WELL, IT'S CERTAINLY BEEN an eventful 12 months for the best golfer on the planet. Once one of the most respected athletes in the world, Tiger's fall from grace in the public eye rivals the likes of President Bill Clinton, Michael Vick and Ben Johnson. The events would cost Woods numerous lucrative endorsement deals, but early on in the saga, Electronic Arts President Peter Moore backed the golfer and publicly announced that the Tiger Woods gaming franchise would continue.
With the potential for sales to drop due to the Woods scandal, EA had to come out with a topnotch product to ensure the continued success of the franchise. Touting a number of new features, gameplay tweaks and improved presentation, let's see how Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 stacks up.
The fi rst thing most will notice when picking up Tiger Woods 11 is the difference in presentation – both in game and out. Marking the fi rst time that Tiger has shared the spotlight, Rory McIlroy graces the cover opposite Woods. EA Sports maintains that such a decision was made prior to the Woods fi asco and was instead made to highlight one of the game’s major new features: the introduction of the Ryder Cup. Take from that what you will, but the cover is really excellently done, adequately mixing up what had become a string of rather bland fronts.
In game, the presentation is superb, as gamers will have come to expect from the Tiger Woods franchise. The menus are simple and easy to navigate, with players quickly able to access what they're after. The players are beautifully modelled, with all of the pros instantly recognisable to anyone who has a passing interest in professional golf. The roster is impressive, with 25 professional golfers and a number novelty characters/custom players. Whether custom designed or generated through EA's Game Face technology, they all look equally good.
The courses are superb in every aspect. The lighting modifi es itself depending on the time of day. The weather is brilliantly modelled, right down to the wind, which affects trees, clothing and golf balls alike. The detail is equally remarkable, providing a real visual treat all around. In some of the previous editions, the same treatment was not afforded to the audio, but a revamped (though still repetitive) commentary has brought this section up to par, so to speak.
So with the knowledge that this instalment both looks and sounds great, we get to the most important part: how does it play?
The bulk of gameplay is found in the career mode section of the game. Players begin by creating a custom golfer, either through the included tools or by using EA's Game Face technology, whereby they can import their own likeness into the game through a digital camera. From here, a tutorial walks through the elementary gameplay aspects before moving onto the more complex, including the newly introduced 'player focus' and 'true aim' systems. After completing the formalities, players embark on the substantial career mode, aiming to take their golfer from one struggling to make the cut to an all-time great.
All of the game modes that fans of the 2010 version were fond of are back for another round, including the range of mini games. The major addition is the inclusion of the Ryder Cup. It’s built around this year's version of the tournament, with the rosters for both teams included as well as Celtic Manor's Twenty Ten Course. The format of the actual tournament will seem rather obscure to those unfamiliar with the prestigious event, but once understood, it presents many hours of fun. The addition of this game mode is one of the most signifi cant changes to the Tiger Woods series in years and has been implemented superbly.
The two major gameplay innovations are the aforementioned ‘ player focus‘ and ‘ true aim‘ modules. Player focus adds an original use of strategy to the game, with each player possessing a fi nite amount of ‘focus’ to use over the course of the round. This focus can be used to temporarily improve spin, power, accuracy, or to make use of ‘putt preview’. Making the most of this system takes some getting used to, but once mastered, can be used to signifi cantly improve shot totals.
‘True aim’ is a new control system, which heightens the realism and is presented as a simulation style gameplay mode. The basic mechanics remain unchanged, but a number of the aids are removed, with players only seeing what a real golfer would see. Instead, they’ll need to rely on their in-game skill to project the path of the ball. It takes some practice, but provides a unique experience to newcomers and series veterans alike.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 has gone a long way to make the title more appealing to a wider range of audiences. The focus meter adds an element of arcade gameplay that is perfect for a quick round with friends, while the true-aim control system will appeal to simulation junkies. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 improves on its predecessor and presents a solid addition to any gamer’s library.