Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 Xbox 360
Published by: EA Sports
Developed by: EA Sports
Release Date: Out Now
Whilst the highly regarded Tiger Woods PGA Tour series didn't get off to a great start on the Xbox 360, the subsequent releases in the series have made improvements. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 sees the series return to top form and it's not only the best Xbox 360 version in the series; it's one of the best console golf games we've played. There have been some fundamental changes to the game and it's truly the first golf game to arrive on this generation of consoles that will appeal to even the most jaded fan of the series.
At first glance you might be forgiven for thinking that not much has changed but once you begin to get into the game you realise that there have been some important changes here that make the experience feel fresh. The game offers the usual collections of golfing pros to accompany Tiger himself, along with 16 courses which include the likes of TPC Sawgrass, Pebble Beach, St. Andrews, and Carnoustie. As well as engaging yourself in a career with your custom golfer (the usual impressive character creation tools are on offer once again allowing you to import your likeness using either a photo, uploaded to EA's servers beforehand, or by using the Xbox Live Vision camera), you can take part in over ten different traditional game types such as Stroke, Skins, Match, Bingo Bango Bongo, Greensome and Bloodsome. There's a collection of mini-games to enjoy too and of course there's Xbox Live play on offer for when you want to play against someone who isn't sitting next to you on the sofa.
Once you've created your golfer and begun your virtual golfing career you'll notice that in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 your player will develop according to how you play. Your golfer has Power, Accuracy, Short Game and Putting attributes. Each game you play is important, as playing well in each of these areas will improve your attribute rating but having a bad round will see your attributes diminish. In essence then, your attributes are never fixed and it's possible that a bad run of form can really see your attributes take a dive which is much more realistic than the previous methods used in other games. Tiger Wood's real-life coach, Hank Haney, will even set you drills (which are based on your most recent game) to give you the chance to temporarily improve your attributes a little to give you a lift for your next game.
There are other good new features too. A swing gauge has been included to allow you to see the quality of your swing. I've found this an invaluable aid in improving my performances. There's now a Club Tuner which allows you to tweak your control of drivers, woods, irons and wedges. Essentially this allows you to compensate for any draw or fade tendencies you may have. Of course you can also use the Club Tuner as a way of personalising your shot styles too. The three-button press golf swing method has been included once again and this time it feels slightly better and is a good alternative to using the analogue swing method. GamerNet challenges make a return but this time you'll find them seamlessly integrated into the single-player game (although you can access them separately if you wish). Online games have been given a new lease of life thanks to the ability to play simultaneously with three other players. Now you can all take your shots at the same time and it means that games are completed much more quickly.
Graphically the game appears to have been improved too and the courses look very good. The character models generally look good too, although the other included pro golfers don't look quite as detailed as the virtual Tiger Woods. Some of the previous instalments in the series suffered from a few performance issues but this year load times are shorter and the frame rate holds up very nicely for the most part. I really like the general presentation of the game. The information in the game is presented in a clean and uncluttered fashion. This might not seem like much of a plus point but when you're playing until the early hours of the morning it's much easier to read information that's well laid out when you're bleary eyed.
Whilst there can be almost no argument that this is one of the best games in the series so far, it's a shame that no progress has been made in making the experience better for deaf gamers. The commentary and the descriptions which point out the different features of each hole are not subtitled and that's disappointing if not completely problematic. The tutorials are not subtitled although the Golf 101 tips are in text. The coach evaluations and drill instructions are given in text. In fact despite there being a fair amount of speech that isn't subtitled the game is still fairly accessible to deaf gamers.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 is the best golf game to arrive on this generation of consoles and arguably one of the best in the Tiger Woods PGA Tour series. There's a good amount of courses and game modes on offer and the way the GamerNet challenges blend seamlessly into the game (which can be disabled if you wish) helps to keep throwing challenges your way throughout the single-player experience. Probably the best improvement however is the way your golfer develops according to how you perform. The idea of improving your golfer through your own efforts rather than simple attribute upgrades is a simple one but one that makes a lot of sense. Being able to play simultaneously during multiplayer games is another simple addition but again it's one that manages to add a little freshness to the overall experience. Finally we have a truly great golf game for the Xbox 360.