Tiger Woods PGA Tour ’10
It’s been several years now since EA revolutionised golfing videogames by introducing the analogue control method, driving yet another universal sport into the virtual market as a serious contender for the most essential sports game of the year. Since this however, Tiger’s most profitable endorsement has developed and matured, but a lack of any significant evolution has meant the casual fan has had little reason to upgrade.
Conversions to the PlayStation Portable has restricted many franchises’ potential (and in turn, the console’s), but the single stick nature of play prevents the gameplay from being watered down to a more practical alternative, and so the portability of the title sacrifices only raw graphical power and an established online community. After four instalments previous to this release, it is clear the extra development time and user feedback have allowed EA to maximise the potential in a portable golfing experience.
“…the extra development time and user feedback have allowed EA to maximise the potential in a portable golfing experience.”
Unlike similar games which often lack many features found in the full console versions, Tiger Woods ’10 contains all of the traditional game modes plus the standard mini-game affair, which provides a brief distraction, but any true lack staying power. It does however come as a welcome distraction from the often dry nature of the traditional game. The slow and segmented game play enhances the portability thanks to the PSP’s sleep function; playing a single hole will take no longer than five minutes (suited for smaller sessions) but an entire course will keep the player occupied for upwards of half an hour. Less hardcore golf fans will find this length of a session strikes a strong balance between repetition and occupation whilst on the move.
The most influential alteration to the core game mechanics from last year’s release is the new ‘confidence’ bar; a self explanatory addition which numerically represents the players’ shots against what is expected of them. The bar will rise or fall over the course dependent on ability and the mistakes/achievements made, i.e. should you sink an Eagle on a par 3 hole then this will earn a large boost, whilst in contrary fluffing a putt will chip away at it; the more confidence your golfer has then the more accurate and responsive they become. The effects of this can be combated by the player’s skill and it doesn’t require the most skilful player to keep the confidence bar full consistently, so the system is somewhat undermined by the game’s own mechanics.
With this minor exception, the player has a strong sense of control when the time comes to physically take the stroke. Although the PSP’s analogue nub isn’t the most sensitive of beasts, it’s perfectly competent for adjusting the desired power in the swing, whilst the lesser spontaneous controls require precision yet don’t pose as intimidating for a beginner to the series; adjusting the angle of the swing to compensate for the wind and terrain becomes second nature after just a handful of courses. More physical aspects such as club type and backspin also play a major part, and to win a competition then it’s essential to master these effects, and play them to your advantage.
The core of game is found in the aptly named PGA Tour mode in which the player takes control of their own persona and plays through the season. Customisation has always been at the forefront of Tiger Woods, so expect to find a vast array of everything, from a new 4 Iron to that nose ring that any professional golfer would look out of place without. For the most part it’s difficult to care what appearance your golfer has, with the skill increases from each item playing a far more important role than if a denim top really will clash with those jogging bottoms. After all, unless you’ve a regular bunch of people to play with online then it’s difficult to care too much.
“There are good intentions from EA to cater for all”
This brings out the classic problem with online modes on PSP games once again, in that there simply isn’t the community to make the experience anything other than a very brief distraction. Communication is near impossible with the virtual keyboard, which means in the unlikely scenario of coming across another mortal being, trying to strike a compromise with the game’s setup is more of a challenge than winning in itself. There are good intentions from EA to cater for all the possible demands and to keep this portable counterpart as true to the main release as technically practical, but such dedication will be appreciated only by the smallest of number.
Tiger Woods ’10’s PSP port may not be the first choice for the larger golfing enthusiasts, but for a casual fan seeking a deep and rewarding experience then the portability of this version makes it an ideal introduction to even passive fans of the sport. EA have managed to maximize the hardware’s graphical potential so the only major issue is with the lack of a self sustainable online experience. Whilst it doesn’t revolutionise or significantly evolve the series in any meaningful way, a purchase will bring a considerable amount of value in both quality and quantity; change isn’t always for the better.