Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 Review
You have entered power drive, may I suggest feather touch? POWER DRIVE!
By Ben Salter
I suck at golf in real life and am equally terrible on the virtual green. Tiger Woods 10 on Wii, with MotionPlus, opened my eyes a little and proved to be a much more enjoyable experience for a novice game-golfer than the traditional gamepad. 12 months later I’m back, but this time I’m stuck with the old school control method, at least until Tiger ’12 which I presume will make use of PS Move and maybe Kinect. But I’m getting ahead of myself. For now, let’s sit back and take a look at Tiger’s latest offering.
As Tiger Woods you attempt to have immoral sex with as many people as possible without your wife finding out, before it all goes horribly wrong. Oh wait, it’s not that realistic. Despite being the 2011 release, it’s back when Tiger was a respectable golfer, before everything went tits up, literally.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 attempts to offer a streamlined and accessible experience for the more casual player along with a professional simulation for series veterans. I can’t wait to see what EA Sports comes up with next year, hopefully with motion control, as true aim is a great new addition for serious golf fans. It removes the aiming circle and forces you to take your shots using an over the shoulder camera, as if you were standing right behind the player out on the course. For someone with my skill level it’s far from ideal, as I need a general idea of where the ball will land, but for more serious players it’s a fantastic addition.
I only got a glimpse but I swear it was this long
True aim is used in conjunction with the new focus meter, which attempts to decrease your dependence on in-game assistance. A meter to the side of screen fills up as you play. Using put previews or placing spin on the ball whilst it’s in mid-flight uses up sizable chunks of the meter, restricting how often you can use the help. It does a great job of forcing you to improve your skills and eventually move to true aim and become a masterful (virtual) golfer. In many sports games it’s easy to choose a difficulty and stick with it for the duration of your experience, which hardly improves your skills. With the focus meter, you still get assistance but have to weigh up when it’s worth using it and when to try and go it alone. Like anything, you only get better by challenging yourself and EA has struck a nice balance between forcing you into improving without making it frustrating.
The controls take a little getting used to and are nowhere near as good as the Wii’s, but do their job, with the exception of putting. This takes a lot of practice and with putting preview thirsty on the focus meter, it’s too easy to let yourself down ten fold on the green. It can be mastered, but it’s the one area of golf games that’s still in need of a revolutionary overhaul.
The Ryder Cup, a biannual tournament between the U.S. and Europe, is the highlight of Tiger 11. If you can find a total of 24 people online to participate in this behemoth 12 v 12 contest for national (or regional) supremacy it’s absolutely amazing, providing you’re a golf nut. Fear not Nigel No Friends, you can go it alone with A.I. taking control of some of the characters, while you play as several of them. My only gripe with The Ryder Cup is you’re forced to sit through every players’ shot. You can skip once they’ve hit the ball, but have to watch their preparation. For such a massive event, it’s frustrating as all hell.
WTF is red, red, blue?
On the surface the new player experience model looks great, but it holds a dark secret: it’s rubbish. Upon loading the game you’re inundated with player creation options to develop the physical attributes of your custom golfer, but it’s easy to get bored in all that and skip straight to randomize. Player skills are developed by playing golf - makes sense. You earn more XP for a birdie than a par which is worth more than a bogey and so on. That’s all well and good, but unfortunately your homemade golfer sucks. For all the appearance customisation options, there are next to none at the beginning for choosing what type of golfer you are. It would have been great to be able to choose a strong part of your game from the beginning, like power or accuracy. Instead, we’re left to struggle with a terrible player who has somehow snuck onto the PGA tour. In turn, this ruins the career mode. Until he gets better, your character will struggle to make the distance and his accuracy is worse than a blind man’s self portrait. He certainly doesn’t feel like a pro golfer on the 2011 PGA Tour. The result is deplorable scorecard after 18 holes along the lines of +10 compared to the real pros who are closer to -10. This trend continues for far too long as essentially you’re a first time golfer with no skills playing professionally. It gets better, but that doesn’t excuse the massive oversight.
To its credit, with the exception of career, all of the game modes are decent to play, including online. It hasn’t changed all that much from last year, besides the addition of the 24 player Ryder Cup, but it provides some great mild-mannered golfing action. That said, if you’re upgrading strictly for an improved online offering you’ll leave Tiger Woods 11 disappointed.
The environment models are noticeably better than last year, with the grass deserving an honorable mention. Saying these are some of the best grass textures I’ve ever seen mightn’t be all that credible coming from an Aussie. Where we once had grass we now have three strands amidst a baron wasteland of dirt; but I kid. The character models look like they’ve been ripped out of last year’s game and aren’t quite in the same league as the courses, but are decent nonetheless.
Wait, Tiger Woods '11 actually takes place on a golf course?
Kelly Tillman and Scott Van Pelt do a decent job with the commentary, but they’re no Dennis Commetti or Richie Benaud. The phrases start to become repetitive too soon, especially if you are constantly dominating or having your ass handed to you. It gets tiresome being told how much of a disgrace you are after a four over par round.
The Final Verdict
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 has some nice little additions, but nothing that makes it a must buy unless you’re a golf fanatic. The Ryder Cup is a great inclusion and the true aim mode with the focus meter is the hook for anyone serious about their virtual golfing. The career and character development are disappointing but, unlike a lot of other sports games, they’re not necessarily the series’ bread and butter and the career does get better with time. While there’s nothing extraordinary, fans of past PGA Tour games will be satisfied with the 2011 update.
The gameplay itself is great, especially with true aim for more serious players.
The environments are great and the character models are good without being outstanding.
Decent commentary, but like all sports games it’s going to get old fast.
The Ryder Cup is great and there are heaps of game modes, but the career’s terrible and detracts from the overall experience.
The gameplay is great and there are some decent new additions without anything outstanding, but it’s let down a little by a poor career mode and putting.