looking sports game released to date. The courses look amazing, the players look great and the crowds have been given an overhaul from last year. The game really does look spectacular.

The game has taken Tiburon’s first outing, shaken it by the horns and ironed out any flaws that last year’s game had, replacing them with some great new features. The gameplay is exactly how it should be for the genre, well, except for that damn game coach!

The offline season has 20 club tournaments as well as the Fed-Ex Cup which can be set between 1 and 4 rounds a go, so you will get plenty of play. The Tiger Challenge is also improved this year, and will keep you coming back. The online Gamernet challenge also gives you an unlimited amount of challenges to test your skills against.

The game continues to use a pretty much default list that you will unlock by simply playing through the Tiger Challenge and the PGA Season. The Gamernet challenge achievements continue to force people to do challenges rather than test their skills against people in real time.

The issue with annual sports games is if they do enough to warrant the cost of upgrading the game you have for just a graphics uplift. Well, in the case of this game, it clearly does. Any fault in last year’s game has been removed, and the game is a jump up from last years. Those that choose to purchase this game will have a much better experience than those who stick with previous releases. This game is the crown in EA’s sporting library.

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