“Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09”
Xbox 360
EA Sports

Courtesy of EA Sports

4 out of 5 stars

Video games are supposed to be relaxing. Golf is supposed to be relaxing.

Video games are not relaxing. Golf is not relaxing.

“Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09” — a golf video game — is kind of relaxing. This wouldn’t seem to make sense, but it actually kind of does. By combining reliable play mechanics, casual pacing and one of the best multiplayer experiences available in a modern sports title, “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09” is the rare video game experience that’s both challenging and leisurely at the same time.

As the fourth “Tiger” game on a next-generation video game console, “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09” is a complete golf game that seemed so far away when “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06” launched with the Xbox 360 in 2005. Although the improvements over last year’s iteration are not groundbreaking, EA Sports should be pleased with the golf experience it’s bringing to the 360.

“Tiger 09” ’s controls are familiar to fans of the series as the developers didn’t deem it necessary to mess with a good thing. This seems to have been a wise decision, although fans looking for a revamped “Tiger” will have to hold out for next year.

The most drastic changes to the game have been made in the career and online modes, which were given a much-needed refresh. It’s a deep game with a number of courses and players to unlock, and it should keep players busy for a long time.

EA didn’t reinvent the wheel with “Tiger 09,” but they didn’t need to. With its reliable gameplay, “Tiger” is the perfect way to kill some time with friends, whether you’re passing around a couple controllers or playing online. Plus, you don’t even have to go outside.

Flux capacitor not required: “Tiger” games have always allowed players to cheat on the standard difficulty level and “09” isn’t any different. A power boost can be added to each shot by jamming on the A button during your backswing, and spin can still be applied to the ball while it’s flying in mid-air. The putt preview from “08” is still included, allowing players to basically see into the future with a single shot preview for each putt. Of all the features, the putt preview will shave the most strokes off players’ scores, but it takes some of the fun out of putting away a 40-footer. All these features are nice for new gamers, but anyone who puts time into the game will likely turn these options off.

Sorry, Butch Harmon: For the first time in a “Tiger” game, Woods’s coach Hank Haney has been digitized to help players improve their skills. The most useful application involving compu-Haney is the new club trainer, which analyzes players’ swings and corrects for any natural draw or fade. The club trainer also makes recommendations based on how accurate of a striker you are to maximize the sweet spot on your clubs to best fit your game. If only Tiger’s old coach Butch Harmon would have held onto his client for a few more years, he could have seen himself immortalized in a video game.

The Michigan Daily does not condone gambling — most of the time: One of the great aspects of “Tiger” games is the ability to incorporate four people into a round regardless of how many controllers you have. Only have two controllers but have a foursome ready to tee off? Not a problem, just pass around controllers between teammates. Hypothetically, you could then gamble on said golf round. Not that this has happened to me or anything, but it’s possible that while wagering on a round, the in-game scoring could prematurely credit one of the teams with a hole win during a round of greensome, and the other team could flip their shit. I don’t know anything about this because I’m not pathetic enough to wager on video golf, but this sort of thing could hypothetically happen. That’s all I’m saying, hypothetically.

What? No Boo Weekly!?: Yes, Tiger Woods is a playable golfer in “Tiger Woods 09,” but outside of him, the roster is pretty weak. Only two of the 24 players that competed in this year’s Ryder Cup are in the game, which means no Phil, Sergio or Padraig. There are a number of female golfers and fake, unlockable characters but most of world’s best aren’t in the game. But hey, a sober John Daly is playable, which allows for a lot of easy jokes if nothing else.

If virtual golf wasn’t bad enough…: You can now play “Tiger” online in even more ways. EA added a number of new online modes to “09,” but most notable is the ability to play a four-player round simultaneously. For the first time, all players can play at the same time, without having to watch everyone else hit. Each player’s shot path is tracked by a colored line that allows you to see what the other players are doing without having to wait for them to do it. It’s about time video game developers started serving the lazy — and the impatient.

Tiger Woods, meet fat Tiger Woods: “Tiger 09” ’s career mode hasn’t been totally revamped, but small tweaks have made the gameplay more varied and given the game a longer shelf life. After creating their own character — fat Tiger Woods, for example — players can either jump into PGA Tour events or play Tiger Challenge events. Challenge events are mini-contests that allow gamers to build up points, which enable challenging pros to a round and unlocking additional courses. Unlike past games where players improved the attributes of their character buy purchasing upgrades, in “09” attributes are bolstered by playing well. So if you putt well, you’re player will become a better putter quickly. This isn’t a total catch-22; you can still upgrade your short game even if you’re a deplorable putter by playing post-round challenges generated by virtual Hank Haney, but it will take longer to level up attributes if your skills are lacking in a certain area.

Does it hold up against “Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge”?: Yeah, but it’s no “Bonestorm.” “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09” is a complete, polished golf simulator. Unfortunately, this game will not improve your putting.

“Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 All-Play”
Nintendo Wii
EA Sports

3 out of 5 stars

Of all the sports titles EA has tried to transition to the Wii, “Tiger Woods” golf would seem to be the most logical fit. Unfortunately, previous Wii versions of “Tiger” were not quite polished enough. The game lacked one-to-one controls, which meant that drawing the Wii Remote back simply started a canned animation and didn’t give gamers the control that even golf in “Wii Sports” did. But with “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 All-Play,” EA seems to have gotten “Tiger” on the right path; that said, it’s not quite where it needs to be.

“Tiger 09” features pseudo-one-to-one controls which means the Wii does a good (but not perfect) job of tracking the controller’s movement. This is a significant improvement over past iterations, but it’s still somewhat difficult to gauge exactly how hard you’re hitting the ball. Hopefully, when the Wii MotionPlus controller accessory is released next spring, future “Tiger” versions will be able to offer true one-to-one gaming.

“Tiger 09” ’s feature set on the Wii is comparable to the 360 version, but it also offers additional mini-games which should appeal more to casual gamers. This is the kind of full-featured game the Wii could use more.

Visually, “Tiger 09” on the Wii is significantly inferior to “Tiger” on 360, which is something Wii owners have undoubtedly grown accustomed to by now. However, the visual gap between platforms is significant here because it’s more difficult to gauge greens and even see the hole with the Wii’s lower resolution video output.

Although “Tiger 09” on 360 is the better pick for serious gamers because its controls are more consistent and its visuals better suit the game, the Wii version is finally a respectable competitor. Basketball might not be an appropriate fit for the Wii but golf is, and it’s nice to see EA is pushing its golf franchise in the right direction.

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