July 20, 2007 - Tiger Woods is the most dominant man in sports today. Doubt that fact? Here's one, undeniable fact that will set you straight, the man has been ranked number one in his sport for the last decade, minus two extremely short interludes by Ernie Els and David Duval. That's ten years people. Have you ever done anything in your life for ten years straight? I didn't think so. Tiger Woods' golf game however, has hit a few bumps in the road throughout its tenure, but last year's title was able to right the ship. Now the game's taking a slightly different look at videogame golf, the only question is, will it pay off for the world's highest paid athlete?
The bulk of EA Sports' 2008 lineup of games has a few reoccurring themes. The first is a sense of community. NCAA and Madden allow you to capture highlights and pass them around to other players, and with Tiger Woods players are getting the next-generation of communal features with GamerNet, a system that lets you capture shots, holes, or entire rounds and challenge others to match your golfing prowess. The next theme in this year's corral of games is achievement. NCAA, Madden, and Tiger all have main menus that show off your various accolades. Some do it with trophies and highlights, others with rings, but the point is all the same: bragging rights.
But you already know all about the non-gameplay features of this year's Tiger Woods game, so we won't drone on about those. You're here for the goods on how the game plays. How it feels to swing that nine iron on the 17th Hole at TPC at Sawgrass, sending your ball aloft with a hopeful landing on the infamous island green waiting for you. We recently got a nearly complete build from the kind folks at EA Sports and have crafted our virtual likeness using the new facial mapping technology. We used our talentless golfer to put the game through its paces and have emerged from the bevy of sand traps and shrubbery to bring you our impressions of Tiger Woods 08.
As with any Tiger Woods game, the first that that you're going to want to do is create your very own golfer. As we already mentioned, this year you'll get to plaster your own digital picture onto a player model and contort your body, hair, and face from there. The rest of the player modeling is done by the usual assortment of sliders and offers the infinite number of combinations that we're used to.
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The new Tiger Challenge design.
Once you're done melding your future star it's time to take to the course. The focus of this year's game, and the area where you'll do most of your skill building, is in Tiger Challenge. You might remember this from the 07 game, but the mode has been retooled a bit and now brings 61 challenges to the table. There are specialty challenges like playing all of the Par 3's at Sawgrass, or pitching your way out of the bunkers at Cog Hill. Then once you've completed those, you'll have the opportunity to take on an actual "boss golfer" in the form of a tour pro. The end goal is, of course, taking down Tiger himself. How you get there is up to you for the most part as EA has designed to be a more-or-less nonlinear experience.
The actual act of striking the golf ball has undergone a few changes, mainly with the addition of the much needed three-click hitting. This comes in huge when you're putting or pitching your ball out of the rough. Rather than having to somehow gauge sixty-percent by looking at the animation you now have an easy to read meter to help you out. The only trouble I had with the three-click hitting was when I tried to skip the cut scenes that lead up to a shot. Sometimes I'd click the A-button too many times and send an errant shot into the crowd. On another note, at least the crowd members grab the proper part of their body when the ball hits them this time around.
Another change is the addition of shot confidence to the Tiger Woods formula. EA Sports went out and actually asked Tiger, "What do you think to yourself when you're out there?" And, "What is it like to be a pro golfer?" and apparently Tiger kept coming back with the idea of confidence. If he continually puts balls in the sand on the 3rd Hole at TPC Boston he's going to lose confidence for that hole. That's indicated in the game by a growing aiming circle. If he continually puts balls into the fairway, then his confidence will grow and the aiming circle will get more precise.