The biggest difference between Tiger Woods' current-gen debut in 2005 and the newly released Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 is incredible in terms of gameplay depth, feature variety, and presentational quality. But when metered out over six HD iterations, it can be a bit harder to draw up much enthusiasm for the year-to-year distinctions.
EA's golf franchise hasn't faltered in years, and I'm certainly not calling out Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 for any grand deficiencies. It's undoubtedly a great game of golf, and taking my oddly attired player through the PGA Tour season has become one of my annual indulgences, even as my wife rolls her eyes at the satisfying sound of a well-hit drive.
But by this point, we're all pretty used to what the series has to offer on this generation's controller-bound platforms (well, until PlayStation Move and Natal launch), and unlike Woods' personal life of late, Tiger Woods 11 offers few surprises.
But that doesn't make this year's lineup of additions insubstantial or unwelcome; in fact, many of them further embellish the series' robust set of play modes and features, creating a Tiger Woods experience that's larger than ever, yet still streamlined and approachable for newcomers.
Take the Ryder Cup, the biannual contest between the US and Europe for fairway supremacy. While the in-game version could use a bit more pomp and enthusiasm, the ability to take control of a twelve-man team and assert some national dominance is a nice new wrinkle on the ol' Tiger formula.
Plus, the advent of the Ryder Cup also brings about the online Team Golf mode, which lets up to twenty-four players split up into teams for one-on-one matches that tally up to a total decision. Tiger Woods has long offered a very sharp online experience, and as with the Ryder Cup, the addition of Team Golf means more to see and do this time around.
On the fairways, the most notable change comes with the Focus meter, which fuels abilities like power boost, ball spin, putt preview, and the all-new accuracy boost. Previously, players could use these features as much as available, but now you'll have to earn them and take caution not to waste meter space on non-essential actions, lest you need a few yards on a crucial swing or have a long putt in sight. Created players have a new way of improving their skills as well, courtesy of an XP system that awards you points and lets you spend them on things like swing speed and various putting attributes.
While it ultimately lets you take more control over the evolution of your player's abilities, the XP system results in some major deficiencies at first, as your unskilled and underpowered player is matched up against PGA Tour pros. In that context, it doesn't make much sense - plus, it's a pain in the ass - but you'll make strides after grinding through several tourneys.
And while it's not for everyone (myself included), the optional new True Aim perspective may very well draw new fans to the series, as it drops the perfect overhead views and putting lines in favor of the kinds of tools and viewpoints real golfers have to work with. It's tough and will require a lot of practice, but that's the point; anyone that griped about Tiger Woods not being enough of a true simulation now has a serious alternative to swap to within the same game.
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