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With the previous success of Madden and an impressive upcoming roster of Wii games, Electronic Arts (EA) seems to be on something of a roll these days. What has been most impressive is their understanding of the Wii's control scheme. Their experience has shone through most clearly in their ability to avoid overcooking the use of the Wii-mote and Nun-chuck. Where gestures and motion fit the action they are employed with a deft and steady touch, but where traditional sticks and buttons are better suited they are still used.
Their biggest success so far has been the Wii version Madden which turned out to be the highest rated platform for them. Tiger Woods obviously lends itself to a variety of motion controls. However, the variety of the different golf swings demand a degree of subtlety that is notoriously hard to capture via a controller regardless of how intuitive they are. Even Nintendo struggled in the sometimes fussy swings of Wii-Sports golf. It was therefore with some excitement and trepidation that I popped Tiger Woods 07 into the slot.
the variety of the different golf swings demand a degree of subtlety that is notoriously hard to capture via a controller regardless of how intuitive they are.
There are a variety of different game modes on offer, from a quick round to a series of tournaments. But before you get started you need to create your player. This involves a completely over the top but quite fun tool where you sculpt the face and body of your on screen self. The obsessive among us could literally spend days here, honing their persona to be an exact likeness. Once you are all set up, it's off to the practice mode to learn the game's controls.
All the familiar modes return from previous Tiger Woods outings. These include a number of different challenges such as stroke and match play, skins, and alternate shot. This time around EA have added the Greensome and Bloodsome team based events. In Greensome you get to choose which of your team's balls you want to play. In Bloodsome you get to choose your opponents lie. I particularly enjoyed battle-golf mode where you get to remove clubs from your opponent's bag by performing well. These novelty modes are obviously not the main event which is there in all the 29 multi-day glory that is the PGA Tour season.
With a little practice you discover that the golf swing works in a similar way to Wii-Sports golf, and aims to replicate a real life motion with the Wii-mote. As you would hope and expect Tiger Woods provides more subtlety and control than its simplified counterpart. This means it does take a little longer to really get the feel of how to hit the ball right. The power of the shot is controlled by your back swing; the shorter it is the less power is applied to the shot. As you let rip and follow through you are then able to control whether you curl the shot left or right by varying the angle of the Wii-mote as it passes through the vertical. Finally once the ball is in the air you can add a little spin by pressing the D-pad and waggling the controller. This all adds up to a great golfing experience. I feel like rushing off and hitting a few right now.
I wouldn't go as far to say that putting is broken, although at times you do feel like saying 'just give me a button to press'.
In addition to this you can switch your shot mode before taking a swing. This enables some of the more specialist shots such as chips or punches to be executed. After a few of these swings you should hit the green. This is where the controls are at their most tetchy. Now, I wouldn't go as far to say that putting is broken, although at times you do feel like saying 'just give me a button to press'. The only way to test the strength of your put is to use the practice mode. However when you switch back to normal swings the Wii-motes responsiveness seems to have changed. If I'm imagining this, it will be because it is so hard to execute a clean put first time. Like the driving and fairway shots, power is controlled by your back swing. But with putting because the movement is foreshortened, it is frustratingly hard to get the shot to fire. You find yourself repeating the same motion over and over with no reaction from the on screen golfer. To rub salt into the wounds, the sarcastic commentary then teases you with one liners like 'Just take the shot;' and 'He's looking nervous' or even 'Just hit it'. You want to answer back with 'I'm trying to; it's your blinking putting that's stopping me!'
Graphically, things look much like the PS2 version of the game. This is no bad thing as the environments bristle with nice life-like touches. The combination of the open skies and the variety of camera angles work together to give you a real sense of playing outside. Whilst teeing off you can hold A to shoot the camera up into the sky and then down to where the ball should land, this whole graphic works extremely well, and again makes it all seem more like a real environment.
When you either sink a long put or land a drive near the cup the camera draws back and the screen switches to extra wide mode with cinematic letterboxing.
My favourite graphical element of the game is the slow motion shot camera. When you either sink a long put or land a drive near the cup the camera draws back and the screen switches to extra wide mode with cinematic letterboxing. In a similar affect to the slow-motion crashes in Burn Out this gives a real sense of occasion to every good shot and gives you another reason to go for the birdies.
Golf is not known for its high fidelity audio. However the sound in Tiger Woods manages to contribute to the games solid and realistic experience. The thwack of ball on wood, the pwop of ball on fairway and the tink of a ball in the cup all add to the gameplay. The commentary also brings something extra to the game, providing some nice spoken advice during the flyby and sound, and some nice little one liners during the play to ensure things don't get too serious. The script and the vocal work are spot on and well paced, and make you want to kick back and ease into an evening or two with the game.
Overall, this is another confident transition to the Wii for an EA sports title. Whilst there isn't a lot more to see if you already have Tiger Woods on another platform, there is still the not insubstantial addition of the Wii-mote swing. Despite the questionable putting, the Wii-mote control is where the game really shines. If you are looking for the most realistic golf simulation, and your back can keep up with the pace, this is well worth a purchase.
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