I can’t remember the last time I was excited for a sports game to come out. Actually, if I think about it, I don’t think I have ever been excited for a sports game. Sure I love Nintendo’s unique take on sports, but I wouldn’t lump those into the “realistic simulation” category. Funny how realistic sports games have been around for quite some time, but they were lacking half the realism. You have your licensed players, teams, stadiums and so on, but you didn’t have the real life actions. I would hardly call pressing a button and moving a joystick an accurate representation of real life. Thanks to the Wii, the term really means something. We now have a fully realistic way to play sports, or at least something much closer to that. Madden for the Wii had us throwing, catching, and strong-arming our way down the field. Still, there were things that even the Wii cannot allow. Certain sports titles will cross over to the Wii that will make a lot more sense on the system. One of the best simulations to be had on the Wii has to fall into the realm of golf. There’s no running around to be done, just lining up a shot and driving it home. All this talk takes me back to my excitement for Tiger Woods. I’ve played Mario Golf, Super Swing Golf, Hot Shots Golf, and any other fantasy golf games out there. While I knew of the Tiger Woods franchise, I never played any of the iterations. For some reason I never wanted to. Once I heard about the Wii version, I couldn’t resist picking it up. With the realism that the Wiimote offers, I was ready to dive into a true simulation. After some time spent with the title I can say that Tiger Woods isn’t without faults, but overall it has made me feel much safer in saying that the Wii will offer some of the best sports experiences around.
If you’ve read my reviews, you know that I would usually go into detail about the story right now. Tiger Woods doesn’t have a story to speak of, and I would be a little surprised if it did! What it does have is a very unique control setup. Even before I had Tiger Woods in my home, I had the pleasure of trying it out at EA’s Wii event at GDC. As you can tell, my interest was pretty high in the title, which made it my first choice of play. The party wasn’t exactly the best way to try out Tiger Woods. The location was packed full of people, loud music was blasting away, and you were literally right next to the TV when playing. The GoNintendo group managed to clear ourselves a little spot to play in, a make-shift driving range if you will. If there were instructions by the TV I didn’t see them, and if they were being told to me by the announcer, I couldn’t hear them. I decided to just pick up the Wiimote and have a go at it. Everything from changing my club, moving my shot, and taking a swing worked exactly how I thought it should. I just hit whatever felt natural, and moved the Wiimote the way I felt it should be used. I didn’t hit a single snag in trying to find out what buttons/motions did what. I talked to one of the EA reps on the floor about this, and he thought that I was just trying to butter them up! It took some convincing from the rest of our gang, but eventually we got the point across that we felt the button placement/motion choices were spot on. That says a lot when you were dealing with the space we were in, and the time we had with the game.
Swinging works just as you would expect. Your character will stand still until you are ready to take your shot. When you are good to go, you hold down the B trigger to ready your player. Then all you do is bring back your swing and whip it forward. Exactly like a real golf club, that is, if it had a B button. If you want less power, take a shorter swing backwards. If you really want to whack the sucker, whip your arm back high and fast, and then snap it forward. Once the ball is in the air, you can flick the Wiimote forwards or backwards to add front and backspin. While this feels a little silly when you try to place it in the game in a realistic sense, the benefits of doing this are well worth it. Lastly, if you have trouble not slicing your shots in real life, you will have the same trouble here. Tiger Woods is really good at picking up when you are curving your arms at the end of a shot. It was actually a very useful tool in realizing what my natural swing was like. Within a few hours of play I had more or less perfected my swing, as long as I was trying to hit straight.
You will be utilizing all the Wiimote buttons for Tiger Woods as well. The A button allows you to zoom the camera up and out into the air. The camera will stop above the target radius for your shot. This target shows you how far you can hit the ball with optimal power and conditions. By pointing the Wiimote at the screen you can get a cursor, which takes the form a golf glove. While holding A you can press the B button to grab with this glove, and move the target radius around the green. Left, right, forwards and backwards…the glove allows you to move in any direction you want. If you are looking for a more simple left to right adjustment, you don’t have to press anything but the left or right directions on the D-Pad. The up and down D-pad directions let you choose between which club you would like to use. The Wiimote’s minus button lets you step away from the ball so that you can take practice shots. This actually is extremely useful since you are using real motion and speed to hit your shot, instead of using a power meter. Depending on what type of situation you are in, you can use the 1 button to better set yourself up. You can choose between 6 different categories of shots…full, punch, pitch, flop, chip, and putt. It’s up to you to decide which shot choice is best for you, or if you want to use the feature at all. Finally, if you want to reset all your changes and start from scratch, you can press the 2 button. As I mentioned earlier, the use of all the buttons on the Wiimote feels great. It’s never hard to remember what does what. Your hands just seem to naturally gravitate towards buttons that you think should complete the necessary action. Before I wrap up the controls, I have to make mention that you can play Tiger Woods in a more traditional control scheme via the Nunchuck. Chances are, if you are going for the Wii version, you aren’t going to be messing around with this option. Always nice to have a fallback though if need be.
Tiger Woods comes packed with a ton of gameplay modes to choose from. The only thing that is really lacking from other versions of the game is the online play. I really feel this is a non-issue, which I will get into later on in this review. What modes are available are Tiger Challenge, One Ball, Team One Ball, PGA Tour Season, Traditional Modes (which contain 6 standard golf game choices), Skills 18, Skillzone, and Battle Golf. As you can see, there really is a lot to choose from. I am not going to go into detail about all these choices. I am going to cover four of the eight play modes.
I am sure that the most popular gameplay mode will end up being the PGA Tour Season mode. If you are picking up a Tiger Woods game, you are looking for a realistic golf experience. This mode gives you the feel of being out on the PGA tour, and working your way through the ranks via tournaments. This mode will pit you against all the different licensed golfers that appear in the title, which should appeal to many a golf fan. By using the PGA Tour calendar, you can play your way through five year or less season. The better you place in your tournaments, the better your overall standing gets. This plays into the next tournament you take on. The objective of this gameplay mode is to finally grab the FedEx Cup Championship for yourself. As I mentioned earlier, I am not a big sports person. On the other hand, my dad is particularly fond of golf, as is a lot of my extended family. I have been around to watch more than my fair share of tournaments on TV. You can easily see how this mode would really appeal to hardcore golf fans. I too enjoyed this mode because of the realistic/competitive nature.
The Tiger Challenge mode is an interesting take on gameplay as well. Rather than putting you into a tournament in chase of a cup, Tiger Challenge has you taking on the licensed golfers in the game. You will play these guys for a set amount of holes, with the objective of coming out ahead. As you take on opponents, you earn both money and experience points which you can put to use after each round. The further you get into the Tiger Challenge, the better equipment and items you can purchase for yourself. The final goal is to work your way through the competition to earn a game with Tiger himself. Making your way through the Tiger Challenge is no easy task. Just because you are taking on other players besides Tiger doesn’t mean that they are pushovers. Some of these guys are damn good. We are talking good to the point that you’ll be cursing them out through the TV screen. I expect a lot of you will feel much more like a Happy Gilmore than a professional golfer.
The Traditional game modes set features 6 different games that many of you should be familiar with, as long as you have played a golf game in the past. These modes are for more of a pick up and play experience rather than a deep, time consuming one. The two most basic modes within Traditional are Stroke and Match play. Stroke keeps a tally of the total strokes you take during the course of the game, the player with the least strokes at the end being the winner. Match play keeps track of how many holes you win compared to your opponent. Whoever takes the most holes by the end of the game wins. Bloodsome and Greensome modes are both two-on-two features. Bloodsome has the opposing team picking the position of your tee shot, and then you and your team mate alternate shots until you both sink your ball. Greensome lets you and your team mate both drive the ball, then you pick the best drive and alternate shots from there. The Skins game is all about money. Each hole nets you a certain amount of cash if you manage to win it. I think you can figure out how that one plays! Finally we have Alternate Shot, which is another two-on-two game, but with a twist. This time you and your team mate are playing the same ball. You take the drive, your team mate takes the next hit, and then you putt it in.
One of my favorite modes would have to be Battle Golf. This is another two player game. This game starts off pretty normal. All you do is take your shots and try to sink your ball first. At the end of each hole is when it gets interesting. Whoever takes the hole also gets to take one of their opponent’s clubs. If you continually lose holes, you could find yourself playing with a very limited club set. On the flip side, you can choose to replace one of your own clubs instead of taking another of your opponent’s. It’s pretty easy to see that this game mode turns into a much bigger game of strategy than it does golf. With the win of a couple holes you could completely devastate your opponent and leave him with little to no options when it comes to driving and or putting. Plus you get to enjoy that evil feeling during the game. We all love to torture our friends every now and again!
Speaking putting, everyone knows that your long game doesn’t matter if you can’t pull in a good short. Putting is done in the same way as driving, but with a much less powerful swing. All you do is hold the B button to ready your player, and then take a slight swing back and forward. By pressing the A button you can see a shot cam that shows you how to get the ball into the cup if perfectly played. After watching this camera you can adjust your player with left/right on the D-Pad. As with most golf games, the lay of the green is shown through a grid. The faster the grid lines move, the larger the slope. By using the shot cam and reading the slope on the grid correctly, you can make putting a pretty painless affair. It’s a shame to say that putting shows off one of the few issues with gameplay.
For the most part, the B button swing method works perfectly during gameplay. It accurately reads the power and direction you wanted to hit the ball. Every once in awhile the game will register a swing when you didn’t actually take one. I have put in a lot of time with Tiger Woods, and I have only had this happen once during the long game. Putting on the other hand is where this issue more commonly occurs. Since putting takes much smaller moves to accomplish, the game tends to pick up tiny adjustments as a swing. This wasn’t enough of an issue to ruin the game by any means, but it is something that happens. If you really focus and keep from holding the B button until you are completely ready to make your putt, you should be fine. As you play more through the game, you should be able to nullify this issue. Luckily this is the only real problem that comes up during the main gameplay of Tiger Woods.
One of my biggest gripes doesn’t deal with actually playing Tiger Woods, it comes up in the player creation mode. EA Sports Game Face mode allows you to create your own character. You can change everything from all facial features to outfits and more. I always enjoy character creation modes in games, but the version in Tiger Woods is quite a hassle. Rather than going with button presses to get the job done, Tiger Woods uses a mix of gestures and buttons to create a player. The screen always shows you what buttons/motions do what, but these seem to change with every menu you enter. I wondered if it was just me that was having issues with this creation mode. I had two other people test it out to see what happened. One person had used the creation mode in other Tiger Woods titles, and the other was a newcomer like me. Both had a lot of trouble figuring out how to get things done, and gave up after awhile. It seems that you can never find the right button to press to get something done, even with the key at the bottom. You move from menu to menu with buttons that change their job, and in-between figuring all this out you end up ruining your character. While I am happy to say that this doesn’t ruin gameplay one bit, it is sad to see such a great feature hampered by control/direction issues.
I know a lot of people are going to complain about the lack of online play for Tiger Woods. Sure it would be great to have the ability to hit the links with people all around the world. I am not saying in any way that I believe that this would be a bad feature, but hear me out on this one. First of all, we know that it was out of EA’s hands to accomplish this task due to Nintendo not releasing the online info. Second, I feel that Tiger Woods on the Wii really lends itself to the local multiplayer experience. With all these online games hitting the market, we are losing a lot of the home based multiplayer. Luckily Tiger Woods lets us take up to 4 of our friends out on the courses with us. Just earlier today I played a round with podcast member Deux Michaels. Mr. Michaels is not a fan of golf in any way, shape, or form…so it took some pestering to get him to try out the game. By the end of the first 9 holes he couldn’t help but admit that he was having fun. With both of us standing up and taking full swings, it really felt like we were accomplishing something. It was great to work through the game with that added bit of realism. It made the trash talking more fun, the physical nature of it more entertaining, and the entire experience more visceral. Hopefully Tiger Woods 08 will feature online play, and also retain the local multiplayer as well.
With all this good, you knew we were going to hit some more bad spots. Tiger Woods is quite an interesting visual presentation. The game almost gives the feeling that different teams worked on different visuals in the game. To start at the top of the heap, character models look pretty damn good for the Wii. Facial features and expressions look great, and all the characters animate well thanks to mo-cap. More than a few onlookers were impressed by the character models, and even the greens themselves. The grass looks great for the most part. You will pass through patches that sway with the breeze, as well as notice the trimming throughout the freshly cut areas. From here on out we move down the graphics ladder. Fog looks extremely weird in Tiger Woods. While at a distance it looks okay, the closer you get, the more you will notice a mesh-like look. It almost looks as if you are peering through a screen door. From there we move onto plants and trees, which look like a slight bump up from the N64 days. These issues are even more noticeable during close-ups, which make them look like a blurry mess. Dead last would have to be the water in the game. If a body of water is absolutely still, it looks great. The moment you throw in any kind of movement, it starts to look terrible. To go back to Deux once again, he was looking at a river on one hole, and couldn’t believe that it was water. I kept telling him that it was, but he refused to believe me. I find it hard to believe as well. The Cube saw some of the best water effects across all three platforms, yet Tiger Woods on the Wii makes it look like water simply can’t be done on the system. Overall you have a very mixed graphics bag, with some extreme highs and lows.
Audio is pretty good overall, with no major complaints. The licensed soundtrack is not for me, but that’s not a knock against the game. I hardly ever like any licensed songs that appear in the game, but that doesn’t bring my score down. All you have to do is go turn the music off and you are set. The announcers are fine, if not a little mean spirited. Since they are golf announcers they aren’t shouting in your face, and they tend to blend into the background noise pretty well. Moving into that area, birds chirping and water rushing sounds great. All the sound effects more than get the job done. The only noticeable issue comes up with the crowd sounds. These cheers and boos are definitely lower quality samples than anything else. They come off having a very compressed sound. I don’t know the reason behind this decision. I would hope that EA wasn’t already running out of space on the disc, but perhaps that is the explanation. Once again, just a minor complaint in an area that Tiger Woods does well in.
Tiger Woods for the Wii is all about control, and I cannot stress this enough. EA absolutely nailed the swing technology here. The only issue, as mentioned above, is the sensitivity when putting. I am certain this is something that could be worked out by the time Tiger Woods 08 hits. Other than that, swinging feels really, really good. It is a lot of fun to do as well. Each golf game that comes out for the Wii seems to take controls one step further. Wii Sports Golf gave us a very basic idea, Super Swing Golf stepped it up in a big way, and Tiger Woods brings us that much closer to the real deal. There are a ton of gameplay modes to play through in both single and multiplayer, but people will miss the online no matter what. Character creation takes a big hit, and stands out as the major sore thumb (for me) in the game. Graphics are all over the place, but they never get in the way of gameplay, they just detract a bit from the experience. Tiger Woods for the Wii had one thing that it needed to do superbly, and it succeeds on that front. It truly shows us that sports fans need to get themselves a Wii to really get in the game. EA has made me a believer, and I can’t wait to see how they fix things up for the next outing. Hopefully I will see you out there.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 gets a 7.9 out of 10
Wow, that review really took it out of me. Now I get to look forward to writing my Custom Robo Arena review tomorrow! I better grab what little sleep I can now so I can get a fresh start later today. I’ll catch you in a few hours as I usually do. Have a great morning everyone, take care!