Note: This is a review of the PlayStation 3 version of "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11."
Earlier this year, EA Sports announced that they would keep Tiger Woods as their posterboy for their upcoming golf titles, which includes "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11" and "Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online." It's not much of a surprise considering that there really is no one else that is even close to Woods' stature and popularity with the golfers and the larger world. Phil Mickelson is number two, but he is so distant from Tiger that he looks like a bystander waiting for him on the eighth hole. Not many people recognize him outside of golf fans and EA surely does not want that (Mickelson is a great and respectful golfer though). So, the recently announced "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11" keeps Woods' name in the title and on the cover, but he is not the only coverboy as Rory McIlroy represents the European players, which ties directly into the new Ryder Cup mode.
This new mode pits the best of the U.S. against European's finest in a series of four contests to determine where golf's greatest players are. Just like the real-life tournament, each team pits its 12 best golfers against each other in team matches like foursomes, where each player alternates shots, and single player matches. You choose the twelve players you want, including women, which adds a team element and strategy to an otherwise single-player game. Teams must be good in all facets like putting and long drives in order to win this prestigious tournament that's been around since 1929.
For newcomers or casual gamers, you should hold off from playing the Ryder Cup mode until you perfect the simulation-based gameplay. Using the left analog stick as the swing mechanism forces gamers to be precise. If off by even a millimeter, the ball will go off-center. For some gamers, this may be a turnoff, but for the diehard simulation addicts, there is nothing better. For people that want the old-school, percentage meter golf controls, they are accessible by pressing R3 during gameplay.
The most exciting feature, which adds excitement and realistic movements, is the focus meter. Focus is addable to increase power and accuracy during swings among other things. Another important factor focus helps you with is its ability to get you out of tight situations. Add spin to an airborne ball to help guide it out of sand traps, rough patches and towards the hole. Be careful, the focus meter takes a while to fill back up, so it is best to always leave a little reserve in the tank for those pesky holes.
The stellar create-a-player mode is tied to your profile. Created players are highly-detailed and rival the creation modes seen in the "Smackdown vs. Raw" wrestling game series. You can choose the hairstyle, goatee among a host of other options. The height, weight and size of each body part allows the character to be even less generic. Thousands of combinations from realistic golfers to monstrosities that are seven-foot tall, proudly wears a green mohawk while his arms are as skinny as prepubescent boy is not just weird, but possible. With this new golfer, you gain XP points by going through the tutorial and playing the game with him or her. The better you play, the more XP points are awarded to you, which buy new clothes and attributes to increase your player's skills.
And by taking this newly created player onto the links, you can see the fine detail the Tiger Woods series is known for. Every piece of skin is grafted across the created and real-life golfers bodies with precision. Player emote when they land a big putt or miss a big one. Gale-force winds blow across the pants, ruffling them into the wind. And all of the characters feel even more realistic with a fully 3D crowd and gloriously-detailed courses. Lush trees on nearby mountains are not just visible, but detailed. Everything looks and feels like you are there. I swear that if you look close enough in the water hazards around Bethpage Black that fish are swimming around , looking for lost balls.
Sadly, I did not get to play online with anyone simply because I could not find anyone. Even the all-time scoreboard only listed a few names. This will change once the game fully comes out today, so I will not cover the online mode in this review. It will be covered in about a week.
The game's steep learning curve makes it hard for newcomers and casual fans to attach themselves to the game immediately. However, that does not mean that it is impossible. After playing a few rounds and playing the extremely helpful tutorial, anyone can become a digital golfing fanatic.
View the slideshow for screenshots.
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