Neal and Zach both learned that they're terrible at golf, but is EA's latest golf game good?
Neal Ronaghan: I played, enjoyed, and reviewed Tiger Woods 10 for Wii last year. It was a rather ground-breaking experience, especially since it was one of the first and best games to feature Wii MotionPlus. I got sucked into the game last year after previously never playing a Tiger Woods game before. I thought the career mode was difficult to dive into, but the basic groundwork was excellent, though it had quite a learning curve.
Zachary Miller: I haven't played Tiger Woods since 2005 on the GameCube. That game sucked me in so hard that I probably sank more time into it than the entire Metroid Prime trilogy. At the end of my virtual golfer's illustrious career, I was sinking eagles left and right, flooring the competition on the tour, and knocking the socks off all the pro challenges. I had all the best gear, all the best stats, and all the glory. Five years later, I dug into Tiger Woods 11 for the Wii, and what a difference half a decade makes. I barely recognize the new Tiger, what with its automatic draw and fade control, Wii MotionPlus, and lack of skill-building, calendar-based career mode. Suddenly, I've been pulled off of the comfy confines of my couch and forced to stand in front of my television, swinging the Wii Remote like an actual golf club.
Neal: The skill-building aspect actually featured a big change from last year's version. Zach, you would be more at home in the previous edition, as that featured a career mode with all the trappings from the older games e.g. the gear you bought made you a better golfer. In Tiger Woods 11, you level up like in a role-playing game and slowly make your skills better with every shot you make. There's also the mechanic where you can focus one skill for an event, which was absent in earlier titles.
Zach: Yeah, the focus thing is nice, but I'm not as big a fan of the RPG aspect. I especially don't like how you actually lose experience for bad shots. I'm still learning how to use the controls! I'm going to hit the sand once and awhile! Hey, speaking of the controls, I was surprised how insanely accurate the Wii MotionPlus is in this game. The slightest twist of the wrist on your downswing OR your follow-through will result in some amount of fade or draw. Mess up big time, and your ball will basically make a 90 degree turn while in transit. You can still add spin to the ball by shaking the Wii Remote while the ball is in flight, which is still kind of awkward (it always has been), but you get used to it. The biggest thing to get used to is power control. Each truly new virtual golf game has forced players to make a big change. Originally, it was two-click control. Then they added another click. The Tiger series threw out that system and started a new one: the analog stick swing. Force and power were determined by how far back you pulled the stick, and how forcefully you jammed it forward. In a way, the Wii MotionPlus is a literal extension of that system. Instead of using a stick, you're using your arms…and torso…and legs.
And it is crazy frustrating. I hated it. I longed for the days of the analog swing. But you know what? I probably bitched and moaned about the analog swing, too, but eventually came to love it and appreciate the control it gave me over your ball's trajectory. The point is, I had to work for it. Tiger Woods 11 puts you through a similar, but more punishing, trial by fire. I recommend visiting the game's well-hidden driving range (called the "Club Tuner") for a few hours to hone your skills and recognize your own bad habits. Do you habitually fade your shots? Go into the club tuner's menu and scale up the draw to balance it out. Do you constantly pitch the ball too high, ruining the shot's distance? You can balance that out, too. The Club Tuner is a critical part of the game, and unfortunately, the game makes absolutely no effort to show you where it is. Of course, if you're still going crazy after a few hours, you can scale back the swing difficulty (I recommend "Advanced" if you just want to play the game).
Neal: As a testament to how hidden Club Tuner is, I put at least 15 to 20 hours into last year's game, and never used it.
Zach: This gives me a chance to knock the game's menu presentation. It's never intuitive, and it's very easy to miss loads of game modes or options that you'll want to try. They even tossed in a brand-new gameplay mode: "True View,” which is a bit like first-person football in the Madden games—you see what your golfer sees. It's interesting, but really takes some getting used to.
Neal: I thought "True View" was very cool, but the way it works is a little awkward. It gives you a first-person view, but it's almost more optimal to place the television beneath you so you can accurately reflect the view. I tried it out for a while, along with the other more in-depth control schemes added to the new version, but I ended up going back to the control scheme featured in last year's version.
Zach: Once you are ready to head to the links, you'll be disappointed to find that the unique Career mode from Tiger Woods ’05 has completely disappeared. No longer will you be able to earn cash and stat points by taking on different pros on different days in different courses or challenges. Thanks to that interesting system, the game eased you into the mechanics and let you max out your virtual golfer before taking on the PGA Tour, if you so chose. Tiger Woods 11 doesn't do that. Career Mode basically consists of the PGA Tour and the Ryder Cup. Luckily, if you don’t feel like taking on the pros right off the bat, you can play customizable single or multiplayer games with your career characters and gain XP that way. This is something I highly recommend.
Neal: The Career mode is virtually unchanged from last year's game outside of the Ryder Cup. Sure, there are slight differences, but it's the same tough entry point. You'll find more instant fun if you play with friends or family instead of the computer, or if you play Disc Golf, which returns and is better than ever.
Zach: Yes! Tiger Woods 11 brings an awesome Disc Golf game to the table. Unlike Wii Sports Resort, your goal is to actually sink the disc in the net, not just get it in the general vicinity. You can also play it online, which is pretty awesome and wasn't available in last year's game. EA has also included four gimmick-laden mini-golf courses, but I wasn't particularly impressed with them. Some of holes are surprisingly wonky, and it seems like the putting physics are different.
Neal: The mini-golf is a cool addition, but I ran into countless instances where the obstacles would obscure my view of my character so I would have to shoot blindly. Mini-golf is nothing more than a neat bonus in this year's version, but with some tweaking, it could be very good in future versions.
Zach: My biggest complaint with Tiger 11 is that it looks terrible, certainly not even significantly better than my well-worn copy of Tiger '05. Even some of the player's animations are the same. The graphical fidelity really rears its ugly head when you're creating your character. The low-res look of the game either misrepresents or just fails to show some of the changes you make to the facial geometry, and it's not exactly clear what you've just done until you take your golfer out on the course, at which point they may turn out to be hideous. I'm not terribly fond of the announcers, either, but I do like the ambient noise on the courses. Music, when present, is nicely upbeat without being obnoxious.
Neal: The graphics aren't too great and the create-a-player is too convoluted for its own good, but this is a game where gameplay trumps graphical power. This is, without a doubt, the best golf sim out there. The learning curve is high for the Wii controls, but if you're interested in golf at all and you haven't played a MotionPlus-enabled Tiger Woods game, you're missing out. If you picked up last year's game, I don't think I can whole-heartedly tell you to rush out and buy this. The changes and additions are rather small.
Zach: You have to be a golf fanatic to go all-out in terms of control difficulty, but even the casual golfer can get behind the virtual greens thanks to the wealth of control options that Tiger 11 offers. Yeah, the announcer is boring and the graphics are sub-par, but let me tell you—when you hear that ball crack off the tee and watch it sail towards an easy birdie, there's nothing quite like it.