Do you notice those three innocuous letters in the title of what is otherwise known as Tiger Woods 08? ‘PGA’ as in Professional Golfers’ Association is the last remnant of this prestigious game’s predecessors. Back in the mid-90’s we were driving, chipping and putting on the Megadrive with PGA Golf Tour. After its initial success EA had been looking for suitable name upon which to hang their game. With the rise to fame of Tiger Woods it was a marriage that was as inevitable as Ross and Rachael ever were.
As with any long standing relationship there have been a fair few ups and downs. But the general consensus is that over the years there has been some real progress made. The game in hand today benefits from EA’s famous yearly cycles of innovation followed by consolidation. The question for us here is whether this is an innovative or co solidarity year, and how the game copes with its first proper outing on Sony’s new hardware.
It is pretty obvious from the start that this time around we have a properly fully fledged PS3 game. Whilst the previous Tiger outing appeared on the PS3 is was essentially a quick port of their existing game. Tiger Woods 08 has the feel of a title that has been built for the PS3 for the majority of its development. Any seasoned Tiger Woods player could quickly tell through a variety of intangible aspects that last year’s game was less than the coherent whole presented by the series on other platforms.
The first noteworthy innovation this year comes to the two powerhouse next generation consoles. Both the PS3 and 360 enable you to take a picture of your face and map it to your on-screen golfing avatar. Whilst this is essentially little more than window dressing, the idea of getting my ugly mug in the game was enough for me to whip out the trusty Eye Toy and plug it in. You take both a front and side picture of your face then place orientation marks for each of your major features. Then the PS3 works its magic and maps these images around the 3D model. I was surprised how thorough a job was done of this. It took a good 20 minutes for the PS3 to render the image, surprising for such a powerful graphics engine I’m sure you’ll agree. Whilst the results were not stunningly life like, they did provide a good starting point around which you could build your golfer using the more familiar create-a-face options.
The game proper hasn’t changed a huge amount from last year. This is obviously no bad thing for a game with a heritage such as this. The main improvements fall into the area of quality rather than tangible features, suggesting again that this is a year of consolidation for Tiger. Although hard to quantify in hard cold facts the bottom line is that the game just feels more fluid and enjoyable to play. The game manages to come together as a whole in a way that the previous outing never quite achieved. Previously, the odd graphical pop or judder often broke your suspension of disbelief. This year’s game has managed to solve these technical issues, not only smoothed over the cracks, but also enhancing the overall quality. When you sink a put or hit that perfect drive, there is just more finesse to the experience.
These intangible benefits are then complimented by some choice new features. These start off with a couple of new multiplayer modes. Our most popular of these was the interestingly named bingo, bango, bongo. This mode provided a game mode where you are awarded “bingo” for being the first to the green, “bango” for being the nearest the pin, and “bongo” for having the best score. Although a simple concept it provided an excellent diversion to the other more serious modes and was excellent if you only had time to throw down on a few holes. The single player has also received some attention. This time around Tiger 08 introduces a clutch of new courses. Westchester, TPC Boston, Cog Hill, and East Lake take the course count up to 16 which should keep the most ardent of players busy for some time.
Control wise, you can now opt to use the older three button mechanic from earlier in the series. This actually dates back to those original PGA Tour Gold games we mentioned at the top of the review. Press once to start the swing, again to set the power, and a third time to determine accuracy. It provides an alternative to the overly sensitive analogue swing. A more progressive change to the controls is the new approach to adding draw or fade to your shot. Now you can simply tap a button to instantly teleport to the landing zone, then add a fade to the shot by pressing left bumper, or add a draw by pressing right bumper. The rest of the controls are much as they have been in previous versions.
Visually, the game is a joy to play. The player models and animations have taken a real leap forward since the days of the PS2, and sadly the current Wii version. No longer do they look like stick puppets on stilts. Each of the characters now has their own certain swagger and personality that is more human than comical. This graphical performance is extended through every high definition inch of the game: menus, cut scenes and golfing action.
Overall, this is a great version of Tiger on the PS3. Whilst there is not a tonne of content to set it above last year’s release on the 360, it is a significant improvement on the previous PS3 version. The only fly in the ointment for this particular reviewer is the existence of another particular version of the game. Before coming to Tiger on the PS3, I had played the Wii version and enjoyed the real-life swing mechanic of the Wii-Mote. Unfortunately this left my PS3 experience feeling slightly flat. Whilst the PS3 outstrips the Wii in almost every other area, the simple lack of motion control is a real deal breaker for me. This is obviously only a concern if you have a Wii, and should in no way put you off grabbing a copy on the PS3. If you are one of the PS-Wii fraternity however, think carefully before opting for the game with the better graphical experience.