Reviewed: July 2, 2009
Released: June 8, 2009
These yearly sports reviews can be quite challenging to write sometimes. After all, how much can a game really change from year to year? Well, in the case of Tiger Woods, we see some substantial improvements to both the gameplay and the content that not only make this review a pleasure to write, but they also make Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 one of the most fun games to play and hardest games to put down this summer.
Most of the new improvements and added features arenít all that revolutionary or even that inventive. After going over the list I even asked myself, why havenít we had this all along? But after several years of getting the graphics and the gameplay nailed now, Tiburon can finally address issues like features and subtle gameplay nuances to make this virtual sport more like the real thing.
When it comes to gameplay we have the new Precision Putting mode that replaces the previous outdated and seriously flawed system of putting with a single meter that represents the entire travel distance of the putter, even from the fringe. Now, more than ever, you have to judge the distance and the grade and occasionally use that Putt Preview button to judge your line before striking the ball. Putting in past games has presented plenty of problems but with Precision Putting this is now one of my golferís strongest skill sets.
Real-time weather has also been added. By default the weather conditions are randomized, but for those who are linked into Xbox Live you can sync with The Weather Channel and pull down real-time weather from the real location of the course you are playing. And since weather dramatically impacts the greens as far as rolling distance and speed, there have been times where I have actually postponed my ďindoor video golf gameĒ because of bad weather.
One of the biggest new features is the inclusion of the U.S. Open; a first for the Tiger Woodsí franchise, and Bethpage Black is one of the most challenging courses I have ever played. PGA Tour 10 keeps things looking very serious with all-new visual upgrades to the courses with more varied spectators, digital leaderboards with real-time information, awesome camera angles and killer special effects when you connect with your drives or make an insanely long put.
ESPN integration is back, although your updates are now scrolled along the ticker at the bottom of your menus. ESPN Radio is absent Ė not that I miss it that much. And this year in the broadcast booth we have ESPNís Scott Van Pelt and Kelly Tilghman from the Golf Channel. What impressed me about the commentary this year is that in past years they would often make the wrong call such as, ďOh noÖthis oneís in the sand trapĒ even when it landed on the green. This year, Tiburon has designed it so if somebody makes the wrong call the other commentator will correct them.
This year playing online has never been more important. There is the new EA Sports Live Tournament Mode as well as daily and weekly tournaments. You also have the Gamer Challenge point system in place for daily high scores that are broadcast right in the main menu. And perhaps the coolest feature, you can now play alongside real PGA Pros in real-time by syncing up with their scores during real-world PGA Tour events.
When you tire of the lengthy career mode or just need some extra spending money or skill points you can tackle the Tournament Challenge mode, only this year, instead of random challenges and events you will get to replay or take part in challenges based on historic events in the PGA Tour. Many of these feature moments in Tigerís career and these will be prefaced with a video chat with Tiger before you head for the course to match or beat his performance.
Much like last yearís game that introduced Hank, Tigerís real-world coach, this game borders on role-playing with a robust character creator (including Game Face using a camera) and skills that range from power and accuracy to short game and putting. These stats are modified after each round of golf based on your performance and Hank will create customized drills based on any issues you had in the previous round. These optional drills will help you build up your stats. After I got my stats up to around 10 I started skipping the drill. They just got too time-consuming.
For a quick stat boost you can also spend some of your hard-earned prize money in the Pro Show where a $9,000 pair of socks might give you a .5 boost to your putting. Itís a ridiculous premise with inflated prizes, but it gives you something to do with all that money and it allows you to tweak your golfer and compensate for any shortcomings in your real game.
PGA Tour 10 has received a noticeable facelift as far as course detail and smaller nuances like water, foliage, and especially lighting. Golfer animations are accurately reproduced from their real-world counterparts and you have a large library of animations you can purchase for your own golfer, but must have been carried over from past games. There is more variety in the crowd but they all react in unison with awkward animations that can be a bit distracting.
The audio presentation gets a serious boost with more ambient sounds coming out of every speaker in a crisp, clear Dolby Digital mix. Scott and Kelly are great in the booth, playing off, and even correcting one another. The play-by-play is much improved and they will even reference your past performance on the same hole within a multi-round tournament. This is probably the best commentary of any Tiger game to date. Each hole is still prefaced with an introductory fly-by that describes the layout and any tips. Iím ashamed to admit that my impatience to swing the club usually has me instinctively skipping these.
There is a large selection of courses and more on the way. When new courses are available you are informed on the main screen and a tap of the Y button will send you to the Marketplace so you can add to your library. Iíve already added Spyglass Hill and a new fantasy course, Predator, is coming soon.
We expect and usually see incremental improvements to EAís yearly round of sports games, but this is the first year where those updates have made a significant difference in the way we play Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10, both online and off. I found myself totally caught up in the career tournament mode with occasional diversions to the challenges, and Iím always looking to beat and share those in-game GamerNet challenges. The Tiger community is strong and EA is preparing to launch a serious online tournament mode later this year, so itís only going to get bigger and better, but even as it stands now, this is the best Tiger Woods game to date.