Support David, click to buy via us...
The long awaited update to Tiger Woods 08 arrives in the form of Tiger 09 and brings with it both good and bad news. The good reveals some solid work in drive tuning and chipping control, whilst the bad focuses on frustrating peculiarities with the putting game.
Let's get the bad news out the way first - the putting mechanic. Gone is the two-stage real putting swing, now, you simply dial in the required strength of putt and play the shot with a forward flick. Unfortunately, this new found simplicity makes Tiger 09's main weakness all the more prominent. Because you should be able to be more accurate, more easily than before, it becomes obvious when the game simply doesn't deliver the putt you played - and this happens regularly.
While the mechanic seems to work okay 75% of the time, for the other one in four it's completely off, leaving putts that should be at least pin-high, around half way short. On some occasions you have to hit the ball nearly three times harder than required to make the hole. Of course, this has an impact far beyond a quarter of putts because you never know when the curse will strike. It's simple - if you can't trust the controls, it's very hard to have a rewarding experience. Anyone who plays golf will understand why, for me, any such occurrence is enough to ruin the hole, or, if play is tight, even the round.
For the first time, a console control system that has the potential to synch with the rest of the game perfectly.
The putting problem is all the more frustrating because Tiger Woods on Wii has otherwise proven to have a sturdy control mechanic. Over the years, playing the series has developed into a nuanced and rewarding golf experience, and with the Wii there exists, for the first time, a console control system that has the potential to synch with the rest of the game perfectly. The one-to-one swing feels more gratifying than even the super-accurate mouse swing system in the PC versions - that is, when it works. I was happy to put up with the haphazard putts in Tiger 07 and the wonky chipping and short game in Tiger 08, particularly in the certainty that things would improve. Where 09 could have brought an end to my frustrations, it has introduced one so bad that I'm seriously considering going back to 08.
On the other hand, there are improvements. This year sees the inclusion of All Play features, an aspect of all EA's 09 sports games on Wii that enables young or novice players to use a simplified control scheme. While the mode is not quite as dumbed-down as Tiger 08's sit down option, it functions well to allow various family members to enjoy gaming together. Also new this year is a simultaneous online play mode, that not only lets you challenge your Wii friends to a round, but allows simultaneous shots to reduce the waiting.
Visually and audibly the game has been refreshed, and looks about as good as you could hope for on the Wii. The sprucing is not just skin deep, as much of the information that was missing before is now available on-screen. The par of the current hole, along with the distance and height to the pin are all clearly displayed - elements that were inexplicably absent last year. However, Tiger Woods 09 still lacks a detailed ball lie indicator as found in Super Swing Golf or We Love Golf. While having to make appropriate deductions from the appearance of the lie and the conditions alone might be realistic, it's frustrating when a chip is thrown way left by a near imperceptible slope.
For me, the successes and improvements of Tiger 09 make its big weakness all the more problematic.
Driving continues to be a strength in Tiger 09. It delivers a nuanced and confident driving control scheme that has enough variety to provide a sense of freedom, whilst at the same time keeping the play simple and streamlined. It uses the same swing detection as in last year's version with a few tweaks here and there improving things nicely. As before, power is controlled by the speed and depth of your back-swing combined with the through-speed of your club and you can pull or fade your shots by closing or opening the Wii-mote orientation. Should you find you are always fading the ball unintentionally, there is a tuning mode that will help rectify a wonky-wristed swing. Shot targeting has also improved this time around. Now you can position the targeting cursor anywhere on the course to obtain a percentage readout of how hard you need to hit the ball with the current club.
Generally, there is a lot here to like. Unfortunately, I find any sense of enjoyment gleaned from (occasional) triumphs on the tee or the fairway melt into a sinking feeling each time I hit the green (something I'm already over-acquainted with in real life). For me, the successes and improvements of Tiger 09 make its big weakness all the more problematic - while much of the game does its best to draw you in to a realistic golfing experience, the illusion is regularly shattered by the dodgy putt mechanics. It's at once the greatest and worst thing about golf, but when I hole out, Birdie, Par or Double Bogey, I want to know my score is entirely down to me.
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: