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I really loved Tiger Woods PGA Tour '05. The depth of strategy and level of intensity in a single round in that PS2 game made me understand and actually like golf. Whereas before I saw golf as a boring, "old white man" sort of game, after playing Tiger '05 I became a fan of the sport. I never actually played another Woods game until this one, so while I don't know if this year's update may or may not be enough for those who purchased last year's edition, I can say that this is one of those rare games that, once the basics have been learned, is almost impossible to dislike.
From a visual standpoint, Tiger Woods 10 does everything it should and not a whole lot more. All of the courses look really good, but none are likely to "wow" you. The facial expressions of the golfers look pretty convincing (especially for Tiger, of course), but the same cannot be said for the crowds that litter the rough surrounding the fairways of the courses. I don't know why dozens of ugly, low-polygon-count people choose to stand directly in the line of fire all the time, but they do. These crowds look great from a medium distance, but a close-range view reminds on of character models from a much earlier day, which certainly can't be helped, from a developer's standpont, but it always seems a bit laughable whenever your ball rockets into the crotch of a foolish bystander and the camera zooms in to show off his original-xbox-style model groping his nads.
The actual mechanics of golfing work perfectly on the 360 controller. Hitting the ball straight requires precision, so you have to really pay attention to what you're doing when you pull back and slam forward on the left stick, otherwise there's a potential for a wicked slice or hook. While having to pay attention to the controls would be a knock in any other game, I feel that it's a bonus for this one. You shouldn't be able to hit a ball exactly where you want to if you're totally shanking when you swing. Putting is an interesting affair, and is often a test of trial and error when dealing with any sort of sloped or banked putting green, especially early in the game when players will be unfamiliar with how much they should compensate for a slight incline or a mean bump.
With each putt opportunity, one can use "putt preview," which essentially predicts where your ball would go if you hit it where you are currently aiming. This allows players to readjust their aim and have a much higher chance of sinking the ball with only one putt. This is the single most unrealistic feature of the otherwise realistic game/simulation, and might make the game a bit too easy. However, it definitely makes the game more fun, as without it there would be a lot more frustrated players knocking in triple bogeys on every hole.
It's hard to disappointed with the number of modes (Stroke Play, Match Play, Skins, Bingo Bango Bongo, Stableford, Alternate Shot, Best Ball, Four Ball, Greensome, Bloodsome, Battle Golf, and One Ball) and minigames (Target, Target to Target, T.I.G.E.R, Capture The Flag, Putting Contest, Approach Contest, Closest To the Pin, and Long Drive Contest) included in the package. The regular PGA Tour season event calendar serves as the "campaign" in the game, and is used to win money and buff up your character along the way. It's a good idea to play some quick rounds with your character and doing some training minigames before entering the PGA Tour season, as you're likely to get screwed otherwise. This reminded me of grinding in an RPG, which is definitely not a good thing. This "prep" period does do a good job of getting players acquainted with the controls and strategies, however. Players can play in the U.S. Open for the first time in series history, which is certainly a cool feature (it's weird that it didn't make it in earlier, in fact). What I'm getting at is that this is, like most EA Sports Games, an incredibly complete package.
There are a few flaws in the game, most noticeably the in-game commentators. Almost everything they say is either boring or (more commonly) totally wrong. If one of the speakers says "it looks like it's headed for the rough" you can be almost positive that the ball is not, in fact, going to end up the rough. You'd think that digital commentators would have better sense, but not so. The game does give you the option to mute the commentators, which I give EA major credit for. At least somebody there realized they sucked.
The other thing that REALLY ticked me off were the two "new" courses available for download from either launch or very close to it. You'd have to drop an extra $15 to get these two together, bringing the total price EA wants you to spend on their game up to $75. That is just a messed up way to treat your customers, especially the real fans who also bought '09 and want all the new courses with this year's game. The guys at EA have really gotten too greedy this time, and I hope gamers vote with their dollars by NOT being ripped off and getting the courses. Oh, and the Photo Game Face thing is a load of crap. If you try to do it with the website you have to go through the most ridiculously complicated process ever. Even once I finally figured it out my in-game character came out looking like Gollum from Lord of the Rings. I happen to be a well-tanned and attractive man.
I'm done with that rant and back to things I like about the game. The new "simultaneous play" feature in the online is awesome, and works even better than you'd think. Also, the "Live Weather" feature, which pulls information from Weather.com to give real-world current conditions on all the courses is an awesome feature. Even people who don't care about golf can understand how cool that is to have in a sports game.
There are some minor flaws with Tiger Woods: PGA Tour 10, but they're a bit overshadowed by the incredible depth, amount of content, and sheer fun factor offered by the game as a whole. I'm mad about the DLC thing, but that's more of a problem with EA as a whole than with this game. The most glowing endorsement I can give this game is that I promise I'll be playing more of it even after this review has been posted. For those who are new to the series or haven't played an entry in a while, this golfing simulation is absolutely worth the price of admission.
Platform(s):Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, Wii, iPhone, PS2, PSP
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