Too many mulligans.
Golf is boring for most people who try to watch or play the sport for more than a couple of holes. But watch a father see his thirteen-year old son swing his $300 driver and snap it against the hard floor (sorry, dad), and you will know how, er…, passionate someone can get over balls and sticks.
[image1]Only these hardcore fans will find Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 on the Wii worth slugging through. As presumed by the “PGA Tour” in its title, this annual mainstay in the EA lineup is meant to be realistic, and on first impressions, this is certainly so. Many courses are taken straight from real-life counterparts, and star athletes such as Jim Furyk and Chris DiMarco will stymie your pursuits. Anyone familiar with the golf tech demo in Wii Sports (I refuse to call it a game) understands how the Wii-mote can simulate a club – as well as how golf can be frustrating or just plain funny.
Whether it is chipping through a full PGA Tour season with a seasoned pro or a customizable character, making the cut at the FedEx Cup Playoffs, or competing against a friend or bot in any one of the wide range of multi-player modes, finishing a course in the least amount of strokes remains the name of the game.
The sheer number of courses, players, and modes are also noteworthy, particularly the improved Tiger Challenge. Thrusting you into a hex-grid chock full of events, this mode eventually pits you against Tiger Woods himself with the prospect of unlocking Super Tiger, who has as much power and skill as a real tiger. But reaching him requires several days worth of effort, and that is only if you consistently manage to catch fairways, avoid dreaded bunkers, and well, play like this.
On sheer length, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 excels.
However, further inspection reveals a line of gameplay hazards, all of which prevent the game from hitting the green. All sense of realism is hindered by superfluous options and an unfortunate lack of polish. Oddly, much of this stems from new features that try to help you aim for the pin, ostensibly offering extra content and control, but wind up landing nowhere close.
[image2]For one thing, you can preview a putt before knocking the ball into the cup. Yes, you heard that one right – and yes, this breaks golf. You only have a limited amount of “putt preview” time on any one course, but it’s long enough that you can use it to your cheating heart’s content, lining up the ball just right before claiming your birdie on what is essentially a do-over. There comes a point when sport, simulation or not, is supposed to mean getting no second chances and dealing with the outcome.
If you want to redeem yourself, you should have to wait, and with some practice and dedication, come back strong next time. But the game can’t even get this right.
"Confidence", calculated from your skill, your past history on a hole, and the overall risk of the shot, now has an impact on your performance. Not only does this take away your power as a player to start fresh with each playthrough, but it also makes something abstract unnecessarily influential. Your confidence doesn’t need to be computed. If you struggled with a particular hole, how it rattles you is already in your mind. Moreover, your aim and power have far more influence on a hole than confidence, begging the question: Why does this addition exists in the first place?
To compensate for confidence, the Wii version offers several control configurations, all of which have their distinct flaws. The nunchuk is the preferable choice, allowing you to execute fades, draws, and power shots above 100% with ease. Along with sitting style, you can lie down and relax without having to swing the Wii-mote and live through a couple days of soreness. However, putting accurately is a nightmare unless you switch to standing mode. Birdies are frequent once you learn how fast the game wants you to downswing, though it’s still difficult hitting the ball with any consistent power level. At times, your swing isn’t detected if you come down too fast, and if it happens, you can mysteriously swing backwards and hit the ball with 110% power.
[image3]And that’s about as realistic as the game gets in dynamic play. Taunting during multi-player games, perhaps inspired by Mario Golf for the N64, is fine when it comes to blurring the screen and the ever annoying blow-horn. But your opponents can also influence the wind and the spin of the ball. At that point, it’s not taunting anymore – it’s in-your-face interference.
The difficulty setting for A.I. opponents can also be changed, but during multiple round tournaments, the sudden improvement in their game is suspect. I ended the first round of the Deutsche Bank Championship at -16 with Retief Goosen right behind me at -7. Then at the second round, before I could tee off on the first hole, four players tied at -23 were atop the leaderboard. After all that work, I started in twentieth place. Moments like this make you wish for the refinement you would expect from a long-standing series.
Shrubbery and shadows are highly pixilated, and even though you hear the occasional “I LOVE THIS GAME!!!” in the background, there is no audience – even for Tiger. And when you’re not looking at the last-gen graphics, let’s just say you’ll be doing a lot of menu-surfing. Thankfully, it’s all accompanied by an upbeat soundtrack.
It feels as though every single idea pitched for how to update Tiger Woods Pro Tour 08 somehow all got approved, regardless of merit. Instead of refining the fundamentals, the title concentrates on unedited excess that doesn’t blend well with a realistic golf game. Though it’s the best example of the potential for a Wii-based golf game, potential is still the operative word. If I had a choice, I would rather watch angry people play golf.