THIS TIGER WOODS GAME’S A WINNER

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Iain Alman reviews EA’s latest Tiger Woods game and, pleasantly surprised after last year’s botched release, gives it the big thumbs up.

If you’ve ever played a Tiger Woods game before you’re probably coming into this review expecting to see “more of the same” popping up everywhere.
But Tiger Woods games do vary from year to year – a fact that was highlighted with last year’s botched release. Happily, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 is a return to form, with plenty of notable additions that have refined the already tight gameplay.
The first change you’re likely to notice is the introduction of Hank Haney, Tiger Woods’ swing coach. Haney will grade your swing before you hit the courses and appears after every match to offer advice and tips. Terrible voice-acting notwithstanding, his presence is a definite boon, improving your swing and boosting your stats for upcoming tournaments.
Once you’ve been vetted by Hank, it’s time to take to the Tour, building a golfer from scratch or taking an established golfer through the ranks to usurp Tiger as the world’s greatest golfer (playing as Tiger himself is cheating, in our humble opinion).
As you’d expect, the player creation system is robust and detailed – with the Photo GameFace feature making a return – and customisation is as easy as visiting the Pro Shop.
It’s out on the course, however, that Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 really shines. Those gamers unfortunate enough to have bought last year’s offering will remember a swing mechanic what was as indiscriminate as it was punitive.
Fortunately, EA has taken the customer complaints to heart and introduced the real-time feedback meter, which plots your thumb/club movement. On the face of it, it seems like a small addition, but it’s invaluable – providing you with all the information you need to tweak your swing.
If, however, you can’t get rid of that niggling fade or draw, the new Club Tuner function allows you to go onto a driving range, hit a few balls and then change the workability, power, and spin of each club. Tweaking is done at the expense of the sweet spot, but never fear – Mr. Haney is on hand to grade your practice swings and offer advice about tuning settings. The result is a bag of clubs that play to your strengths and counteract your weaknesses.
There is a varied selection of game modes, from the traditional golf games like skins and match-play, to mini-games like target golf.
But the mode that offers the most in terms of rewards is, once again, the Tiger Challenge, which pits you against ten golfers in increasingly difficult match-ups until you finally come face-to-face with Tiger.
Online play was one of last year’s major stumbling blocks, but Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 is back on track with full integration on Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network.
EA GamerNet offers countless customised challenges (and the ability to upload your own), which pop up seamlessly during play, indicating that another player has issued a challenge for your current location.
Multiplayer has also been remodelled, with four players able to play a round simultaneously, which has greatly reduced the amount of time it takes to get through 18 holes. Unfortunately, simultaneous play is limited to stroke play only, so if you’re keen for some of the more exotic modes, you’re back to waiting for the others to get through their painfully long pre-swing rituals.
As you’d expect from an established franchise on the current generation of consoles, Tiger Woods looks and sounds sensational. About the only complaint that can be levelled at the game is at the commentary, which sees the dulcet tones of Gary McCord and David Feherty replaced with the wooden delivery of Kelly Tilghman and Sam Torrance.
In all, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 is a triumphant return for the Tiger Woods franchise.
EA has taken to the unenviable task of fixing a broken game with gusto, and managed to make enough meaningful additions to keep the series fresh.
If you’re even vaguely interested in getting into golf games, or are already a Tiger Woods fan, this is the game for you.
TITLE: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09
PLATFORM: PS3
GENRE: Sports
PRICE: £49.99
RATING: 8/10

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