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Tiger Woods 11 PS3 may be a realistic golf simulation, but when it comes to fun this returning gamer still has a soft spot for Mario Golf on the Gameboy.
Electronic Arts really like their menus. In my mind's eye I see EA employing a whole building of staff whose job it is to make it as inconvenient and complicated as possible for the player to actually start playing the game.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 for the Playstation 3 is such an assault course of idiot filtering menu selections that I was half hoping for a Trophy announcement to pop onto the top of my screen when I had finally navigated my way to a golf course.
One of the first obstacles, after a brief argument with my PS3 because, no I did not want to connect to the EA multiplayer servers just yet thank you very much, was the character creation process that, although skippable, is positively encouraged by the game.
Now, in a strange twist of fate, the default golfer was already a dead ringer for me so I could have saved myself a chunk of time by just tapping my way through the whole process. But I do like to tinker, so after twenty minutes or so of jaw squaring and sponsor choosing I was ready to take my, slightly broader shouldered self-representation out onto the fairway to ruin a good walk with a game of golf.
It might be worth pointing out here that although Electronic Arts' Tiger Woods golf is the longest running and biggest selling golf video game series of all time, I cut my golfing teeth on the greens of Mario Golf for the Game Boy Colour twelve years ago. I couldn't pick out St Andrews Golf Club from a line-up but know every dogleg and bunker in the grounds of Peach's Castle like the back of my hand.
The apparent realism of previous Tiger Woods games has always been a turn off. I just assumed that in order for someone like me (who is about as outdoorsy as a wet kitten in winter) to enjoy the sport it had to have cartoon characters and ridiculous power-ups. Although cartoon characters are absent from Tiger Woods 11 there is an intuitive element of Arcade that gives the game an immediacy (after the almost endless menus of course) that appeals to my old school sensibilities. More on that later. First more menus.
I cut my golfing teeth on Mario Golf for the Game Boy Colour twelve years ago.
Okay, so I've created my character and kitted him out in the most logo-tastic clothes I can afford (as the game progresses, earned experience points can be traded for statistical upgrades or a new wardrobe), and I've heard a rumour there is a golf game in here somewhere. Come on, EA. You can't hide it for much longer. I saw the guy on the front of the box and he was definitely playing golf.
To the game's credit, at this point, there is a menu option called Play Now that does exactly that. Upon selecting this option, a course is selected for me at random from an impressive selection of seventeen (mostly American but lots more available to download) and after a mercifully brief loading time I see my broad shouldered golfing Adonis teed up, club in hand and ready to play.
The graphics show me a pretty representation of the location and the golfer wiggles his hips impatiently waiting for me to begin. From here on my gaming intuition serves me just fine. Aim is controlled with the D pad and once I'm happy with my ball's intended destination, taking wind speed and direction into account of course, a pull back and push forward of the left analogue stick mimicked the swing of my 1 wood perfectly and just like that, as my ball arcs through the air, I'm playing golf.
There are nuances that become apparent as I play or are well explained in an overlong, tedious tutorial. Two or three more thwacks of the ball and I'm on the putting green ready to sink my first par. Then it's onto the next, very similar looking location as the game wants me to do it again. And again. And again. And now I realise that ‘Play now' is all well and good, but what's needed here is a little competition.
It's here that my general ignorance of golf is my shortcoming. The raft of alienating menu options continues as I am presented with Ryder Cup, Championship, Career, PGA Tour, and little indication of where best I might begin. So I stick a pin in the menu and randomly start my golfing career. The difficulty is well pitched to begin with and scales well as I gain experience.
The arcade kid in me is placated by the inclusion of a power meter that allows me to Focus my skill and hit the ball further or with more accuracy. Use of this function is limited, though and is not encouraged due to its short life span. The game wants to be as close to the sport as possible at the expense of my fun.
The trophies began to accumulate but I couldn't escape the feeling that no matter how well I performed, it wouldn't impress Princess Peach in the slightest. I found Tiger Woods 11 sacrificed the fun in its quest for realism and I had a hard time resisting the urge to reach for my Game Boy Colour.
Its scope is intimidating and, in the fun stakes, Mario Golf is still king.
The graphics in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 are lovely, the atmosphere is spot on and it is comfortable and intuitive to play. Its authenticity is commendable but the lack of a fully fledged Arcade mode is its undoing for a quick fix junkie like me.
There is a fantastic golf game here but its apparent reluctance to ease in players is a failing. A golf nut will love its stat heavy play and accurate representation of the sport, but for relative newcomers like me, its scope is intimidating and, in the fun stakes, Mario Golf is still king.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: