All the drama that Tiger Woods was recently embroiled in off the course hasn't prevented EA continuing its ongoing franchise. This year, he's back to grab his club in the hopes of driving it to the hole yet again. Does Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 finish under par, or is an early retirement wise?
Tiger Woods 11 runs the gamut of gameplay modes, making an almost daunting first impression. You can jump in and play with an assortment of traditional modes that encompass a wide range of gameplay types and encourage both single-player and head-to-head competition. There's also a full list of offline PGA tournaments to participate in, and non-traditional mini-games with goals like capturing flags or out-driving your opponent. From the get-go, there's no shortage of choices.
As far as courses go, Sawgrass, St. Andrews, Pebble Beach, Wolf Creek, and Celtic Manor Resort, the home of the Ryder Cup, are just a few of the 17 available. All are well-realized in the game, right down to their cart paths. Given the courses' dramatic layouts and unique characteristics, it's safe to say no two holes will ever feel exactly the same.
There are 32 golfers to choose from, ranging from female pros like Paula Creamer, to the head honcho himself. Those looking for something less traditional can go for the guy in the bunny-suit or a sexy cowgirl. However, as with previous entries, creating your own golfers and advancing their careers through a series of skill challenges and tournaments is where you'll spent the most time.
In this mode, you earn XP to build your character's attributes by completing progressively more difficult skill challenges set by the pros. Outfitting your character with items from the pro-shop alters their attributes as well. Unlike last year, you no longer lose any skill points for negative performances on the course, which is a welcome change.
PGA Tour 11 includes the prestigious Ryder Cup, a healthy competition between the European and US teams. But with only one course and limited team-based game types, the Ryder Cup isn't too high of a selling point. Moreover, you're paired with A.I. competitors, and watching the computer go about its game is painfully dull, especially when it stops to line up a five inch putt. Sure, you can skip the ball's flight, but you're forced to watch the animation leading up to it.
True aim, another new mode, aims to simulate the sport as closely as possible. There's no highlighted circle telling you where your ball will land. Instead, true aim uses a GPS tool, and positions the camera tight on your golfer, providing a more realistic visual of the ball's trajectory. Chances are diehard fans of the sport or those looking for an added challenge will be the only ones messing around with this for longer than a few minutes.
PGA Tour 11 provides plenty of entertainment offline, but there's a good deal to play when you connect to the internet. Gamernet challenges open up the community in a fun and engaging way. At the press of a button, you can upload a challenge online, be it a long drive or a close approach, and invite the community to try and beat it. And of course, you can also tackle challenges set up by other players.
Online play really heats up with live tournaments, where you can compete for a top score across the leaderboards on a daily and weekly basis. Here. There's also play-the-pros mode, where you're able to virtually participate in the same tournaments the pros are playing in real-life.
Online team play has been given a much-needed shot in the arm with larger team sizes--up to 24 players, with two teams of 12. Getting into a big match can prove difficult, but once you're in and pulling for your team, it works great. Sure, you're only responsible for crushing a single member of the opposite team, but every win counts.
The series' near-flawless analog swing controls return in PGA Tour 11. Pull the stick straight back, then quickly push it forward without veering left or right, and watch your shot take flight in a nice, straight path. The only exception is when it comes to gauging how much power you're applying to the swing, which can make or break certain shots. Rarely will you find fault with the controls, though. If you insist, you can elect for the three-point click system.
The biggest news this year is the focus meter, which serves as a balancing act between play mechanics that forgo added power and spin versus a more arcade-style approach where these elements run rampant. In this respect, think of the focus meter like a bank. You'll deposit into the meter after hitting good shots, only to withdrawal when you need power, spin, or putt previews for those make-or-break shots. Use up all your focus, and you're left to rely on your own skill, making for a more strategic game. If you're accustomed to altering your shots midair as much as you want, you may reject the focus meter's limitations at first, but you'll eventually come around and appreciate what it adds to the game. The focus meter also helps to level the playing field, especially online.
The textures in PGA Tour 11 look no different than in previous entries, and the game looks a little stale as a result. We understand only so many shades of green exist, but that's no excuse for the otherwise detail-rich courses to feel so dreary and washed out. Weather patterns return, but they don't look any better than they did last year, either.
On the flip side, character animations look good, with convincing lifelike movements. Other little touches contribute to the characters' realism, like flowing hair and rippling clothes. The announcers also provide colorful commentary, even making jokes here and there to keep things lively.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 focuses most of its attention on gameplay this year, keeping its traditional controls intact while adding the focus meter to the mix, which adds a nice level of strategy to the game. Meanwhile, the Gamernet challenges, live tournaments, and the new 24-player teams make for a more meaningful online package. If you haven't delved into the franchise yet, now's the time to club-up.
Reviewed on Microsoft Xbox 360.