Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 Xbox 360 Review
It’s beyond me why swinging a club around is known as relaxing, surely it doesn’t give the arm muscles much rest and when you see your ball sink into a pond it can’t do your blood pressure any good. Perhaps it’s the tranquil and green courses and the lack of urgency seen in other more fast paced sports that has given it this label, but still, a picnic is definitely more relaxing.
The Tiger Woods series has been recreating this sport in virtual form for years now, and whilst it has been called many things, such as too easy or too difficult, the core mechanics of golf have been wonderfully emulated. Tiger 09 is the latest in the annually updating series, and EA has opted to stay clear from reinvention once again, although that’s because such a radical redoing is far from necessary, so instead we have a smattering of new features that range from tidying things up to finding the correct balance between accessibility and challenge.
In fact you could say that the 08 edition found that balance, with a tweaked analog swing system as well as the introduction of the age old three-click method that has served many golf games so well over the years, but if you weren’t too fond with the changes to the much loved swing method last year, then this year you can do something about it.
Firstly, there’s the real-time swing feedback which shows exactly how precise you are with the club swing as you whack the ball. A line on the left of the screen copies your exact movements, so if you’ve hit a nasty hook shot (or are about to) it will let you know and it’s then up to you to learn from your mistakes and adjust your swing until you‘ve perfected hitting them down the middle of the fairway. It may seem like a small addition, and whilst it is in some ways, it’s going to dramatically improve many of our virtual golf swings, but unfortunately if you have a poor real world golf swing, Tiger 09 isn’t going to be able to remedy that.
Returning to the virtual swing, also new this year is the club tuner. I’ve tuned my motors on racing games before, but never have I had the opportunity to tinker with my golf clubs, at least until this came along. If you just can’t get on with the swing mechanics, or just fancy swapping the default settings for something more suited to your playing style, you can hit the driving range, fiddle around with the settings of each of your clubs and then test them out until you are striking the ball with a satisfying ferocity and a near faultless swing. You can alter various aspects of your clubs, with differing adjustments altering the sweet spot and sensitivity of your swing and after taking as many practice swings as you want, a button press brings up a screen in which Tiger Woods real life coach, Hank Haney, evaluates how well you did, so if you hit a series of poor shots, perhaps some more club tuning is in order.
Hank Haney proves to be most helpful not only on the driving range but also with the stats of your created golfer. Depending how your game pans out your stats (power, putting, short game and accuracy) will increase or decrease after the final hole, and Haney will then be on hand to help you out, choosing actual shots that you struggled with in the previous game and then encouraging you to come up with the solution as to how you botched it and how to fix it. Completing the goals will earn you a stat increase (buying and equipping items from the pro shop can also give you a handy boost), and bonus increases are awarded if you manage to complete the additional timed challenge. I’m struggling with my short game at this moment in time, this increasing and decreasing stat mirrors my inconsistency at getting the ball close to the hole from a short distance, low stats in certain areas have only encouraged me to up my game, or at least attempt to.
The game also has some improvements to its online options, with seamless GamerNet and simultaneous online stroke play. Those who played Tiger 08 will be familiar with GamerNet, although this year you are given the opportunity to attempt to beat challenges uploaded by others without having to head to the GamerNet option on the menu screen. If someone has set up a long drive challenge on your current hole for example, an audio cue will inform you and an on-screen image will show you exactly the point where that players ball had come to rest, and your optional task is obviously to get your own live ball past that marker by giving it a good, almighty whack. It’s a sensible evolution of the service and, like every other new feature, is a pleasing addition that will have competitive streaks being awoken. The simultaneous online stroke play on the other hand is exactly how it’s described, it speeds up the game as turns are out and everyone can take their shots around the same time. You can still witness the progress of opponents, as their balls can be seen in the sky followed by coloured trails, and if you want to play in the old way that’s very possible too.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 is golfing gaming gold once again, and whilst there’s nothing remarkably different when compared to 08, some of the smallest features appear to be larger than what they actually are, such is their helpful nature. Like we say every year here at Console Obsession, it’s the best one yet, at least until next years release. That’s enough about next year though, this year I must improve my short game.