Tiger Woods 2004
Since the N-Gage’s miserable launch last year, industry insiders have been trying to pinpoint just exactly what went wrong with Nokia’s handheld. Some fault the inane design while others are quick to point out that most of the library is comprised of sloppy console ports. When the unit has so many problems it’s very difficult to place the blame on one distinct problem. Personally I’ve always felt that the unit was undesirable because it was unnecessarily complicated. When people are in transit they like to play simple games that they can pick up and enjoy. And that’s exactly where the problem lays, the N-Gage features complicated games that are best enjoyed in the comfort of a living room, not in a hustling and bustling subway. It took them awhile, but some of the developers are finally starting to grasp this concept. It all has to start somewhere and EA takes the honors with Tiger Woods 2004, quite possibly the most addictive portable game ever made.
Sports games in particular have suffered on portable devices because the developers always try to add too much depth to them, names like NCAA Football 2005 and MLB Slam! come to mind. With TW2004 EA avoided this pratfall by making the game simple; keeping the core elements and stripping the game of the unnecessary features. It all begins with the smoothest swing system ever developed for a portable golf game. Using the d-pad you simulate the swinging motion of your golfer. Press down to simulate the backswing and hold up to simulate the follow through. The key to success is the timing of your swing; better timing equals better contact while a poor swing will result in less power. In order to make the game easier for players on-the-go, the swing system only takes the up and down motions into account, not the horizontal motion. This means that you can’t accidentally shank or hook a ball by messing up the follow through. It would have been more realistic if the game incorporated it, but would have been amazingly frustrating for players. It should also be noted that the swing system is incredibly fluid and does a great job of recreating the feel of an actual swing.
In a nice move, the swing system retains some of the same features of its console brethren. By rapidly clicking the 1 or 3 keys on your backswing you can add a little bit of oomph to your swing. While the ball is in flight you tapping the 1 or 3 keys and a direction will add some spin to the ball. This is a crucial part of the gameplay as it can add a few extra yards to your booming drives or reel the ball back towards the hole on an approach shot. The last part of the gameplay is the true key to this title’s success. In the past, portable games have had some huge problems when it comes to implementing a putting mechanism. They’ve always felt un-natural and were either too difficult or too hard. Tiger Woods takes solves both of these problems by giving you a caddy who tells you where the ideal putt should go. You can either take his advice and putt to the exact spot he tells you (represented by feet and inches indicators on the bottom of the screen) or take a chance and follow your gut instinct. If you choose the latter a dotted line pops up on the green to tell you the predicted path of your putt. It gives you instant feedback as you move and try to situate it so that it falls onto the hole. The drawback of this feature is that it’s not always accurate and depends on how much you’ve invested in building up your putting skill.
Speaking of which, winning tournaments will afford you the option of building up your character. As you win more tourneys you’ll gain more cash that can be placed into power, accuracy and putting. At the onset of the game you’ll begin with 0 skill points in each category but you’ll be able to boost that number all the way up to 25. Other than that there’s not much else in the way of character customization. When creating a golfer you can choose from one of six character models: Tiger Woods, John Daly, “Pops” Masterson, Big Mo, and Solita Lopez. There’s also an unlockable character, Cedric Andrews, who is available only through N-Gage arena.At the start you’ll only have one course available, but you can unlock the rest of the courses by winning tournaments. All of the courses are really well done and offer enough variation to make them feel unique from one another. The courses in the game are: St. Andrews, Bay Hill, TPC of Scottsdale, The Highlands and The Predator. The first three are real courses while the second set features fantasy courses from the minds of the developers. Like Andrews, The Predator is available only through N-Gage arena.
Multiplayer has been touted by Nokia ever since the system was launched but few games really featured true multiplayer. Sometimes it’s hard to find another N-Gage user who lives close enough to you to use Blue Tooth. For this Nokia has introduced N-Gage Arena which is the online gathering place for N-Gage users. It’s kind of like Xbox Live except that it’s portable and allows you to access it with the data portion of your service provider. Via Arena you can unlock the new content and challenge other gamers around the world. The game also tracks your record so that you can keep tabs on how well you perform against others. If you’re too stingy to purchase the data content from your service provider Blue Tooth and single-system passaround are still available. Passaround is exactly what it sounds like; up to four players can play on one system, players pass it around for their turn. From multiplayer they can compete in the Skins game, straight up stroke play and battle mode (where players steal clubs from each other after winning holes). This is the real meat of the game as playing with other people is really addicting. My girlfriend and I usually get in a game or two before we hit the sack. It’s pretty impressive considering I’ve still got games like Fable, Sims 2, SRS and Call of Duty: United Offensive to review.
TW2004 doesn’t look brilliant but the visuals definitely get the job done. The only animation in the game comes in the form of the golfers but what’s here is brilliant. I haven’t been this impressed with portable animation since the first time I booted up Tony Hawk 2 on the GBA in 2001. It’s fun to watch all of the individual frames of animation when you’re executing your swing. As for the courses they’re all rendered but the only time that you can get a good view of the course is during the swing interface. As the ball travels the game switches to a top-down view in order to give you a better vantage point of the landing area. It’s kind of hard to tell changes in elevation (especially in the Highlands course) but they don’t factor into the gameplay all that much.
I don’t really expect much in terms of audio from my portable games and since TW2004 maintains the status quo I wasn’t too disappointed. All of the effects sound pretty decent as does the music that populates the menus. Some of the ambient effects sound pretty bad (especially through the earphones that come packaged with the N-Gage) but they can be turned off if you wish. It’s not an aural treat but it definitely gets the job done.
The best game available on the N-Gage has arrived and its name is Tiger Woods 2004. Some people have been talking about Tony Hawk, drooling over the beautiful graphics and full audio clips, but the truth is that playing the game on the N-Gage is a chore that’s too bothersome for most to deal with. Tiger Woods 2004 not only looks great, but it plays well and feels like a complete winner all around. If you own an N-Gage, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Tiger Woods 2004. It’s not just the best N-Gage game in town, it may very well be the best portable game ever made.
Tiger Woods 2004 is good, damn good. It's not just the best N-Gage game available on the market, it might very well be the best portable game ever made. Things are starting to turn around with the N-Gage and this is the catalyst.
Rating: 9 Excellent
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.
It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.
It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.
When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."
As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.
When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.
Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile