Tiger Woods 08 covers the bases and delivers a solid game of golf. However a few years without enough new ideas are starting to age the franchise somewhat
Tiger Woods is a bit like Marmite (a popular European yeast based spread): you either love it or hate it. But unlike Marmite, it has it good years and its bad years. Maybe more akin to a good wine, some releases manage to come together better than others, and become fan favorites out performing even more recent versions. This is largely due to EA's cyclical development approach; essentially a year of innovation followed by a year of consolidation. If you pick the game up in the wrong year, you can find yourself with an entirely innovative rather than fully functional play experience.
It's all about the follow through
Keep the eye on the ball
The question for us today is therefore where does Tiger Woods 08 fit into this overall picture? Is this a year of innovation or one of consolidation? It is pretty clear from the start that not an awful lot has changed here since last year’s game. In a round about sort of way it is testament to the quality of the franchise that there isn't an awful lot more for them to do. But still being asked to fork out another wedge of cash for essentially the same game isn't going to sit well with even the most ardent golfing fan.
Maybe the biggest change this year is the ability to use your 360’s camera to take your picture and map it to your on screen golfing avatar. Whilst this is essentially an aesthetic trick, the idea of getting my ugly mug in the game was enough to get me to whip out the trusty old camera and plug it in. Without too much fuss I was able to take a front and side picture of my face, place orientation marks for my features and get the 360 to map these images around the 3D model. I was surprised how thorough a job was done of this. It took a good 15 minutes for the image to render, surprising for such a powerful graphics engine I'm sure you will agree. Whilst the results were not stunningly life like, they did provide a good starting point around which I could build my golfer using the more familiar create-a-face options.
As we have said above, the main game isn't a million miles from last year's outing. Although this is no bad thing for a game with a heritage such as this. The main improvements are in the area of quality rather than new features. Another consolidatory year for Tiger. The game is probably all the better for it, as it seems to be developing a really satisfying and connected feel to the play.
Some general cleaning up of the experience is thankfully complimented by a few new features. Of note are the interesting new multiplayer modes. Bingo, bango, bongo, for example offers a game mode where you are awarded "bingo" for being the first to the green, "bango" for being the nearest the pin, and "bongo" for having the best score. Whilst this sounds a little odd, it really works well and is a lot of fun!
Alongside this multiplayer light-heartedness are the more serious single player enhancements. There is the welcome addition of Westchester, TPC Boston, Cog Hill, and East Lake courses that takes the course count up to 16, enough to keep the most ardent of players busy for some time. This more comprehensive coverage also makes the game feel more like the simulation it is trying to be.
Control wise, you can now use the historic three button mechanic from earlier in the series. Press to start the swing, again to set the power, and a third time to specify accuracy. It provides an alternative to the overly sensitive analogue swing. A more progressive change this time is the new approach to adding draw or fade to your shot. Tap a button to instantly teleport to the landing zone, then add a fade to the shot by pressing left bumper, or add a draw by pressing right bumper. The rest of the controls are much as they have been in previous versions.
Visually, as ever the game is a joy to play. The player models and animations have taken a real leap forward since the days of the PS2. They no longer do they look like awkward manikins on stilts. Each of the characters now has their own certain swagger that is finally more human than comical. This graphical performance is extended through every high definition inch of the game, menu's cut scenes and game proper.
Punch shots allow you to avoid a strong wind
Much head scratching required
Overall, Tiger Woods 08 covers the bases and delivers a solid game of golf. However a few years without enough new ideas are starting to age the franchise somewhat. Whilst we applaud the attention to quality on EA's parts, does it need to come at the expense of some real innovation? It seems the Wii team were at the front of the innovation queue this year as the Wii's sister release offers a much more interesting gaming proposition. This is most problematic for those that have sampled the Wii's wares, as it is then very hard to return to pressing buttons and twitching analogue sticks to swing your club. We would suggest you wait until next year before jumping back into Tiger Woods on the 360.
Top Game Moment:When you manage to hit the green on a par three, or sink a chip in the cup, suddenly golf comes to life and becomes an immensely engaging game.