If we could’ve laid odds in Vegas some time between Thanksgiving and Christmas last year against a new Tiger Woods game appearing in 2010, we would’ve jumped on it. Considering the fact that Tiger barely played in ’09, then had a little scandal you may have heard about, we were prepared for EA to pull out of the Tiger business for a summer.
This proves a couple things, of course - we’re hideous gamblers and underestimating the will of EA Sports to perpetuate a brand is a fool’s bet. It’s also pretty obvious now that the development team had big plans for this year’s version, and wanted to show it off at almost any cost.
There are some changes, but longtime Tiger fans should have no fear. Even with the bevy of new gameplay features, much of the underlying action is exceedingly familiar. The new tweaks are welcome, though; the game feels more balanced than ever thanks to an improved stick-swing mechanic and the all-important Focus meter. The days of unlimited awesomeness are (thankfully) over, as you have to pick your spots to use power boosts and spins. The more of those you use, the less Focus you have, until eventually your tank is empty. The only way to recharge is to keep firing the ball at the hole sans Focus, so you’ll think twice before you apply that backspin on a meaningless second shot.
The Ryder Cup is another big addition in Tiger 11, and it definitely adds a wrinkle we haven’t seen. Team-based golf is a different animal than your normal weekend on the PGA Tour; it’s all about matchups. Want to pair a great putter with a big boomer? Or should you put a couple of short game masters together to try and box in their opponents? There is no right answer, of course; it all depends on how you execute.
The opportunities for exploration in the Ryder Cup are exponential, and we found ourselves very drawn to the event. Our only complaint is that the four-man matches take much longer than they should, since we were forced to watch everyone’s shot instead of just our own. Even so, the Cup competition is the most compelling single-player option Tiger has featured in years.
An impressive array of online options are available for those willing to venture into the wilds of multiplayer, but be warned – there are loads of serious guys out there who love to do nothing more than lay a virtual beatdown on unsuspecting duffers. New team-based options are a nifty way for a few buddies to play together without dealing with the unwashed masses, though.
As we expected, Tiger’s polished and predictably good – more so than his real-life counterpart these days. It’s not necessarily a must buy, but has plenty to keep you busy all summer long.
Jun 12, 2010