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Tiger Woods 09 re-wraps Tiger Woods 08 with some great audio-visuals, but manages to literally break the putting. After hanging on for a tweaked version of last year's game (better chipping, longer iron play and a bit more on screen information would have sufficed), EA deliver on many levels but ignore some basics and create real problems with the putting.
We'll get onto the meat of the game in a bit, but unusually for us we need to talk about the controls first. Driving and chipping are largely the same as last year, benefiting from the excellent one-to-one swing on the Wii, with a little extra solidity added to the action. But putting, which was one of the successes of Tiger Woods 08, is oddly broken.
To make the yardage you would expect, you have to literally choose to hit the ball two or three times harder than required. To make a 3ft put on the level you'd expect to select the 3ft putter and go for a 100% shot. Instead you need to pick the 6ft putter at 100%. To compound things it also seems to be a little haphazzard how much extra weight is needed.
But putting, which was one of the successes of Tiger Woods 08, is oddly broken.
This is most frustrating because Tiger Woods on Wii has such a great control mechanic. Over the years it has grown into a nuanced and expansive experience. And on the Wii they finally have the control scheme to match the rest of the game. Nothing feels as good as that one-to-one swing - when it works. So much so that I was more than happy to put up with the haphazard puts in Tiger 07 and the wonky chipping and short iron work in Tiger 08. But here, I have been forced to put the game down and pray to the Gods of electronic arts for a patch or an update disc.
Setting these issues aside for a moment, we should take a moment about what has improved over Tiger Woods 08. This year sees the inclusion of All Play features into the game, a feature of all EA's 09 sports games on Wii that enables super young or novice players to use a simplified set if controls. This is great to get various family members together for some social gaming.
Also new this year is a simultaneous online play mode, that not only lets you challenge your Wii friends to some golfing action but lets you both take your shots at the same time to speed up proceedings and reduce the amount of hanging around.
Visually and audibly the game has been refreshed, and looks bang up to date. This is not just skin deep as much of the missing detailed information is now available. The par of the current hole, along with the distance and height to the hole are all clearly displayed - something that was inexplicably absent last year. Tiger Woods 09 still lacks a detailed ball lie indicator as found in Super Swing Golf or We Love Golf, so you have to rely on the general rendering of the course to determine this, which while it maybe realistic does seem a little harsh when a chip can get thrown to the left or right by a simple slope.
Being a more involved and 'proper' golf game it delivers a nuanced and confident driving control scheme that has enough variety to provide a sense of freedom.
Driving continues to be a key part of Tiger Woods. Being a more involved and 'proper' golf game it delivers a nuanced and confident driving control scheme that has enough variety to provide a sense of freedom, whilst at the same time keeping the play simple and streamlined. It uses the same swing detection as in last year's game, with only minor tweaks here and there. This enables you to pull or fade your shots by closing or opening the Wii-mote orientation. Power is then controlled by the speed and depth of your back-swing combined with the through speed of your club when you let rip.
Shot targeting is much improved this time around. Now you can position the targeting cursor anywhere on the course to obtain a percentage readout of how hard you would need to hit the ball with the current club. This reflects a wider refinement in the general navigation controls that will largely go unnoticed but make a big difference to overall usability.
The putting problems sadly overshadow what is an otherwise intelligent update to one of the Wii's strongest franchises. The introduction of All Play, the improved visuals and player, simultaneous online play multiplayer and improved navigation can't fix the jaw dropping issues with the putting. We can only hope that there is a patch or update disc offered to resolve this. Until then we can do nothing but say don't buy this year's Tiger Woods, opt instead for Tiger Woods 08 that even with its shortcomings is still the best way to enjoy the Wii's excellent golf swing.
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