In so many events, the signature Tiger Woods touches are felt: The low-groaning wind tunnel sound when the green is within reach from a Hail Mary fairway drive; the hydraulic tssss and letterbox narrowing when a lengthy putt homes in on its target; even the rapid-fire snapshot-like replays from a perfect, powerful drive off the tee. Of course Gary McCord and "Fairway" Faraday return with overly-familiar banter, but at least they jibe each other now if their god-like prescience is thrown a curve ball because you've put a hefty spin on the ball to keep it from rocketing into the rough. Or the bunker. Or the water.
To better suit yourself for such a myriad of hazards are the role-playing elements: Bonus-granting clothes and equipment. While better equipment in the bag logically brings about expected benefits, some imagination-stretching exercises may be required if you're to figure out why a red, floral sun hat grants certain bonuses over, say, a fitted EA baseball cap. If you're into hoarding bonuses at the expense of mismatched fashion, then the Pro Shop will suit you well. If you insist on complementing your argyle pullover with your plaid knickers and knee-high socks, then your skills will receive noticeably less buffs. It's your call, Ferragamo. Just one more point for the arcade crowd, and one more seething point of contention against the golf simulation purists.
Despite the increasing graphical muscle injected into each successive year of the Tiger Woods series, some small, perhaps middling, details (and some small, perhaps middling, bugs) are taking their modest toll. Hole flyovers can be choppy during liftoff. Commentary is often truncated when a putt is sunk and the load screen rudely interrupts. The flag on the staff flaps in directions irrelevant to the actual wind direction. The crowd doesn't understand that in a game of One Ball, you're supposed to put the other player in the rough. And if you're in the rough, the crowd isn't budging one inch to the left or right to clear your shot path. And (this may be a unique instance, but) I never once saw any of the victory or defeat animations I purchased for my character -- just the stock animations given for free at the beginning.
And, tangential to those seam-showing errors, tweaking is required on some of the holes, in particular Bandon Dunes. Myself and my rival on that hole, Paula Creamer, were stumped as to why a huge patch of sand grass would catch any shot (short of using a sand wedge) driven off the tee, no matter how much I increased the pitch on my swing. Finally, after several retries, I turned left 45 degrees and put maximum fade into my shot -- another new and welcome feature -- which garishly sliced my trajectory around the offending bush. I was stunned to see the NPC follow in my footsteps immediately afterward! On a different hole on those same Bandon Dunes, the caddy recommended I use a punch shot to lower my trajectory, pushing my shot under some offensive wind currents. Taking the caddy's advice, I put myself into a punch stance, wound it up, let it go -- and yet another patch of sand grass ate my shot for breakfast, right off the tee.
That's no goodnight kiss, however, and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 is still a brazenly fun and inarguably full-bodied game of golf. The all-new EA Sports GamerNet allows you to post your sharpest -- but more likely, most ridiculous -- shots online for other players to challenge. I thought my 30-yard chip shot from the bunker, hitting the flag, and having it drop into the hole would be a snazzy shot to upload (I even snagged a "Pole Dancer" achievement from it). Then I found a player that had posted a shot from the rough that hit a bridge, then bounced down into a din of spectators, as the ball then bounced off the foot of one 45 times (45 times!) like he was playing hacky sack with the ball.
I promptly decided not to upload my obviously mediocre, non-glitchy shot.
The roster of hotshot golfers is now 21 members deep, several new-to-the-series courses are unlockable, and you can also toss your own face into the fray with the Photo Gamer Face tools. A frontal face shot, combined with a profile face shot, wraps your digital skin around an in-game model. Results may vary.
There's quite obviously an iron-solid game of arcade-styled golf to be had, and there are enough meaty, pick-and-choose gameplay options to plate a buffet table. Series vets won't find the new additions vital. But newcomers may need a little more handholding to navigate this increasingly beefy golf franchise.
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