STAFF REVIEW of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 (Xbox 360)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007.
by Jake Reardon

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 Box art Golf can be frustrating. It can push you to your limits, and drive you crazy. Yet for some reason, avid golfers can?t get enough, and continue to push themselves to the limit as they work to improve their game and lower their handicap. Fortunately, video game golf can be a little bit more forgiving, and can help many a weekend warrior feel like the pro they probably will never be. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 brings a host of new features to the golf course and is the best way this year to "be like Tiger".

Visually, everything in Tiger 08 is slick and well presented. Once out on the course, it?s the little details that really grab you. Be it the famous beaches at Pebble beach or the cavernous bunkers of St. Andrews, each of the game's courses is a unique experience waiting to be conquered.

The amount of game modes in Tiger 08 is mind blowing. There is everything from traditional round based play and skins matches, to crazier ways to play like Greensome and Bingo, bango, bongo. The latter of these modes awards three points per hole : one for being the first on the green, one for landing the closest to the pin, and one for achieving the lowest score. This mixes things up from the traditional and helps with Tiger's myriad of ways to play. The all new Career mode puts you right into the thick of a PGA tour season modeled after real life PGA events. They have even included this year?s new playoff format, the Fed Ex cup. If you can do well enough throughout the year then you will be invited as one of the top pros in the world to compete in this four week, four course showdown.

The other main mode is the Tiger challenge. In this mode your goal is to eventually work your way up to playing and then beating Tiger Woods. This mode includes a series of mini challenges such as closest to pin contests, par 3 only rounds, and one on one match play against a host of quirky characters and real life pros. Playing the Tiger challenge also rewards you with cash which you can spend in the pro shop and more importantly, improves your stats so you won?t be stuck as a low ranked peon.

If those two modes aren?t your thing there are even more ways to play. Traditional stroke play, skins matches, modified stableford, best ball, and the list goes on. Add in some arcade modes, a practice mode, and mini games and you will be happy and golfing well into next year.

None of these multiple ways to play would matter though if the game didn?t control well. Fortunately, the controls are not a problem. You start by targeting an area where you want your ball to go. The more skilled your golfer, the smaller your aiming circle gets, so early on in the game you might find yourself in the sand or rough quite a bit. The main swing mechanic is handled via the left stick. Pulling the stick back controls your backswing and power. Push forward, and your golfer drives his club towards the ball. If you push left or right slightly as you swing forward your shot hooks or fades.

The system isn?t perfect though as it can have a bit of a learning curve and tends to be a bit touchy. Be ready to restart a lot of holes early on. If you want to go old school, a click of your right stick before your shot brings up a ?3 click? swing bar. Basically one click starts the swing, one click chooses the power, and the third click determines your accuracy. As in real life, confidence comes into play on each and every shot you make. As you progress and build your character, the game keeps track of how you perform in certain situations and adjusts your shot air circle accordingly. The more confident you are the smaller your circle gets.

Putting has also been given an upgrade from last year. The main change is the introduction of the Putt Preview cam. After lining up a putt, pressing the Left Bumper shows you a projected path your putt will follow. The catch is that you can only use this feature once per putt preventing it from becoming a sure way to make each shot. What it does do, is allow you to read the green better. You still need to plan the right power and distance, and making long putts is very rewarding.

By far one of the coolest new things to do in Tiger 08 is to put your face in the game. Using either a few pictures taken via the live vision cam or uploaded to an EA website, you are able to create an eerily lifelike looking avatar. The process is fairly simple too. Snap a few pictures, map some points on the face, and 15 minutes later (as the Xbox 360 crunches some numbers) you are literally in the game . The reason the process takes so long is that the game actually generates your face geometry, rather than just mapping a flat image onto a premade polygonal head.

Perhaps one of the most unique and innovative things to come out of Tiger 08, is what EA has dubbed GamerNet. Essentially, Gamernet is a community hub where you can share your greatest moments and shots, and then challenge others to take them on and beat them. Anything you do in the game can be saved out to your own personal clip library and then posted to GamerNet. So now when you do make that amazing hole in one of the grandstand that no one would normally ever believe you made, there is a way to prove it. Challenges are broken up into various channels. In the celebrity channel you can take on challenges created by real life celebrities and professional athletes. The free style channel allows for more off the wall challenges, like bouncing a shot of the cart path ten times and then hitting 5 spectators. Not exactly golf in its purest sense but this mode can be addicting. Full rounds can also be posted to GamerNet and then you can challenge friends to attempt to beat them.

Tiger Woods 08 has finally delivered on its next gen promises. This is the entire golf package. From a variety of ways to play, to tons of courses, great player customization, and some unique online features, there really isn?t too much more golf nuts could ask for.

Overall: 8.4 / 10
Gameplay: 8.6 / 10
Visuals: 8.2 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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