This year’s Tiger Woods game is set for release in mid-June, just before Father’s Day and coinciding with the US Open. The demo went up on Xbox Live (and PSN) on Thursday and I spent a bit of time with it this morning. Here are a few thoughts that I came away with:
- The Numbers Game: Finally, EA Sports seems to be getting closer to the presentation style that I prefer. Relevant stat overlays now show stats for each hole, plus there are instant updates during holes for leaderboard moves and a nice overall look to the presentation. EA has had a tendency to be lax with the stat overlays in their sports games, which has been a shame. I still use NHL ’98 on the PlayStation as a classic example of good presentation. Cutaways on players during stoppages always had relevant stats or player histories, just like you see on television. Let’s see more of this.
- Precision Putting: There’s going to be a learning curve here. EA has done away with power percentages in favor of one overall meter that you must adjust based on elevation, break, and either wet or dry green conditions. This new addition instantly makes putting more challenging, even though I think it was supposed to make it a bit easier. Perhaps the retail version will have a tutorial for this new feature, but I consistently either left putts short or overshot the hole in the demo, whereas Tiger 09 was a bit easier on the putting side of things for me.
- Tournament Challenge: This seems to be what EA is replacing the Tiger Challenge from Tiger 09 with. As far as the demo is concerned, I’m considerably less than impressed. The demo has you mirroring Woods on the 17th at Sawgrass during the 2001 Players’ Championship. In order to succeed, you must closely copy Tiger’s approach shot from the tee and his birdie putt. Oddly enough, the game does not want you to make a better approach shot than Tiger had, which was a fair distance away from the hole. I get that the Tournament Challenge is supposed to recreate scenarios of big tournaments in PGA Tour history, but I’m not a big fan of playing copycat in this instance. Hopefully the retail version’s Tournament Challenge will have a lot more to it.
- More Than Words: Not that commentary in golf is a dealbreaker, but EA’s latest announcing duo in Kelly Tillman and Scott Van Pelt is weak at best. Their roles are opposite of what they should be; Tillman is more experienced in the field and Van Pelt is a better booth announcer or anchor, yet Van Pelt is on the course and Tillman is in the booth. Why? I know that EA and ESPN have ties, but wouldn’t it be something to get Jim Nantz to do some voice work? Why hasn’t EA brought David Feherty back? Feherty did a great job mixing valid observations with humorous one-liners and made the experience fun, and he and Gary McCord worked pretty well together. I will say that Van Pelt is a step up from Sam Torrance, but who isn’t? At least EA didn’t bring Stuart Scott or Chris Berman into the booth.
- Approach Camera Woes: As part of the new visual presentation, EA has introduced some new camera angles. One that really ticks me off can be seen just after striking an approach shot to the green. Rather than a perspective based on the ball’s trajectory, we get a panned-out shot of the ball going up into the air… so you’re left wondering where the ball is headed, thus adding an element of the unknown as to whether or not to employ spin. I have no problem when this angle is used for a computer-controlled golfer to heighten the presentation value, but it impedes vision for the active player and is just annoying.
- Still The One: The gameplay controls are still largely the same as Tiger 09, which is a good thing. Applying spin and fades or draws to shots remains simple and accessible to players of all skill levels. Experienced Tiger players will likely have no problem jumping right in when the game arrives on June 16th.
- Live Tournaments: This new feature is one of the most intriguing. Play the Pros mode allows virtual duffers to play along with ongoing tournaments to see how they stack up against the actual leaderboards as real play unfolds. Imagine playing the Bethpage Black course during the US Open– with the same weather conditions– and pitting your skills against the PGA Tour… that’s what this mode aims to do. In addition, there will be daily Live Tournaments for all skill levels that challenge players to score the lowest and earn enough cash to be ranked well. It’s a great departure from simultaneous online play and this feature is the one that I’m most excited about. This feature (obviously) wasn’t playable in the demo, but is worth mentioning anyway.
There is a lot to like about what’s playable for Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf 10 right now. Nitpicks aside, the new features and presentation seem to complement the solid gameplay. I’ll be looking forward to tearing into this game in a few short weeks. In the meantime, it’s back to Tiger 09 to hone my skills.
I was supposed to spend at least part of today playing Resistance 2. I had planned on it, and was even up and about before noon. Unfortunately, remembering the 15 deaths I suffered at the hands of the Swarm in the Utah level nudged me to take a day off from the Chimera and play other things. I still have some time before the deadline and can afford a day of goofing off, I guess. It’s not necessarily the right thing to do, but between Call of Duty: World at War and now Resistance 2, I’m a little FPS-fried.
Part of today’s goofing off came via playing Tiger Woods 09 for the first time in a few weeks. Shooting an ace on my second hole of the day (at Harbour Town as part of a Tiger Challenge event) indicated that I hadn’t lost my touch, and it felt good to get out there on the virtual links and take some hacks. I still need to work on my short game, but my Happy Gilmore-ish power and deadly putting accuracy seem to overcome my relatively weak approach work. I still haven’t tried the two downloadable courses that I bought some time ago, but they’ll be there when the time comes and I’m sure that I’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Afterwards, PlayStation Home was my next stop. With today being the last day of the Closed Beta, I figured that I’d take a last look around before changes take place. I took part in a pretty competitive game of bowling… up until the last three frames, when my opponent was, to quote Marisa Tomei from My Cousin Vinny, dead on balls accurate. High Velocity Bowling is a better representation of the game, but I wouldn’t expect Home Bowling to incorporate Sixaxis motion controls. Is it too much to ask SCEE for better pin physics, though? Sheesh. Pins wobble wildly at times and only fall during arbitrary other times, creating some silly leaves. There’s also a propensity for too many split leaves and way too much hook on the lanes. Complaining about something that’s free is kind of silly, I know, but it’s a suggestion. Maybe SCEE will address this in the Open Beta, which starts tomorrow.
Lastly, I spent a good deal of time with Burnout Paradise. I downloaded the game from the PlayStation Store, instead of owning the physical disc, but only play the game sporadically. I don’t like the sandbox style of racing that Criterion decided to use in Paradise as much as I liked the formats in past Burnout games. Road Rage is still awesome, and I’m liking the Marked Man runs, but finding your way around during a race can be frustrating unless you memorize the rather expansive layout. You’re already worrying about traffic and other racers, so why add the peril of not making a correct turn or abrupt street endings? I did manage to earn my B license today, though, along with a few other Trophies along the way. Burnout Paradise is still a pretty, pretty game and there’s a lot to see and do, but I just don’t know if I can ever personally enjoy this game as much as I have the past games because of the design changes.
That brings us current. I’m still hoping to maybe get out to GameStop in the next day or three and try to pick up Persona 4 to play once my Resistance 2 project is completed. In the meantime, I know that I have a date with the Chimera tomorrow. It’s not exactly the kind of date that I’d usually be excited about, but I am eager to try and get past the Swarm and experience the rest of Resistance 2‘s Campaign.
We’re also expecting a decent ice storm here in Western Massachusetts tomorrow, so I’m hoping there’ll be power. Did I mention that I hate winter?
Anyway, off to prep for my karaoke gig tonight!