Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08
Are this year's improvements worth the bother?
Xbox 360, All others
Tiger Woods latest outing across all platforms is the banally uninventive Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08. If you're reading this, there's a good chance you know someone who owns a computer or console and therefore have played Tiger before. Like Ian said in his review of TW2007 last year, nothing much has changed. A new optional control method, some extra game modes and Gamernet additions plugged in and another £40 game is in the charts.
EA's annual update policy on it's sport series titles is something has been wearing thin for a long time now, however with Gamernet and the ability to update everything online, it really is something that should be obsolete. I'm sure many players would be happy to shell out an extra five or ten pounds for downloadable content to bring their game up to speed with this year's key performers in each sport, however EA insist on a whole "new" game undergoing development. This usually involves tacking on a few bonus features instead of reinventing the wheel and this is very much the case in this year's golf outing.
Apart from the obligatory bitch above, Tiger Woods 2008 outing is again a quality golf game. The series has been extremely successful not only because it appeals to golf fans (which it obviously does) but because of it's innovative take on the club swing makes it accessible and playable for everyone. So let's get to one of the first "improvements" in this years edition: the three click swing. Harking back to the days of PGA Tour Golf - the one your Dad spent his quiet afternoons at work playing when the boss was in a meeting - you now have the option of clicking the A button on your controller to start a power meter. Hit this at the top on the way up and again at the mark at the start of your meter on the way down and you'll see the most powerful shot your golfer has offer. Unfortunately this requires extreme precision timing and accuracy or your shot will hook or slice into out of bounds territory.
Why EA has decided to add this option really is beyond me, as I just can't see anyone wanting to use it when we have the excellent analogue control stick method. No extra marks for that one EA. There is also now a "preview putt" mode you can use once per putt to see where your ball will go if you using the power and aim you have selected. This is handy for those new to the game for the first few rounds, however it does make putting far too easy. Needless to say, this is disabled if you play on Pro Tour difficulty.
One area where EA have got everything right is the presentation of the game, game modes and Gamernet options available from the main menu. A wealth of game modes, including a career, skills training, minigames, challenge modes and others are available from the get-go, something that has to be applauded and will keep golf fans busy for many a month to come. The Gamernet allows players to upload their best holes and set victory conditions (such as land on the green in one shot) for other gamers to download and try to better. Again, highly commendable stuff.
Creating a golfer is a simple process and you can now photograph your face and have your 360 create a worryingly pallid Pringle wearing version of you. While this was the first thing I did before embarking on my new career it should be noted that your new golfer's stats are appalling and it will require a lot of work on the courses to bring him up to Tiger's standard. This is particularly annoying because even a beginner can have excellent round playing as Tiger himself, yet creating a character left me feeling as feeble and useless as I would on a real golf course.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 is an excellent golf game, but one which more than most in EA's sports series raises the question of how valuable annual releases are, other than for EA shareholders. The game looks excellent stunning as you see the layout of courses with the golfers are all great matches for their real life likenesses. The crowd don't look great up close, but if you are up close to the crowd when you take your shot you're in the wrong place. The sound is minimal with no music on the course, but shots sounds fine. I wasn't happy that my golfer (me) spoke with an American accent, but commentary is good and the announcers correct each other if one makes a mistake.
Tiger 08 is still one of the top golf games available, and if you have bought a Wii, 360 or PS3 this year then it's a worthwhile addition to your collection if you didn't get 07. Those addicted to playing golf online may also be compelled to buy when their regular golf partners update and they struggle to get a game. Keeping up with the Jones' can prove to be expensive. Overall though it's very difficult to recommend a game which hasn't changed it's modus operandi for some time. Then again, when it makes golf as simple to play and rewarding as this, why change?