Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11ESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: Electronic Arts
Publisher: Electronic Arts
1-4 players locally/online
Online Team Play: 12 vs 12 players
Supports Live Vision camera
New True-Aim viewpoint
Includes 2010 Ryder Cup
New Shot Focus
Despite being a big sports fan, I’ve noticed my consumption of sports games dwindling over the past few years. I’ll play a game for three or four weeks and then it begins to collect dust. That being said, Tiger Woods has been one of the few sports games that I still buy and play consistently year after year. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 (TW11 for short) is now upon us and brings some refinements to the core gameplay. Most notably though is that, for the first time, the Tiger Woods franchise includes the Ryder Cup. Golf fans rejoice!
This year’s game has a cleaner look to it with some minor graphical enhancements like clothes and hair that now flutter in the wind. It’s not something that you may notice without looking for it, but the subtlety of it provides a realistic look. Courses still look a little sparse for my liking and the crowds, while improved, are still a bit thin and flat. After playing a few rounds I did find that the player animations are great though and each golfer, from the very recognizable to my own created one, hit the ball with realism.
There’s not a lot of sound to golf but what is included in TW11 is true to the sport. Ball contact sounds crisp and all the environmental sounds of a golf course, such as wind, creeks, planes flying overhead and what not, are present and accounted for. As for the commentary, it stays consistent with previous years. They sound good and offer nice variety in their descriptions, but it is nothing that stands out when compared to other sports games.
If you’re familiar with Tiger Woods’ games at all, you will feel right at home with TW11. You can create a golfer and jump right into online play, Ryder Cup action, or your own career. Player creation is very similar to last year and you can use either the Live Vision camera or upload a digital photo to EA’s site to map your own face onto your character. I love this feature and it was a nice touch to see that the photo I uploaded to EA’s site last year was available in-game for this year without me having to put down the controller. It’s a small touch but I appreciated it.
Gone this year is the Hank Haney skills portion of the game. It is sort of fitting given his recent resignation from being Tiger’s coach, but I’m glad to see it go. Skills are now completely handled through XP points which you earn during regular play and in skills challenges. No longer will Hank interrupt your career with some skills mini-games which I always felt compelled to play to be competitive with my friends online. Skills Challenges are their own game mode and offer three challenges of increasing difficulty against various players. Completing these challenges earns you XP. Skills are broken down familiarly into Power, Accuracy, Control and Putting. XP can be spent into typically two to four specialties within each of these categories. It’s a nice level of detail that’s not overwhelming.
XP in TW11 is also now the universal currency throughout the game. Not only do you spend XP to increase your various attributes but you also spend XP on clothes and equipment. I like this because it forces you to think about what you want to spend it on. Do you want to spend it on your core abilities or on a item of clothing or equipment that gives you a certain boost? Achieving specific XP levels unlocks new clothing and equipment items. What I didn’t like about this method is the ever-looming option of spending MS points to buy clothing or equipment. I just can’t get that little voice out of the back of my head about EA’s intentions of changing how things are bought in game.
Being an avid golfer with a 12 handicap my biggest criticism of past Tiger Woods games has been that it was too reliant on gimmicks like putt preview lines and imparting spin on the ball after contact. These things have their place but they do tend to take away from the realism of the game and force the player to play on more penalizing difficulties to get that sense of realism. This year EA has implemented a Shot Focus which is essentially a gauge that you use up if you want to add a power boost to your swing, impart spin on the ball during flight, or use the putt preview (which uses up a considerable amount of this focus). The gauge refills over time with no use but it adds an element of strategy to manage it. I found this quite enjoyable when playing local matches with friends. No longer are you limited to just one putt preview, if you have enough focus left and choose to save it up for a decisive putt on the 18th hole of a match it can be a game breaker. Players simply can no longer be reliant on the gimmicks throughout a match. Those that choose to use them must choose their times to do so.
Also new this year is a True-Aim mode which tries to replicate the viewpoint of the golfer. No more aiming circle or in-flight ball tracking here. You have only the arrow to aim before your shot from the traditional viewpoint behind your golfer and a GPS view that acts like a yard book. There is no target in the GPS view either, only various yardages. I really enjoyed having to pick out landmarks to aim at and there’s a new measure of game management about what club to hit and where to place the ball that feels so much more like the game in the real life. This mode, for the first time in a game that I know of, makes it so there are blind shots where you don’t see your landing zone. Just like in real life. The view mode isn’t perfect (I’d like to see just how far I’ve hit a drive for example) but I like where EA is going with this.
This year’s swing mechanics seem slightly less forgiving than years past. This isn’t a bad thing, more of an observation. Swing tempo is probably what is affected the most, forcing you to pay more attention to the tempo of moving back and forward with the thumbstick to create the player’s swing. Lie also seems to have a greater effect this year. Make sure to account for the ball if the lie is above or below your feet! These are both nice details.
New to Tiger Woods golf, and available on its own or as part of the career mode, is the Ryder Cup. Golf fans will love this. You can create the USA and European teams as you see fit and even include your created player as part of playing Ryder Cup within the career mode. As matches progress you even have the option of switching control of which match you are playing. So, say you see that your team is losing a certain match. You can switch to that match in between holes and play it manually to try and swing the momentum back in your favour.
Unfortunately I was unable to play the game online yet so my impressions are based on the single player portion of the game only. Stay tuned for some online impressions after the game’s release and when I have had a chance to play the various modes online. I’m especially excited to try Online Team Play which pits up to 24 players in a 12 vs.12 match play style much like the Ryder Cup.
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