The next generation of Wii controls is here and it is wonderful.
EA's Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10, the fourth game in the series on Wii, is one of the first games on the market to support Nintendo's new Wii MotionPlus peripheral. The addition of MotionPlus adds unprecedented style of control to golfing video games, but for the most part, Tiger Woods is still trapped in being a statistics-laden sports game and not an easily accessible Wii game.
That doesn't mean the game is bad. As a matter of fact, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 is probably one of the best golf games ever made. The game is a blast to play when it clicks and there is an outrageous amount of content, such as the fully-featured career mode, numerous challenges based off of actual events, lots of rule variations, numerous mini-games, and more.
The Wii MotionPlus controls work very well for a video game, but fall apart a bit when compared to actual golf, which is a bit of the game's appeal. The game draws its distance from two things: the height of the backswing and the speed of the follow-through. As a casual golfer, I have always been instructed to never try to crush the ball; this video game tells you differently. It doesn't hurt the gameplay, but it hurts the accessibility of the game to outside parties. You can't bridge the gap between the game and sport like this. There are multiple difficulty levels with swinging, three to be exact, but there's not much middle ground between them. It's easy, challenging, or very challenging. The gap between the easy All Play mode and the Normal difficulty is absurd. Basically, the All Play mode allows you to decide where you want the ball to land before you hit it; it doesn't even matter how hard you swing. The Normal difficulty removes that and lets you actually play the game and the Advanced difficulty makes the window for hitting a specific shot smaller. Regardless, the Wii MotionPlus controls are the closest to real golf a video game has ever been.
There are a few gameplay and control aspects that are great in addition to Wii MotionPlus. When you hit the ball and it is in the air, you can press a direction on the D-pad and shake the Remote to get the ball to spin that way. It's a very small part of the game, but it makes the game feel more interactive. It might not be as realistic, but it does give you something to do while you watch your shot fly through the air.
There's also the new Precision Putting mechanic. Instead of the past Tiger Woods games' standard putting where you have different length putters, you only have one in this new mechanic that has a great degree of range, like a real putter. There is also the Putt Preview, which allows you one chance per putt to see where the ball would end up if you execute the putt exactly as you set it up. This helps make up for the less palpable feel in the putting when compared to real life putting.
The regular controls that don't use Wii MotionPlus are still available, and they aren't too different from last year's iteration. While you do lose a lot of the precision, the game still controls well without MotionPlus. There doesn't appear to be much difference between the two control methods besides the fact that MotionPlus makes it more precise and allows you to more accurately add draw and fade to your shots.
The career mode is where the bulk of the game's content lies, with tons of tournaments, the championship Fed-Ex Cup, and the tournament challenges. After creating a player you hit the links, but your player is pretty pitiful. The career mode is set up like an RPG, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but having playable characters based around stats hurts the tactile feel of using MotionPlus to perform a golf swing. What makes games like Wii Sports, or even Tiger Woods' own Disc Golf mode (which I'll get to later), so much fun that it is a level playing field; there isn't one playable character that is vastly better than any other one. The golfing part of Tiger Woods lacks that evenness, as every character has a different set of stats, which works wonderfully in a traditional golf game, but it goes against the immediately approachable feel EA is trying to create on Wii.
Once you build up your character's stats to a point where he is passably decent, the career mode becomes superb. You go around the 28 different courses and play in different tournaments with different rule variations, such as stroke play and match play. You can also improve your character by taking on the tournament challenges, some of which feature video introductions by Tiger Woods. These tournament challenges make the player replicate some of golf's greatest moments over the past few years and range from sinking a famous long putt to beating a famous golfer in 9-hole match play.
The buried treasure in the game is the Disc Golf mode, which allows up to four players to play each of the 28 courses with a disc (Frisbee for you fans of brand names) instead of golf clubs and balls. Unlike the golfing part of the game, there are no stats for each player. Everyone has the same tools at their disposal: long, mid-, and short-range discs. Wii MotionPlus helps mimic the throw of a disc brilliantly, and because of the accuracy of your actions on screen, there is a very tactile feel of throwing the disc that is not replicated in the regular golfing section of the game.
There is also online play that was introduced last year and features one wonderful improvement this year: live tournaments. This allows you to play alongside the pros in the different tournaments throughout the year and see how your virtual character stacks up against the current golfing greats. There are also tons of daily and weekly tournaments for players to compete in that are split between amateur and pro skill levels.
Warts and all, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 is a revolution in the way golf games control. The new Wii MotionPlus controls are very good, but not amazing yet. If you can power through the early throes of career mode so your player is halfway decent, or are a huge fan of Disc Golf, then by all means pick up this game immediately. Just don't expect it to actually improve your golf swing.