Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10
I hate golf. I hate the very concept of hitting this little ball far away into 18 small holes, without any defense involved. I hate its elitist past and somewhat elitist present. I mostly hate the goofy clothes it's inspired. I subscribe to a Carlinist philosophy when it comes to golf. It's not a sport, it's an activity; it takes up far too much land; and when you come across your ball after hitting it so hard, pick it up, put it in your pocket and go home, because you're lucky you found it.
I do enjoy mini-golf for its physics challenges, have hit some humpers (a friend's term for what you do at the driving range) and have played many golf video games, but translating the limited skills required for success in golf turned the concept more or less into a rhythm game, where other than aiming right and picking correct clubs, your ability to time button presses decides your victory (though analog control sticks and the Wiimote have enhanced the controls in recent years.) That all ends with Tiger Woods PGA Tour '10 for the Wii, which takes video game golf to a new level. Sure, it's still golf, but even I didn't care. EA has managed the incredible. They've made golf fun.
Since you know how I feel about golf, it's pretty obvious a simple golf game isn't going to entertain me, This is no simple game of golf. Sure, you can pick one of the 27 big-name courses (many of which are unlockable) and just hit the links, swinging for the cup, but that's only the base game mode. It gets much better than that when you use the deep character creator mode (in combination with the returning club tuner) to create a golfer to mold and improve and take on the PGA Tour. After heading through a solid tutorial (a skill-testing node that is really needed with such a fresh, new control scheme (and one that was sorely missing from Grand Slam Tennis)) you can choose to play in the career mode, which starts in the amateur ranks and can go 30 years, with the U.S. Open and FedEx Cup among the big tournaments or play in tournament challenges that help you unlock new characters, courses and challenges.
Playing this game in its standard set-up didn't really challenge me, and I think that part of that is the many options you can adjust, including your playing style and swing difficulty. I chose to use the medium difficulty and played as a Grip and Rip-style player, and I was able to stay close to par every time (if I was trying at least.) Just keeping the Wii-mote straight while swinging is relatively easy (especially if you cheat and swing one-handed) so it's not to hard to get right to the green. Like real golf though, the game is decided with the putt, and that takes a bit to master. Though a graph display on the green, showing the pitch and speed of the green, is helpful, in the end, it's your judgement and your movements that will put that ball either in the cup, on the lip or somewhere inexplicable. You can also make the game much tougher, but if you really want to get your score down, it's going to simply take practice to get there.
If standard golf isn't your thing, three additional modes, each with several variations, are available to check out, starting with your traditional golf, only with different scoring and play options, like team play, match play and skins. If you like more arcade-style golf, there's plenty of that as well, with games like Battle Golf, where winning a hole lets you take an opponent's club, and target shooting in Rings. Then, since this is the Wii, there are mini-games, like Mini-Putt, only played on real courses, and T-I-G-E-R, which, if you couldn't guess, is a golf version of H-O-R-S-E. You could play this title for days on end and not have to play the same style of game twice.
But, when you do play through everything, there's one more mode to enjoy, one that's exclusive to the Wii, and it may be the best in the whole game: Disc Golf. Playing golf with a Frisbee is a blast, especially if you're playing with others, and the controls make it extremely lifelike to play (see that section for more details.) There are plenty of ways to enjoy playing Tiger Woods with friends, but the Golf Party is your traditional Wii party game, as you play sillier golf-related activities, like ball juggling, golf-ball return vehicle driving and an Othello-like game. It doesn't matter whether you like golf or not. These are simply fun to play, and the Ball Battle feature, where you can finally play defense in golf, makes it that much more entertaining. The only thing not to like about Golf Party is when you play with two players, as you can win every round, only to have the loser pass you when you get modifiers after each round. The leader gets 1,000 points, and second place gets 850. While playing a friend, I won every round, and he won the match thanks to several +300 and +400 point modifiers.
Utilizing EA's wonderful online system, which makes playing over Wi-Fi easy as pi(e), there's a number of options available if you want to face-off with real opponents, including a fantastic time-saver inSimultaneous Play, which lets you take on one to three opponents, all playing at the same time, with on-screen info about your opponents' play. It really had to be done, otherwise online matches could have taken an eternity. Now, they are buttery smooth, which is how all of the online play comes across.
In addition to the pick-up games, there's also the great Live Tournaments, which have three variations of their own, starting with the daily and weekly tournaments, which let you just jump in and play, with your scores kept on leaderboards alongside everyone else playing. If those two weren't enough online enjoyment, the Play the Pros options is extra cool and something you could probably only do in golf. If there's a PGA tournament going on, you can play it alongside the real pros, and your scored are put in the mix with the players' real accomplishment. It's an ingenious mix of reality and gaming, and an opportunity golf fans won't be able to pass up.
One of the cool elements you get from online in this game, along with some other EA titles, is the implementation of Live Weather, drawn from the Forecast Channel. Basically, wherever you're playing, whatever the weather is there at the moment, is the weather you'll experience in-game. I live near Bethpage Black, and it definitely had the right weather when I played that course. Also available to online players is the ability to buy gear, including a pink bunny suit, but it's not going to be used frequently by most players, unless you want to skip the character building aspect of the game (the suits imbue maxed-out stats.)
I'm going to start with how this game plays with the MotionPlus attachment, mainly because there's no reason to not buy the game bundled with one at a discount. So how do you play? Pick up a golf club. Swing it. That's how you play Tiger Woods. There's not a whole lot more to it, and the bits outside of your swinging motion aren't even all that necessary. This is the promise of the Wii's motion controls delivered. How straight and smooth your swing is will determine how far you drive the ball and in what direction it goes. There are little things you can do to enhance your swing, like adjusting a few settings before your shot, turning your wrists to curve the shot or shaking the Wii-mote while the ball's in the air to affect it's curve post-impact (a ridiculous idea for a game that's basically a simulation,) but like playing golf in real life, it's mostly about the way you swing your club for both big drives and controlled putting. Though it's not very forgiving, it's also incredibly intuitive, and easy to adjust to after playing a few holes.
While the control while swinging your stick is great, utilizing the MotionPlus to play Disc Golf is almost as natural as throwing a Frisbee around in real life. Every tilt and twist of the disc before and during your throw will affect the distance and direction, making it an amazing simulation of Frisbee tossing. Like all the games here, when playing a multi-player game, you can choose to either pass a single controller (a handy set-up when you only have one MotionPlus attachment) or have one for each player (obviously in the party mode, each player will have their own controller.)
Moving around the display during gameplay and through the menus smartly is assigned to two modes of navigation, one via pointing and one using your D-pad. After playing EA's other MotionPlus title, Grand Slam Tennis, the lack of D-pad or Nunchuk navigation was a big inconvenience, so it's nice to see them in play here. Speaking of Nunchuk, though it's shown as part of the available controls on the box, there's seemingly no use for it, which makes sense, as it could only get in the way while swinging.
If you, for some reason, don't have MotionPlus, it's still got a solid set of controls, much like '09, with the addition of Precision Putting, which gives players more control over the short game (though the club-based "Classic" system is also available. You can also take advantage of All-Play controls (in both standard and MotionPlus) which just makes things easier, with the addition of shot arc previews and less precise movement recognition. It will be the rare day that someone who has played with MotionPlus, chooses standard controls.
Just one more note about the controls: one of the best additions has to be the Speed Play mode, which lets you tap the A button following your swing to get right to the next shot. While you may enjoy watching your ball soar through the air and awaiting to see where it will land, sometimes you just want to play through. You can also hold down the two action buttons and take as many practice swings as you want (which comes in handy more times than you think.)
Graphically, the game looks terrific, with each course looking spot-on and the animation of the players going smooth (especially when you screw up a putt.) While the game does suffer a touch from the Wii's hardware shortcomings, like when you get up close to a setting (particularly when you're shooting from the rough and have a pixelated cardboard cut-out of a branch in front of you) overall you'll enjoy watching the ball fly over the course, giving you a view of some beautiful vistas. Add in the quality of the presentation, including the well-designed menus, broadcast graphics and in-game displays, and you have a beautiful Wii title.
The audio, presented as a Dolby Digital surround track, is good, but not as impressive as the visuals, mainly because there's only so much of it, limited mainly to some incidental music, some good sound effects and the commentary provided during play. The voice work is solid all around, though the abuse you get for a bad shot is a tad annoying, while the sound effects create a reasonably realistic setting (with the thwack of the ball in the Wii-mote speaker putting you right in the scene.) Like Grand Slam Tennis, the crowd sound during tournaments is really quite nice.
And in the End...
I never thought a legitimate golf game could be all that fun, probably because the same way I was playing an action-packed game like NHL, was the way I was playing an action-starved game like golf. But now, thanks to Wii MotionPlus, I'm far more involved in the game and Tiger Woods is loaded with fun and unique modes to keep me playing even when the enjoyment of traditional small ball starts wearing out a bit. I can't even imagine how great this game is for those who really like golf. EA deserves a ton of credit for delivering not only the best golf game ever (on any console,) but a definitive Wii experience to be placed alongside the best first-party titles on the console. It'll be interesting to see how they get people to buy an '11 version without the roster updates seen in other sports.