Last year’s Tiger Woods iteration on Wii was nothing short of spectacular for golf aficionados and traditional gamers alike. Not only did the newly released MotionPlus peripheral breathe new life into gameplay, with the added depth and precision that came with it, but the game managed to offer enough content for just about anyone who had even a minor interest in golf. After my extensive playtime with the title, it was difficult to imagine what the fine folks at EA Tiburon could pull out of their hats for the 2011 version. There was no reason to worry though, because what we get again this year is another stellar golf simulator that managed to squash my doubts and then some.
Just like any other new sports title on the market, PGA Tour 11 brings a lot of new content to the table, but focuses primarily on one particular refinement. This year, that update arrives in the form of what is called the “True View”, a new playing camera that has you golfing from a first-person vantage point. Not only does this view give gameplay a much more realistic edge, but it can also make playing more difficult as well. Besides the obvious satisfaction felt when you hit an amazing shot from this new perspective, True View’s added sense of depth will allow you to miss the ball during your downswing as well. But you haven’t experienced putting until you’ve hit the green via True View. You’re not going to want to go back.
A variety of other gameplay features have been added to compliment the True View perspective as well. For starters, many small aspects have been added to normal golf play, such as the “Instant Challenge”, which will provide in-game challenges - for those with an internet connection - from players that EA has selected from around the world. The Instant Challenge will have you challenging other players’ drives, in addition to closest-to-the-pin challenges as well. Doing well on these challenges will send career money straight to your golfer, allowing you to purchase upgrades for your main golfer.
Perhaps some of the coolest gameplay updates are also some of the most appreciated. We all know that even though we like to think it won’t happen, sometime during the course of a game, the ball is bound to miss the fairway at one point or another. Whether you find yourself in the rough or smack dab in the center of a large sand trap, PGA Tour 11 now features what’s been nicknamed your “lie percentage”. What this does is give players a small percentage interval (i.e. 83% – 85%), which specifies that the shot will only go a certain percentage off what it normally would on the fairway. For example, if you launch a ball into the rough and it would normally be hit for 100 yards on the fairway, while lying in the rough your ball may only be hit 83-85 yards using the above percentages. No longer are you left in the dark, wondering how your shot will be affected by the given situation, as it’s now there in numbers for you to see at any given time.
Other elements include the new “Focus” system, allowing you to improve your skills with a particular club for your career golfer. It’s important to pick your club and attributes wisely however, because only one attribute can be improved upon per match, adding an extra sense of strategy to golf play. Also new in 11 is the new leveling system, which is exactly as it sounds – a leveling system for your golfer based around the experience points earned throughout matches. Both additions are more than welcome. Hopefully you’ve come to realize that this year’s Tiger has received a substantial increase in the amount of gameplay content. But we haven’t even gotten to the modes yet.
In addition to quick play, career, and traditional mode types, the Ryder Cup is now a playable mode as well. For the uninitiated, the Ryder Cup is essentially a large golf tournament that pits European and American golfers against each other during a three day event. Throughout the tournament golfers take part in foursomes, fourballs, as well conventional singles matches. A nicely implemented pride meter rounds out each game, which will increase and reap benefits for whichever team is doing best. It’s really a fantastic diversion to the traditional games that you’ve come to love in past titles, and gives you something to do in-between matches for your career golfer.
Unfortunately, miniature golf, the other highly touted mode added, just isn’t what I would have expected from the same team that has made traditional golf on the Wii feel so intuitive. Curiously, the True View perspective isn’t integrated here – a missed opportunity for those who enjoy a more simulated experience. Judging depth and elevation has never been more difficult either, because unlike when putting during a traditional golf match, there aren’t any added colored grids to let you know what’s up and down, and judging course's twists and turns have never been more difficult And believe it or not, all of this falls short in comparison to the insanely difficult course layouts and the unnatural feel that hitting the golf ball gives off in this mode. You must hit the ball with all of your strength almost every time, otherwise it won’t come close to reaching your desired destination, making it incredibly difficult to find any sort of accuracy. It’s drastically different to putting on the green, and it’s one huge mess.
As far as visuals are concerned, the game has received only very minor graphical improvements last year’s version, which isn’t good considering that I had a hard time determining if I was looking at a Wii-based graphical engine or a PS2 one. Textures, particularly on both the golfers and the courses, could be much improved, especially when the latter is seen in True View. The Wii can handle so much more, and it’s a shame that the developers don’t seem at all inclined to utilize its advanced power. On the audio spectrum, commentary has improved greatly, as both commentators no longer oddly predict exactly where the ball is going to land well before it does.
Although the aforementioned faults in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 are no doubt annoying, the added features and gameplay content more than make up for them. Once again, EA has managed to create a golf experience that has balance; it’s a blast for both fanatics and those that may have only ever golfed on the Wii. Whether you’re in it for the added sense of realism, new modes, online play, or maybe a little bit of each, PGA Tour 11 will keep you preoccupied until the next Tiger iteration arrives next year. All other sports titles due out later this year: you have your work cut out for you.