I may as well get this out in the open before we go on, otherwise it’ll be unearthed in some forum discussion later on and people will start shouting at me; I’m not a big golfing fan.
In fact, as my ever expanding paunch will prove, I’m not a fan of any sport really, except perhaps for Competitive Whinging. I’ve got two left feet on my wrists and a mis-wired co-ordination system salvaged from a broken torch, the combined result of which means that I always get picked last in sporting events.
I’d say woe is me, but I was actually born with a wonderful inability to care about being the first person chosen to get sweaty, so never mind.
What I do like though is long walks in the country, occasionally punctuated by hitting something with a stick and laughing at my own ineptitude. I also like country walks that usually end up in a nice bar and have the option to drive go-karts included. When you think about it, golfing is probably my ideal sport. The question is then; Is Tiger Woods PGA Tour ‘09 my ideal game?
Now, I know what you’re thinking – all EA Sports games are essentially the same. There’s going to be nothing really different here compared to the last Tiger Woods PGA Tour. Well, you’d be wrong because Tiger ‘09 is actually a remarkably different and more polished experience compared to our previous forays into these club-swinging territories.
In the opening to this article I talked about how I’m not really a hugely knowledgeable golfer, which is true. I know a putter from a nine-iron and have ventured out onto the local course a few times, but I still had to ask Tim what exactly a Lateral Hazard is. I’m able, but not knowledgeable – so I expected Tiger ‘09 to be an uphill struggle, filled with jargon and difficult words.
But it wasn’t, because one of the new major features of the game this year is the new coaching mechanic – something I think EA has fabulously misrepresented. In all the advertising blurb and so on the focus has been very much on the “Tiger’s coach is now your coach” aspect, with loads of pictures of the apparently excellent golfing instructor Hank Haney.
What the focus should have gone on though is the fact that the game can now totally adjust itself to the playing style and ability of various users, not the fact that somebody most people have never heard of is making a few brief, poorly-voiced and badly lip-synced appearances for which he will probably be paid far, far too much.
How this new system works is simple and you’re basically given four or five different tasks and shots to make, based on which the game will recommend you one of four skill levels ranging from All-Play to Tour Pro. What’s key though is that the difficulty doesn’t directly affect how difficult other players are to beat, but how the game will function for you.
On the All-Play setting for example you’ll find that much of the complexity is ironed out and the game will do a lot of the hard work for you, so all you have to do is swing the club either using a flick of the left stick or the even easier three-step power gauge method where you just choose how hard to hit.
Scale up to the hardest difficulty setting though and things get a lot harder. You’ll be without a lot of the helpful indicators and you’ll be expected to select the correct club and so on yourself. Angle your shot, take the wind and lay of the land into account and then swing and pray you’re as good as Tiger Woods. It’s a mode that the hardcore players will really appreciate.
Best of all though is the fact that your player's stats, which directly control things like your power, accuracy and so on, are all directly to tied to your actual performance. There’s none of this arbitrary +2 Drive Ability because you managed to win a tournament through sheer luck.
Instead, if you show a gradual and consistent improvement in your game-skills then you’ll start to reflect that in your game character, though you can give yourself a boost with certain equipment if you really need it. Apparently wearing an Oakley plaid shirt will give you a +2 to Accuracy. (I'll have to give that one a try next time I'm out playing - Ed)