For the mountain of complaints about Electronic Arts and their expensive yearly sports game updates, Tiger Woods goes seemingly ignored by the mainstream. It’s a consistent, high quality performer, always ranking with the best the genre can offer. At least, until 2008 when quality control was tossed to the wayside.
It’s immediately apparent where time was dedicated this year. GamerNet is a radical new approach for not only Tiger Woods, but gaming in general. Players take their best, wackiest, or challenging shots, upload them to the in-game server, and challenge others to match them. It can be as brutal as a 400-yard hole-in-one or a massive cart path bounce that could end up in Guinness. Sadly, players are limited to three total uploads at a time and deleting previous shots is needlessly complex.
Another technical marvel is the evolved Game Face feature. Always an increasingly complex feature, this latest update allows for Xbox Live Vision or uploaded digital photos to be mapped onto the avatar in game. While it will take some time, proper lighting, and even a little luck, when this works, it’s an amazing feat.
In terms of game play, a new fade and draw system is far easier to perform. This is now mapped to the bumpers instead of being forced to use the analog swing system (which is also still available). Confidence plays a role, tracking every shot you take and determining if you have any advantage on the given hole. If you consistently take bad shots, the confidence will drop and it becomes harder to make accurate shots the next time around.
This was the wrong year to implement the latter addition though. Thanks to a hugely sensitive analog swing system, shanking shots is ridiculously easy. There’s little doubt that this franchise is screaming for a higher difficulty.
However, even when using the +3 club shaft of power — purchased from the expanded pro shop — be prepared to watch errant balls end up on another hole regularly. It’s ridiculous, even for Tiger veterans. The ease of the analog swing was not the core difficulty problem, and was hardly where the changes should have been made.
It’s almost feels like an apology from EA then that a 3-click swing system has been added, bringing back memories of Tiger’s predecessor PGA Tour. Aside from an achievement for playing an 18 hole round with it (and the ability to use it at any time with a press of the right analog stick), it’s a wasted effort for a feature that few will use.
A total of 16 courses are available, ditching one from 2007 and adding first timers like East Lake. These latest courses are graphical marvels, with detailed grass and trees that create a gap from the previous generations. Repeated courses remain untouched, and there are still numerous missing choices from the remnants of PlayStation 2 Tiger.
A massively increased in size Tiger Challenge mode now becomes the heart of the game, taking place on a grid that continually unlocks new features while powering up your personal golfer. This is wonderful, aside from a mass of glitches and impossibly aggravating rubber band A.I. Until a recent patch, the player was unable to pass a certain challenge on Carnoustie. A.I. is standard fare for Tiger, but is slowly becoming a game killer as the franchise moves on. This should have been fixed years ago, as it seems even the worst players can nail critical shots when they’re down even if their stats state otherwise.
Further compounding Tiger 08’s problems is sloppier overall game play. Swinging is choppier, with an off-putting split second stall as the clubface makes contact with the ball. Newcomers won’t notice it, while dedicated Tiger 07 players will find it jarring and impossible to get used to.
Tiger also has odd issues with ball placement. Don’t be surprised to see a shot that clearly landed behind a tree or in deep rough magically appear in plain view when the next shot comes around. This is a ridiculous, game killing problem for modes such as the otherwise addictive one ball where ball placement is crucial.
The odd year curse is over, with an even year EA Sports title breaking the streak of quality. There’s still enough fun left over Tiger vets to play around with the new GamerNet challenges, but this is a decided downswing (no pun intended) for a typically strong golf effort. Maybe it’s time for some shelf competition for Tiger.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for nothing, even though last year had a descriptor for Mild Violence. This game can also be found on: Nintendo DS, PC, PS2, PS3, PSP, and Wii.