Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 Xbox
by EA Sports
Developed by EA Sports
Released: Out Now
Having been a fan of PC golf games since before I can remember I was very keen to try my hand at console golf games when I acquired my PlayStation in early 1997. I visited my local games rental shop and hired PGA Tour '96. To be completely honest the game was not what I thought it would be and didn't compare to the likes of Links LS and EA's own PGA Tour '96 for the PC. Of course that was over 6 years ago now and things have really changed. Consoles now come with much better graphical capabilities and analogue sticks are well suited to golf simulations. With the help of Jo and Jodie at EA we were able to take a look at Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 and see just how far console golfing has developed.
The first thing that strikes you with TW PGA Tour 2004 is that it is absolutely packed with features. You may already know that the Xbox version has no online play but believe me when I say it doesn't harm the game at all because the single player game is immense and will keep you occupied for months of constant play. There are 20 different courses to play on (six are initially locked) including Pinehurst No. 2, Kapalua, St. Andrews and Bethpage Black as well as some fictional courses that provide an unnatural challenge as well as a lot of fun. You'll also find a healthy dose of top Pros too. Tiger is accompanied by Colin Montgomerie, Vijay Singh and Jespar Parnevik to name but a few. A staggering 10 year career mode is available as well as the usual different golf games and a wealth of arcade games for you to enjoy either against the AI or against friends. In fact there are so many features in the game that it's impossible to list them all here.
This year's game comes with the ability to create your own custom golfer. EA have called this feature Game Face. If you've played the console version of The Sims then you'll have a pretty good idea of the customisation features that are available to you when creating a new golfer. You can choose the hairstyle, whether or not your golfer has braces on their teeth and whether or not your female golfer should have big breasts (it doesn't affect her swing if she does have a large chest though), it's all up to you. Some of the customisation features are initially locked but these can be unlocked in the career mode and you can always go back and edit your golfer should you want to add these features. After you've created the look and physique of your golfer, you can choose what clothes to wear. Some of the clothes are free and some you'll have to pay for. It's wise to only choose the free ones to begin with, as you'll need as much money as possible to purchase skill upgrades.
Yes in case you were wandering the game does have a strong role-playing element and throughout your career you'll be spending your prize money on developing your skills and purchasing clothes and equipment that have attribute enhancing qualities. Money is earned in virtually every mode in TW PGA Tour 2004. Complete a scenario and you'll earn money. Defeat a golfer on the World Tour and you'll win plenty of money. Do well in a tournament on the PGA Tour and you'll get money. You also get money for the little things like getting to the green in regulation, birdies, eagles and saving par from a hazardous position. The game just keeps on rewarding you when you do well. It's a good job it does though because your golfing skills are rather poor at the beginning and as we've already mentioned you have to pay for skill upgrades. The cost of skill upgrades rises with each upgrade so you are going to need plenty of money, and it's going to take months to earn the money to become a numero uno golfer but the game is such a pleasure to play that you'll enjoy every minute of it.
Once you've created your golfer it's time to take the tutorial and choosing Play Now from the main menu will take you there. The swing is carried out by either the right or left analogue stick. However if you want to use the white button (to add extra power) or the black button (to add spin whilst the ball is in mid-air) you have no choice but to use the left analogue stick. The control is actually very impressive and is definitely the equal of the mouse-swing that you get in PC golf games. Whilst the distance of your shot is determined by the length fluidity of your swing for most shots, for chips and putts the length is determined by moving the aiming marker. It's a method that works well and once you are on the green the caddy tips, which are in text, will give you an indication of which way the ball is going to break (there is also a grid to aid your own judgment). The ball physics seem very good although the ball doesn't always roll realistically enough, especially on the greens, in my opinion.
Anyway you've created your golfer and taken the tutorial so now you're allowed to hit the PGA Tour, take part in the World Tour or attempt the challenging scenarios. The PGA Tour is calendar based and the different events are spread across the year. In all you can play the career mode for up to ten years so you've plenty of time to become number one. The tournaments are just like the real thing and are played over four days. Of course you'll have to make the cut by the end of the second day otherwise you're out. The World Tour sees you taking on a golfer. Some of these characters are fictional and actually very funny to watch but make no mistake they all provide a challenge and offer a healthy dose of cash and unlockable items should you defeat them.
For all the great things in the game I would say that EA performed a masterstroke with the inclusion of Real-Time Events and making items only available on certain days. On entering the Real-Time events mode you'll see a calendar that shows when the special tournaments will be held. It is important that you set the Xbox clock correctly before playing the game because unlike the calendar for PGA Tour this is a real-time mode and events won't occur unless the clock is set when you first turn the Xbox on. The special events are preselected but there are also events on your birthday (assuming you inputted the correct date when asked to do so in the golfer creation mode) and other special days. Certain special items are only possible to purchase at certain times which makes the temptation to put the game on every day even more greater. There is also a feature called the EA Sports Bio. Should you own another 2004 EA Sports title then you'll unlock various goodies in that game whilst playing TW PGA Tour 2004. We are also reviewing Madden NFL 2004 and were surprised to find that on loading Madden we had gained a trading card. Whilst this may be seen as a gimmick it is certainly a pleasant one and any bonuses are always welcome.
The graphics in TW PGA Tour 2004 look simply amazing. The golfers, the courses and every other visual in the game really is top-notch. The Pro golfers are instantly recognisable and look great. If it's windy when you're playing golf, you'll see the trouser legs and shirt sleeves flap in the breeze and it looks impressive. The only blip is that the shadows occasionally look very jaggy and out of sorts with the otherwise immaculate graphics. With all this detail on offer you might expect some slowdown but there is none at all which is brilliant.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 is fine for deaf gamers. As you would expect the commentary is not subtitled (it would obstruct your view if it was). It is a shame though as the commentary is excellent and occasionally provides you with a few hints of how to play the next shot. The tutorial for the game isn't subtitled and you'll have to complete it to be able to access the PGA Tour. Thankfully the manual explains how to play the game and the tutorial itself is very simple and only requires you to perform a similar shot to the ones that the virtual Tiger demonstrates. The introductions to the World Tour games are not subtitled and neither are the hole flybys. The scenario goals are shown in text so there is no problem there and the usually useful, but not always accurate, caddie tips are shown in text too.
What can I say? I started this review by recalling my rather disappointing experience of first playing a console golf game. I'm going to end the review by saying that is perhaps the best golf game I've ever played and believe me I've played many of them. There are so many features in the game that I'm bound to have missed some but suffice to say this is one of the greatest sports games of all time. With the exception of support for Xbox Live, I honestly can't see what EA can add to this for next year's version because this is nigh on perfect.
Game Rating: 9.2/10
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 has to be one of the most complete and polished sports games to date. Even if you normally hate golf you must give this a try. Definitely one of the best Xbox games to date.
The commentary isn't subtitled but it doesn't matter too much and certainly doesn't affect the gameplay whatsoever.