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Tiger is looking good

Only in recent years has EA Sports faced any stiff competition in the way of sporting titles. 2K has found great success in its annual NBA, NHL, and MLB titles, while Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer successfully dominated the football genre for the better part of this decade.

Does Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 stand above the crowd as a pillar of gaming brilliance, or is it simply another dreary carbon copy that gaming fans have come to despise in sports titles?

Golf, unfortunately, has found no such nemesis as Konami or 2K; no rival to force EA Sports to push the boundaries or think outside the box. This absence of a competitor forces one to question whether EA Sports are simply resting on their laurels, excusing laziness with the old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Sadly, this is exactly the case for Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10. That is not to say that it is not an excellent golfing game. On the contrary, it exudes realism and will undoubtedly be praised by fans of the Tiger Woods franchise for adding that little bit extra to last year’s release. However, it fails to stand alone from other sporting titles, and, as a consequence, fades into the background with its previous incarnations.

When you first jump into the game you will be greeted by the sight of Tiger Woods’ coach, Hank Haney – remember that guy who tried to fix Charles Barkley’s hilariously bad golf swing? Haney sporadically appears throughout the game to help beginners learn the ropes, as well as offer you training sessions after each event. Building up your skills with Haney’s master classes is tedious at best, and downright intolerable at worst. Thankfully, the coach doesn’t interfere with standard gameplay, or when you are competing on the PGA Tour.

16 spectacular courses are on offer

The PGA Tour Season is indisputably the best feature of Tiger Woods 10. Most notable is the addition of the US Open Championship, allowing you to take part in arguably the most famous Major in golf, at the beautiful Bethpage Black Course in New York. Being an avid (but terrible) golfer myself, I found the attention to detail on all sixteen courses remarkable, especially in comparison to previous releases which weren’t really up to scratch. Strangely enough, after completing my first tournament I was left with an odd sense of humility at having been allowed to play on such a prestigious course as Torrey Pines.

For those who have played a Tiger Woods game within the last decade, you may have noticed how frustrating it could be to buy new clothing and equipment for your golfer. More often than not, the only way to unlock better items was to play against ridiculous characters, some of which included a geriatric old coot with a swing worse than Barkley’s, and an absurdly muscular Hawaiian who never seemed to hit the ball in the right direction. Thankfully, the creators have taken a completely different approach in Tiger Woods 10. Now you can replay some of the finest moments in golfing history shot for shot in order to unlock special items, with the most exciting being excerpts from the career of Tiger himself.

New features in Tiger Woods 10 are few and far between, but they are definitely handy little additions. One of which is the weather system. Having been absent from the series for several years, rain makes its return in quite a spectacular fashion. There is rarely a tournament you will compete in where you won’t spend some time in the rain and, although it is extremely unrealistic, it adds an extra element of toughness to a game severely lacking in difficulty.

Putting has also been greatly improved upon. Fans who have avoided the most recent versions because of the terrible putting system need fear no more: Precision Putting has arrived. Rather than using the same system for putting as you would for teeing off, Precision Putting allows gamers to have a much easier time on the greens. Coupled with Putting Preview, the new putting system adds a more realistic dimension to one of the more frustrating parts of golf.

I love the rain on my supple forearms

Whilst they have added some great features, unfortunately there were some elements that probably should have been left out. I’m not sure whether it’s the 15 years of abusing my eardrums with headphones, or the vile music on this game, but my ears feel like they might just explode. The music can be summed up in one word: horrid. EA Sports has employed a couple of unknown Philip Glass wannabes to add a musical dimension to the game and… well… let’s just say thank god you don’t have to listen to it on the course.

Another flaw – and unfortunately a big one at that – is the difficulty. Initially, Hank Haney will test out your skills on the course to measure what level of difficulty you should begin with. The problem is, Tiger Woods 10 is incredibly easy to master. After I realized that I was beating Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods by over ten strokes each round, I decided to up the ante and move from Amateur to Professional. Professional, did I just say? Because I certainly couldn’t see any difference. Eventually I settled on the TOUR Pro difficulty; and when I say settle, I mean was given no other option because it’s the only choice above Professional. Unfortunately, if you are a half-decent sports gamer you will grow weary of winning every tournament week in, week out. But that’s why there is a beautiful little creation called Xbox Live.

Even though there is a lot not to like about single player, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 redeems itself in multiplayer. Besides the run-of-the-mill mini games like Best Ball, T.I.G.E.R. and the Long Drive Contest, Tiger Woods 10 provides several exciting online gaming options. My personal favorite would have to be “Play the Pros”, where you can compete against professional golfers’ real scores. Beating Lucas Glover’s US Open score is pretty damn riveting. Oh, and the sweet moolah you earn for your golfer isn’t too bad either.

Finally, Gamernet allows you to upload the most spectacular moments from single and multiplayer games with the touch of a button. Unfortunately, if you don’t have an Xbox Live account you’d better have a good memory of that hole-in-one you just scored, because nobody else is ever going to see it.

Rockin' the golf course

If EA Sports truly wants to take the Tiger Woods franchise to the next level, they must emulate what their football branch did for FIFA 09. Pro Evolution Soccer 8 overwhelmingly outdid FIFA 08, in gameplay as well as ratings. What EA Sports’ Vancouver department did was reinvent the football genre, and what they created was something so unique and revolutionary that it blew PES 9 completely out of the water.

Perhaps it will take another title to compete with Tiger Woods before EA Sports sits up and listens to its fans. If that is indeed the case, then I am sad to say that we can expect no more than another Tiger Woods PGA Tour clone next year, with perhaps a few kitschy extras thrown in to appease the board.

Rating Category
7.0 Presentation
Even though the courses look spectacular, golf swings are often chunky, while sand and water effects leave a lot to be desired.
How does our scoring system work?
7.5 Gameplay
Once the basic controls are mastered, the game flows beautifully. Freedom of shot choices is great, but the ridiculous amount of locked items puts a dampener on things.
4.0 Sound
The music in this game is some of the worst I've ever had to endure. Commentary is satisfactory, but becomes repetitive by the second round of tournaments.
9.0 Longevity
The game can literally be played for hours on end. Career mode allows you to play season after season against the pros, and even the harshest critics will be pleased with what multiplayer has to offer.
7.0 Overall
There is a lot to like about this year's "Tiger Woods" but, unfortunately, there is also a lot wrong as well. For those who haven't picked up a golf game before this will be a welcome surprise. For hardcore fans, though, it is likely to leave you wondering where all the new features are.

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