Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2008 Preview
Tiger Woods PGA Tour is a major franchise phenomenon, and much like EA's other sports series, it will endure for many years to come. Obviously, it was only a matter of time before information and detail began to circulate regarding the 08 installment, and now, we've got more than enough to bring you an in-depth look at the latest Tiger golf simulation. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 will feature all kinds of additions and enhancements, and that includes a revamped visual presentation to put the power of next-gen consoles on display, as well as the inclusion of the new GamerNet service. If you aren't familiar, GamerNet allows you to upload saved gameplay clips; clips that help satisfy a variety of accomplishments and goals. But more importantly, it lets you place your own virtually rendered face on a customized character, or in this case, a customized golfer. Sweet, yes?
Now, all that really matters is that the franchise retains its simulated yet accessible gameplay, and here's where things get interesting. Throughout the duration of the franchise, players would almost always utilize the analog swing mechanic, which had you pulling back on the stick to start the swing, and pushing forward - as accurately as possible - to complete the swing. The other major golf franchise in the video game world, Hot Shots Golf always featured the three-tap swing system, where you'd press a button to start the power gauge, press it again to set the power appropriately, and as the bar comes back, hit the button a third time to set the accuracy. The reason we mention this contrast is simple: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 is now including this swing format as an option to go along with the traditional analog mechanic.
However, it's possible the player might be using both during gameplay, as the three-tap power meter allows for a more accurate distance reading, which you may need for certain shots. You can still use the analog swing to drive the ball or do just about anything else, but apparently, the option will always be there: you can have your pick of which swing system to use. And that is a wonderful proposition for this game, because it will attract fans of both camps, which is something EA likely considered when developing this new entry. Supposedly, there is also a new system for hitting specialty shots like draws and fades, but so far, we haven't been able to dig up anything specific. On the other hand, we do know about the change to putting, which should come as good news to veteran fans of the franchise...those fans know full well that putting has been, at times, far too easy in the past. Well, EA is addressing that issue, even though we wonder if it will really increase the difficulty...
Last year, we'd get to the green, switch on that nifty "Ideal Putting Camera," and we'd have a darn good chance of making the putt, almost regardless of how far away it was. This created some debate amongst the Tiger Woods faithful, and evidently, EA has gotten wind of the discussion. Therefore, they've altered the situation a bit by instituting the "Putt Preview" in 08, which allows you to see the exact line your putt will take. Sounds way too easy, right? Well, you can only use this feature once per hole, which means you'd better be sure of your position before selecting the Putt Preview. But we think it might've been better to limit this option to a few times every round, rather than once per hole. Even at once per hole, it still seems far too easy, especially once you get the subtleties of the gridlines down pat. Remember, this is supposed to be a simulator, and in many ways, the Hot Shots putting is much, much more difficult and certainly more realistic.
As for extra features, we'll assume that all the gameplay modes and options will be in full effect. Common staples for this franchise are the Season and Create-a-Player modes, and that goes double for the latter with the implementation of GamerNet. We're hoping to see a few other upgrades as well, and that goes beyond the obviously enhanced graphics. Speaking of those graphics, though, there will be plenty of sweet little details you've never seen before in this series: members of the gallery will follow you down the fairway to your ball, the environments will be more intricate than ever before, and the character design is highlighted by superb animations. Thanks mostly to Woods, golf has become more of a spectator sport than ever before, and Tiburon has always worked to capture the refined charm of the sport. If you've ever watched it on TV, you'll probably recognize the style the developers utilize in its presentation, and that will be more polished than ever before in this upcoming entry.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 is currently scheduled to release for all major platforms on August 28. Japan loves its Hot Shots while the U.S. prefers Tiger Woods, and that's probably due to the cosmetic look of both franchises. While the latter focuses on a true-to-life depiction of the game, the former uses cartoon-y characters and colorful - yet fictitious - golf courses. However, beneath the surface of both franchises beats the heart of a very accurate golf simulator, and it's good to see Tiger Woods adopting the three-tap swing mechanic popularized in Hot Shots. It just gives the player another gameplay option, and that's rarely a bad thing. Factor in all the extras and options Hot Shots doesn't have, and you might have to give the edge to EA's series. But either way, 08 seems primed to deliver the finest golf experience yet, so all golf fans should definitely consider a purchase this summer.
6/25/2007 Ben Dutka