Let’s be blunt right from the start: EA haven’t screwed up Tiger Woods 09.
Right from the off it’s plainly clear that this is vastly improved over last year’s version. Not just in the addition of a handful of brand new features, but by tweaking and polishing all those gameplay components that were a little rough around the edges last time out.
The analogue stick flicking to swing your club option returns. This time around it’s a lot more forgiving, taking into account that you might make an incredibly tiny deviation from the straight and narrow. There are a lot fewer slices into the trees this time around, and when it does happen, you’ll truly feel like it’s all your own fault. Plus, if you want to go for the traditional three click method of golf gaming past, just click the right trigger and off you go.
But if you’re determined to master the analogue controls, the addition of immediate feedback makes life a lot easier. As soon as you make a swing, a meter appears on screen showing you just how you moved the stick, making you all too well aware of the flaws in your swing. Fantastic for those who crave perfection.
The addition of Hank Haney also brings about the club tuner option. Here you can head to the driving range, and change the size of the sweet spot (for perfectly straight hitting) and the power of each club to whatever you wish. Try and bump the power and spin ability of the club and the sweet spot will rapidly shrink in size, making a perfect shot incredibly tricky indeed.
Mr Haney will frequently chirp up and offer a few handy tips and rate your shots. Unfortunately it’s a little bland and artificial, and it’s pretty blatant that he’s simply reading from a script. A disappointment as a game like Tiger Woods is crying out for someone to tell you exactly where you’re going wrong.
There are 16 golf courses this time around, and a few new golfers to play around with if you bore of good old Tiger. Plus, you can still create your own golfer and increase their abilities and stats as you start to win tournaments and perform a few spectacular shots.
Online play is now a real treat. This time around four of you can play, all at the exact same time. No waiting in turn for the balls to fly, as all four of you can tee off at the exact same moment with each player’s ball showing a coloured trail as it flies through the air.
While that can be a touch distracting at first – though a huge time saver – it’s the Challenges that’ll test your ability to the max. A huge number of challenges are available, ranging from ridiculously easy, to almost impossibly difficult for you to try your hand at. And when you manage a spectacular shot, you can instantly upload a clip to EA’s servers and let all your mates see just how amazing you are via the EA website. Brilliant for show offs.
Tiger Woods 09 isn’t perfect however. The visuals are mysteriously poor once you are out on the course, with the Xbox 360 version looking strangely grainy. If this was a fast-paced action title then perhaps that could be forgiven, but golf is about as sedate as gaming ever gets.
Tiger Woods fans are going to get plenty out of this, even without any real show stopping major additions. The graphics might be a touch disappointing, but the online options alone are enough to make this a must-buy for golf gaming fanatics.