So you think you swing a mean club, eh? Think you can outdrive John Daly and outplay Tiger Woods? Well, tough guy, I give you the ultimate challenge…just try to stay awake through a full game of PGA Tour ’98.
Following on the heels of PGA Tour ’97, PGA Tour ’98 brings back the big money players and the tough courses. Players can choose to play as one of several pros, including Tom Kite, Davis Love III, or Fuzzy Zoeller. Also included is the mandatory custom player feature that allows you to tailor your own golfer. When you’re ready to play, you head out to one of the five beautiful and challenging courses such as Pebble Beach, Colonial Country Club, or TPC at Sawgrass. The players are real as are the courses, but who expects any less these days? No one wants to play a generic course.
You can also choose different modes of play so there’s no getting in a rut with the same foursome. Modes include Practice, Stroke Play, Shoot-Out, Skins Game, Foursome Match, Four-Ball Match, or Skills Challenge. The Practice, Stroke Play, Foursome Match, and Four-Ball Match are your basic rounds of golf. The Skins is a “carryover” round of 18 holes, and for all you Tiger Woods wannabes, the Skills Challenge pits you against a Tour Pro in categories such as the Long Drive, Chipping, or Putting. There’s a little something for everyone.
While you are out on the course, take the time to enjoy the scenery, but don’t get too close or the picture will blur into pixels. When you tee off, the hole looks like a high resolution picture with breathtaking color and clarity. However, when you get closer to a tree or building, it gets grainy and all you can see are pixels. The players themselves are very clear and look like they are real people. At times, it looks like you are watching a match on TV instead of playing one in a game. The biggest problem is that there is no consistency to the graphics. Sometimes they are clear and sometimes you get myopia. Someone hand me my specs, please?
A bitter golfer once commented that golf is a nice walk ruined. If that’s the case, then Tour ’98 is a good walked ruined in slow motion. In one word, gameplay is S-L-O-W. If you choose the full caddy option, the highlights of each hole are explained in excruciating detail. Then you are allowed to tee off. After your shot, the computer asks if your shot is okay. This feature is very annoying!! If I’m not playing with mulligans, who cares if the shot is okay or not? Just let me hit! After you hit, your score is shown on the scorecard before the caddy explains the next hole.
Did I mention that there was a gaggle of loading in this game? Well, there is so I hope you brought a book. Each hole is loaded separately, each score is preceded by loading, and the caddie explanation has to be loaded for each hole as well. All this loading makes the game slow to a crawl. A real round of 18 holes takes about 5 hours and an imaginary round of Tour ’98 takes slightly longer.
Golf isn’t a noisy sport. When you are out on the course, most times you don’t even hear the birds chirping. As far as sound goes, Tour ’98 is pretty bland. Oh sure you get to hear the swinging of the club, the striking of the ball, and the splash when you hit into a water hazard, but the sound you hear most is the caddy before each hole and commentator Ernie Johnson Jr. insulting your drive. There isn’t even any music. EA tries to make up for the silence by having the occasional jet fly by overhead and the surf pounding the shore at Pebble Beach, but these do nothing to enhance gameplay.
Tour ’98 does have some good qualities though. Players are allowed to select the clubs to put in their bags and the distances you can reach with each club. In addition, if you think you see a better shot than the one the computer sets up for you, you can adjust the Target Arc from the default. Players can select from the classic swing meter which “wraps around” the player or the arcade swing meter which is vertical. Players can set the draw, fade, or backspin on each shot so that they feel more in control of their game.
However, the fact of the matter is that no amount of options can make up for the lackluster gameplay. Golf may not be an active full contact sport, but neither is it a marathon crawl that Tour ’98 makes it to be. EA should take a mulligan on this one.