Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 Preview
This year’s U.S. Open golf tournament was a memorable one, as a hobbled Tiger Woods managed to top a very game Rocco Mediate in an epic playoff. Tiger seemed to nail one amazing shot after another as he was forced to sink birdie putts at the 18th hole on two consecutive days en route to victory. Golf fans will remember that tournament for a very long time, but unfortunately, Tiger’s knee now requires surgery and his season is officially over. However, what better way to continue his season in the virtual world than to pick up Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 in August? EA and Tiburon are most certainly preparing yet another solid effort this year, and real-life duffers should definitely save this bad boy for those rainy days when the links are closed. In looking at this game from all angles, there don’t appear to be any major or significant alterations in comparison to last year’s entry, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be better. Here, we take a look at several of the fresh new features we can expect.
First and foremost, we’ve got good news for all those who put a great deal of emphasis on experience. Regardless of the sport, the answer to getting better is always the same: practice, practice, practice, and if your performance takes a significant quality leap, so will your inherent skills. This translates to PGA Tour 09, as just about everything you do will affect your base stats. If you keep dropping big drives in the middle of the fairway, your drive rating will get a boost, but if you keep missing 6-foot puts (regardless of how tricky the green may have been), your putting rating will take a dive. Upon completion of a particular event, the game will assess your performance and change your skills accordingly, thereby giving you further incentive to achieve on the golf course. As a nice added bonus, the game will remember your most painful failures and give you a chance to remedy the situation during a practice session at a later date. In other words, if you buried your ball in the sand on the 13th hole at Augusta, resulting in a double bogey, the game will recreate that same situation later so you can practice it. Don’t you wish you could do that in real life?
In this way, there’s an automatic coach of sorts, but a player always needs a personal coach, too. It’s strange to think that Tiger’s coach is making his very first appearance in this year’s installment; Hank Haney will be on hand to give you pointers throughout your PGA Tour 09 experience. In fact, he’ll be the first one to evaluate your abilities before you participate in any tournaments, and with his help, you can work on the weak points of your game. We’re not entirely sure if you’re forced to practice before attacking any of the numerous modes in the game, but we’re certain you have to practice before embarking on the lengthy Career mode. Get out there and show Hank what you’re made of, and when you’re done, heed his advice and attempt to make the necessary changes. As usual, we imagine much of this game will revolve around two major gameplay facets: the timing of the swing and correctly analyzing the situation. It goes well beyond club selection, you know. You have to factor in ball position, wind, the terrain you’re aiming for, and if you wish to apply any spin to the ball. This game is all about technique and patience, but it also requires some actual thinking. God forbid.
As for the actual mechanics of the gameplay, there is one relatively significant addition. It’s a new instant feedback meter that tells you the exact angle of your backswing and follow-through, thereby allowing you to adjust accordingly if you’re off by even the slightest amount. Besides that, avid followers of the popular franchise will quickly recognize the rest of the controls and sink right into their beloved routine. In terms of preparation, though, you’ll get a chance to fiddle around with another new feature: the Club Tuner. This sounds like a fully realized customization process for any given club in your bag, as you will be able to change everything from power and loft to spin capabilities. However, you can’t just make everything about the club better on a whim; ratcheting up the power may shrink the size of the sweet spot, for example. You can also take course details and intricacies into account when using the Course Tuner; if the course boasts a lot of long holes, you may want to sacrifice some accuracy for power. If the greens are iffy and the winds are high, maybe you want added spin to deal with the situation.
Of course, we can’t go without mentioning multiplayer in this day and age. EA has already delivered the innovative online multiplayer program for Tiger Woods: GamerNet. Not surprisingly, they’re issuing a few tweaks and upgrades for use with this year’s installment, and that includes streamlining the entire process. Uploading shots should be much easier and faster, and if new challenges appear (set by other players; you can prepare tough challenges, too), GamerNet will tell you about them immediately after logging on. There’s no doubt that online multiplayer is a staple of the sports gaming community these days, so something like GamerNet is always a huge bonus for many fans. In the end, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 is destined to be a must-have for any golfer, especially those who are going to miss watching Tiger dominate the competition for the rest of the season. We don’t see any drastic changes from last year’s title, but then again, what they had last year was pretty damn good to begin with. Besides, we do get plenty of small upgrades that should make this year’s experience even better. The title is scheduled to swing into stores on August 26.
6/24/2008 Ben Dutka