Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2002 Review
It seems like every generation of golf has produced at least one mega star, an athlete that defines the game yet again. Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicholas, they all left an indelible mark on the game. In this generation, there is one golfer who might just be the best of them all, the indomitable Tiger Woods. The youngest player to ever win the Masters, Tiger Woods has set some of the most impressive records in the game of golf, and in record time. Having won 6 of the past 10 majors he has entered, he is now tied with Bobby Jones for the most majors won, and is likely to hold that record alone long before his playing days are over. It is only fitting, given this mans incredible contribution to the game, that he grace the cover of EA's newest golf series, Tiger Woods PGA Tour. Tiger Woods is back this year in the latest installment in this growing series, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2002. Featuring various amounts of gameplay modes, including the all new Speed Golf, this game aims to be the best yet. With a redesigned game engine and enhanced graphics, Tiger Woods 2002 is quite an improvement over last year's title.
While not the most graphically impressive of the EA sports lineup, Tiger Woods 2002 is certainly a beautiful game, offering a very realistic take on the game. During the development of the game, Tiger Woods was filmed via motion capture to create the most realistic character animation seen in a golf game to date. Any golfer you choose from is smoothly detailed and has incredibly fluid motion, whether in mid swing or while rejoicing after sinking an 11-foot putt for birdie. Facial animations for the golfers have also been improved and are very well done and just as real as their movements. You can see the anger or joy on your characters face, and it is as convincing as it is fun to watch. Tiger Woods is known to be very passionate player, and that feeling is recreated in the game. You can watch as Tiger follows a putt into the hole, waving it in with his arms, as well as many other animations that aptly describe his behavior on the course. However, most of the other characters in the game, while still impressive looking and fun to watch, do not share the same level of detail that is put into Tigers character, making him by far more fun to use as a player.
The courses themselves are impressive for the most part, though a bit sparse. The biggest problem in this game however is the anti-aliasing, as it is almost non-existent. Many of the level plains in the game have huge jagged edges that sway back and forth in the foreground, often making concentration difficult, not to mention taking a lot away from the games realism. Other than that however, the game's courses look very nice and could be the best designed courses seen in a golfing simulation to date. The sand traps take advantage of the game's rougher textures to create a more realistic hazard, and the freshly mowed greens and fairways appear to be just that. The game also has some very nice lighting effects, especially on courses such as Copperhead, where the lighting plays off the slight peaks and recesses on the course, giving the links a much more complex and convoluted feel than usual.
However, some of the effects, especially the weather effects like driving rain and wind, could have used a little more work. The rainy weather in particular is very poorly done, as it is not affected by wind patterns, nor does it move or splash in a realistic way. On top of that, when playing in the rain, characters seem to be miraculously untouched by these driving pellets of water, staying completely dry throughout the game. The wind in the game doesn't do much except make noise in the background. Even on a fully windy day, don't expect the trees to sway or the leaves to ruffle, or any indication of a breeze for that matter. Of course, golf is not meant to be played in adverse conditions, so these failings are not monumental unless you tend to think of golf as an extreme sport. Overall, the visual feel of Tiger Woods 2002 is convincing and impressive, though not nearly as brilliant as some of EA's other sports titles.
Anyone who has played a round of golf can attest to just how hard and frustrating the game can be, and EA has certainly taken that into consideration when redesigning the in game engine for 2002. Tiger Woods 2002 is a golf simulation, but does not place such a heavy emphasis on it that it becomes a burden. The game definitely has a pick up and play kind of ease, but requires a lot of time and patience to become a master of the links. When first starting the game, players will only have one option available, and that is the in game tutorial. After creating a player profile, the tutorial takes you on the course with Tiger and explains the movements while Tiger goes through the motions. As Tiger shows you how to drive, how to chip and putt, an icon of your controller also appears on the top right hand part of the screen, showing the necessary input to recreate the pro's movements. After watching Tiger take you through a particular aspect of the game, you will be left to mimic him by duplicating the input you saw earlier. Throughout this, the game is constantly giving you tips until you have mastered that particular technique. What makes this tutorial so great is that by the time you finish you will definitely have what it takes to enjoy this game.
Now that you've got a grasp for the gameplay in Tiger Woods 2002, you can choose from several different gameplay options. Stroke Play is your simple free play mode that allows you to cruise the links or face off against the CPU or a friend. Match play is similar to stroke play, but the contest is decided by who wins the most holes by the end of the match as opposed to overall score. Tournament play is your basic tournament, pitting you against a field of 64 golfers in an 18-36-hole showdown. There are several different tournaments to participate in, but they must first be unlocked. Speed Golf is a new addition to the series, offering a much more hectic style of play. Play against a friend or against the clock, but get a move on because every second counts. Once you step up to the tee, a timer starts, and doesn't stop after you hit the ball, requiring you to run to the spot where your shot landed and shoot again. At the end of the hole, your score is calculated by adding total time to total strokes multiplied by 3. For instance, if your time was 47 seconds, and your total strokes needed for that hole was 7, then you would add 47 to 21 (7 strokes x 3), to get your overall score for that hole. Lowest score at the end of 18 holes wins.
The heart of the game though is the Tiger Challenge, where you face off against pro golfers in match play. There are a total of 17 different challenges you can compete in, including 12 real life pros like Vijay Singh, Colin Montgomerie and more, but you can only advance by defeating an opponent who has challenged you. Defeating opponents gets you prize money which you can use to increase certain attributes to your chosen character. There are 6 total attributes- power, accuracy, spin, approach, recovery, and putting. Building these stats is the key to becoming a champion, but maxing them out will prove to be no easy feat.
Actual play in this game is quite straightforward, and very intuitive. To hit the ball with any club, use the analog stick in a swinging motion, first back, then forward. The more you put into the swing the more power you connect with. You can also increase the power of your swing by rapidly hitting the L1 button while on the back swing, and if you are able to increase it enough, then a neat little animation awaits you. You can also use the analog stick to intentionally slice or hook the ball. To do so, simply move the stick back on an angle and push back forward in the same direction. Doing so will cause the ball to hook or slice depending on the angle you choose. Not only can you control where the ball goes before you hit it, you can control its motion when it lands using the L2 button for spin control. By rapidly pressing the L2 button and the left or right analog stick while the ball is in the air, you can put backward or forward spin on the ball to help control its progress when it lands.
As with most sports games, Tiger Woods 2002 offers incredible replay value. By offering several different gameplay modes, as well as the option to play only the front or back 9 holes in addition to tackling the full 18, there is certainly enough to keep players busy for quite a while. The two player modes, especially Speed Golf, make this game a great social diversion, allowing you and some friends to kill some time on a boring Sunday afternoon. The game is also difficult enough that completing it all will require quite a bit of time and education, so die hard golf fans will have plenty of reason to keep coming back to this game.
Perhaps the most important thing in real golf is club selection. The right club is vital to making a quality shot, and failure to pick correctly can be costly. Such is not the case in Tiger Woods 2002, simply because the game picks the correct club for the situation about 99% of the time, to the point where club selection becomes the farthest thing from your mind. While this certainly takes away from the simulation feel of the game, many people may find it refreshing, especially if they are not well versed on the game. Another area where Tiger Woods 2002 fails to recreate real life effects is in how the ball lies in relation to your player. In real golf, the players relation to the ball in terms of elevation directly affects the flight of the ball. If the ball is higher up than your feet, it tends to cut to the left, and when below your feet it will cut to the right. In this game, though, the ball always plays as though in perfect relation to your player, taking away from the realism of the game. However, if for some reason you feel the need to mess with your clubs, you can scroll through them with the R1 and R2 buttons. Another important aspect to golf is knowing the lay of the land, being able to read a green, and in this aspect EA was spot on. When lining up for a putt, you will see a dotted line showing the course your ball would take based upon the terrain. It is then up to you to adjust that line if necessary by using the D- pad. Move the line left or right to change its heading or its break point, and back and forward to change velocity. Putting is by far the hardest part of the game, as with most golf sims, and takes a bit to get used to.
While there are many important aspects in the game of golf, sound is not necessarily one of them. However it's still nice to see EA incorporate a few nice touches in this department. When out on the links, you will often hear the crowd burst into applause, often times carried over from a different hole where another player has made a nice shot. On top of that, the applause is quite true to life in that it mimics the 'golf clap' rather well, with slightly muted applause unless something truly remarkable happens. In addition, the commentary is well done, providing cool, calm and often boring and pointless chat, with one exception. The commentators in Tiger Woods 2002 have a fairly acerbic wit and don't mind exercising it when you screw up. Plant your ball in a sand trap and you will hear all about it. However that is made up for by the usual praise one is given for making a nice play. Overall, the sound quality in this game is decent to say the least, but certainly not something you will be paying a lot of attention to.
We all know that a golf game can only be as good as its controls, because sloppy controls equals sloppy play, something that can turn even the most complex and visually amazing game into weekend rental disasters. However, Tiger Woods does not have this problem, as the controls in the game are indeed tight and precise. Using the analog stick to swing and the shoulder buttons for control might at first seems like a daunting task, but within seconds players will feel right at home with the game's control scheme. However, the control is not perfect, as there are a few minor problems like being able to accurately hook a ball, but these are minor and not nearly as big an issue as other golfing games.
In the end, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2002 lives up to the man behind its name. Solid graphics make for a visually pleasing virtual round of golf, only added to by great control that perfectly compliments the minute complexities of the game. However, it is in the copious amount of replay that this game earns its salt, with so many different challenges and modes that even the casual fan of golf will find reason enough to hang on to this game for quite a while. While far from the perfect game, if you are a serious fan of golf, then there are not many games out there that should compete with Tiger Woods 2002 as your golfing game of choice.
4/15/2002 Ryan Hartmann