Review: Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf 11

July 28, 2010, Author: Ray Willmott

Despite losing a great many of his sponsorships, it is quite clear that EA Sports and the PGA Tour brand still have faith in golfs alpha male and have released Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 this summer. My most recent experience with this series came last year with Tiger Woods 10 but before that the last golf game I had played was the 96 version of PGA Tour Golf on the SNES (which I absolutely adored!). Obviously a great many things have changed between 1996 and 2010, however, taking hold of my review copy of Tiger Woods 11, I was keen to see how much of a difference a year makes.

Tournaments and Courses
There’s a career mode in Tiger 11 but there’s no storyline or set discipline you need to follow. You simply select the tournament you wish to play, and you play it. This provides you with an arena to earn experience points to improve your customised golfer. That may sound simplistic but believe me it’s a lot of fun. The tournaments included are World recognised events, all of which have been a part of the Tiger Woods series in previous years with one or two new additions. Also this year, a big emphasis from EA Sports seems to have gone on the Ryder Cup.

Here’s a fun fact for you, this year’s Ryder Cup is going to be held in Celtic Manor in Newport, about a ten minute drive away from my house, so to see the course graphically represented in-game was a real thrill! For those who may not know, The Ryder Cup is an event that features a team of golfers from Europe against a team of golfers from America and takes place every two years with a different venue every time. In Tiger 11, I played Ryder Cup mode in a 2 vs 2 format which then carries on for the duration of the whole 18 holes. The aim? Your team of two needs to perform better on a particular hole than the opposing team of 2. So if you were only able to scrape a bogey and your opponents managed a birdie, they will have the advantage. The Ryder Cup is actually one of my favourite things to do, (apart from develop my customised golfer) in Tiger 11 and really inspires the competitive streak within. This is especially fun when you have a few mates around and are playing pass the pad or if you’re playing online against the best of the best.

Adding some swing to your step
Realistically, the differences between Tiger 10 and Tiger 11 aren’t that substantial. If you played last year’s instalment, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect with Tiger 11. In fact, if you read Phil’s hands-on with the demo, you’d know that he was pretty comfortable playing Tiger 11 having last played Tiger 07. It’s not a complete port however as there are some new features such as the focus mode which almost completely change the way the game is played.

The Focus mode is represented by a circular red gauge at the bottom left hand side of the screen which is gradually depleted from a number of different uses. For example, when you’re aiming your shot, there is an opportunity to tighten up the accuracy of where the ball is going to land on the course. Then when you go to take your shot and are in your backswing, by repeatedly tapping the A button you can add more force behind your club, so that when you bring it forward to hit the ball off the tee, it will help the ball move further than it would have normally.

When putting, the focus can also be depleted by using a virtual simulation of how accurate your shot is going to be based on your current position. Using this simulation every time will also deplete your focus. Using a combination of these will soon drain your focus and when that happens, you’re completely on your own and will have to hope and pray that your golfing instincts are up to scratch. All is not lost however, as you can build your focus back up by just playing the game without using any of the nifty features and hitting tee shots onto the fairway or getting as close to the hole as possible without any help from the computer.

Also new this year is a mode called True-Aim. Essentially, this is like being an actual golfer on a golf course as it takes place from a first person perspective and basically puts you in the shoes of your golfer of choice. Of course, that means you cant see your focus or how much emphasis you’re putting on your shots. You are, in fact, completely dependent on your own 20/20 vision and the reaction from the crowd on hand to see how much progress you’ve made with your shot. This is an extremely taxing edition to the latest game and will only be used by those who’ve mastered their craft with previous Tiger Woods games. If you’re a big fan, if you’ve been playing the series and think you’re hot stuff, then you need to be playing through each round with True-Aim on. It may just change your perspective.

Almost like the real thing..

The XP system also seems quite improved from last year as does the customisation. As before, the customisation allows you to tweak your golfer how you see fit; everything from the colour of their eyes, to the depth of their nose and down to their cheek structure. Although, if you can’t quite figure out how you look and know how to create an appropriate likeness for yourself in the game with the options on hand, then, once again, EA have included the option to photo yourself and allow the game to create your golfers face digitally using yours as a blueprint.

This is a feature that carried over from last year, and, with the imminent arrival of Kinect, will probably be the last time your Xbox 360 Camera is used. The game scans your face into the game, taking around twenty minutes to do so and then recreates it digitally. This can produce some embarrassing results however, as the game has a horrid way of revealing your worst features over your best. For me, I have quite a large forehead and the game seemed to take great pleasure in showing that to me, almost mockingly! However, EA allow you to play around with their design of you if you’re not happy with the way you’ve been portrayed, so don’t feel too disheartened.

Once you’re done crafting your likeness into the game, you’re given a brief introduction into the XP system. Essentially, your golfer has levels and an XP bar that needs to fill in order for you to progress to the next level. XP is awarded in a variety of different ways; if your tee shot hits the fairway or if you make a close approach on the hole and land it on the green you’ll gain some points. You’ll even gain XP if you score a birdie or a hole in one. Depending on how much XP you’ve obtained from a course indicates how much you get to spend at the end of the course on your golfer. For example, if you would prefer your golfer to be a more accurate putter than a power driver, you can assign XP points to that particular field. Essentially, your golfer’s abilities are in the palm of your hand.

Graphically, this game is about as good as you can expect a golfing game to be. The courses are about as close to the real thing as you can imagine, including all the bunkers, the hills, the trees and water hazards. Its quite clear there is a powerful engine backing Tiger Woods 11 as it factors in inclines on the course and forces gravity whenever the ball hits a tree. Tiger Woods 11 is very polished in this sense as one has come to expect from an EA Sports product, the physics seem spot on and it looks crisp. The water gleams, the sun shines and the courses are represented so accurately from their real-life counterparts, that at times, it would be difficult to tell the difference.

The same is true of the golfers; Tiger really does look like Tiger, as does McIllroy. You can see their apprehension, their excitement, their enthusiasm and their fear as the ball moves about the course. The camera also allows great replay features and gives great perspective as to where it’s going to land. EA have done an excellent job of capturing golf emotion in this package and have shown that there is certainly more to the game than flagpoles and clubs.

Sand in your eye?

Back from Tiger Woods 10 is the randomised weather system, which essentially never lets you play the same game twice. So, in one sitting the wind may be completely against you and rain is pounding down furiously, then in the next, there is but the tiniest breeze and the sun is shining. This is one of a few games where I feel the environment plays as much of an important role to the game as the graphics themselves.

Chirp like a birdie, squawk like an eagle!
The music is generally quite irritating. For me, it’s a slight improvement over last years but that’s not saying very much. While playing the game, however, music isn’t a factor. I also found out while I was playing the game on Xbox 360 that customised soundtracks aren’t allowed whereas they are on Playstation 3. For some, this could be a key feature when deciding upon your purchase, however for me, I just spent as little time on the title screen as I could and jumped straight into a game.

However, if you thought the title screen was bad, wait until you get to the commentators. It’s quite irking to hear that the majority of sound-bites from the commentators last year have been carried over into this instalment and little has been done to change it. They’ll still say the same things, still react in mostly the same way with a slight change here or there to make it seem as if something has actually been changed. Arguably, you could ask what more can be said that wasn’t already captured in previous games. This is true, but if you’ve got any experience with the series at all, you may find that a simple thing such as similar commentary does less to emphasise the changes made between Tiger 10 and Tiger 11. For those who’ve never played a Tiger Woods game before however, even after a while, these two will probably still get on your nerves. Thankfully, you can switch them off, although some may find having them on useful.

Where this game shines with its sound however, is when you’re on course and you’re just listening to the sounds of nature and man coming together. You’re normally listening out for birds chirping, or the crowd whooping, or hearing the chink of the club as it hits against the ball. It’s a rare game where there isn’t music beating in the background and it’s all about being outdoors and hearing the whistling wind or the listening to the waves on the sea. In that sense, PGA Tour 11 is actually very relaxing and calming and does really make a great game to play if you just want to unwind and unravel. All the sounds are as authentic as you can imagine them to be and suit this game so well.

Controversial online schemes
You’ve heard it, talked about and now it’s here, Tiger Woods 11 is the first game to fall victim to EA Sports new online policy. Essentially, this affects gamers who play pirated copies of games or buy them pre-owned. If you buy Tiger Woods 11 shrink wrapped and sealed, you’re going to get a code on the back page of your manual that will allow you to unlock the online mode, free of charge and enable you to play as long as you want.

However, this can only be used once and so if you buy this pre-owned, you won’t be getting online with Tiger Woods past a seven day free trial unless you pay a fee equivalent to 1200 points/$10. This has irked some gamers and will clearly take a big chunk of online gamers out of the equation as many rely upon the pre-owned market to get involved with the latest games. However, EA Sports, for better or worse, have decided to make a stance against this and from Tiger 11 onward, all of their games will adopt the same policy. It’s clear that it is having an impact on the industry however, as other companies are considering adopting similar concepts. So be warned.

Ready to set a new trend?

As a reviewer, I only got to sample a seven day trial for the game but it gives a good enough indication of how the online world of PGA Tour Golf 11 plays out. Everything you can play in the game is available online, including the Ryder Cup and other tournaments. You can play team based games, playing co-operatively or against friends, you can even take your customised golfer online. What’s also cool is that you can film any videos of any excellent shots you’ve taken, upload them to the net and people can download and watch those shots. Photos can also be taken to your heart’s content.

Taking all that into consideration, when playing an actual game online, the servers seem pretty stable when supporting multiple players, I did face the occasional stutter, however, I think that this might be more of an issue with my connection than the game itself. So, it appears that the fee for online gaming constitutes decent online play, or at least the same as you’ve been used to for EA games in the past. However, just to clarify, there is no noticeable difference in the quality one way or another. I suppose it could be worse, it could be a subscription based model!

Tiger Woods is also an ever expanding product because there will always be challenges for you to accomplish. Whenever you start the game up, if you’ve registered an account, you will be logged into the EA servers, and dependent on which hole you play, you will be competing with players from all over the World based on your performance on that hole. So when at your tee shot, a pop-up may flash on the screen to show you that on a Par 3 hole, someone named XxM@lk0mxX has managed to hit his tee shot onto the green near the flag in one shot. The game will then challenge you to better or to equal that feat and, if you’re capable of doing it, will award you EA Points and XP. While not in direct consistent competition with any individual at one time, there will always be a way to improve your game and your standings in the World rankings, even if you feel you’ve managed to conquer it all.

Hole in One?
Sales of this game have been quite poor in comparison to previous years and whether this is a statement as to the consumers tolerance of Tiger’s infidelity, fans showing their disregard for EA’s new online policy or that there is simply too many other games out there is an arguable point. Whatever the case may be, Tiger Woods 11 is a very good game and its sales are not indicative of its quality. It’s not a vast difference to Tiger 10 and it’s debatable whether this is worth the full amount if you already own last years instalment but there is enough content in here that if you’re a golfing fan, it may be worth another look. The Ryder Cup mode is quite entertaining and the focus system certainly adds a very strategic element to the game.

Levelling up your golfer and developing your golfer with all the options available is also quite addictive and can keep you entertained for hours. Also, when considering the platform you want to play on, it may be worth considering that Tiger 11 supports motion plus on the Wii and will have a patch released in September to support Playstation Move. However, EA Sports stated that Tiger 11 was too far in development to support Kinect and Microsoft owners will have to wait until next year to have some motion based golfing!

In short, Tiger Woods 11 is a good game for golfing fans and a good game to get people into golf. It’s a user friendly game, playable and enjoyable by all and can be used for pick up and play or to get more heavily involved in the intricacies on display. Coming from a reviewer who doesn’t generally play or buy sports games, I found many an entertaining hour in Tiger Woods 11 and believe that many of you reading this review would feel the same way.


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