To fans of golf and golf games, there are two golf videogame franchises to care about: Hot Shots Golf and Tiger Woods PGA Tour. Nothing else has mattered for years now, as both games provide polished, deep, and superb experiences that other golf games just can't. For the gamer looking to have a bit more fun with his swing and take on fantasy courses, Hot Shots Golf has always offered proper simulation with eye-pleasing visuals. On the other hand, the hardcore golfer, looking for only the utmost in authenticity will usually pick up the PGA branded EA Sports game. For its 2009 iteration, Tiger Woods 09 gets a handful of new features.
New for '09 is a dynamic system that constantly enhances your players skills solely based on your performance, as opposed to solely relying on earning stat points, and such. For example, if you're swings are consistently on target, and you're able to consistently drive the ball deep, attributes tied to those skills will increase. Of course it's a lot more in-depth in the game than the example I gave, but you should get the point. Your golfer's skills will go up and down, depending on performance, with every round. The Dynamic Skills system is truly a fantastic effort.
Hank Haney, Tiger Woods own personal coach, is your virtual coach in the game. Throughout your career, Haney's voice will guide and direct you, instructing you on the various intricacies of courses, and how to approach certain holes. Haney's commentary is dynamic, as it will change depending on your performance; if the game sees you struggling in certain spots, Haney will offer specific advice to help you overcome the issues. With those bits of advice will also come words of wisdom, which, if you follow will enhance your golfer's skills.
Then there's the all new Club Tuner, a mode that allows you to customize and tune wedges, irons, woods, and drivers all to your own liking. The system is also designed with cons to every pro in mind, so you'll have to tune in hopes of striking a perfect balance. Other new bits featured include adding five new country and golf clubs all across the world, on top of four new international golfers.
A few new Online features have been added, such as Simultaneous Play, a mode that'll allow all four players to tee-off at the same time. No more waiting for turns, as with this mode you'll compete against three others gamers who are real-time ghosts playing alongside of you. Instead of seeing the other golfers, you'll see their ball trails, showing you where there shots have gone. Simultaneous Play is definitely a mode Tiger Woods fans are going to love playing online.
As far as how the game actually plays, Tiger Woods '09 doesn't do anything poorly. Swinging is done very much like Hot Shots Golf, in that you'll have to fill up a power bar, and attempt to center the sliding marker for a perfect shot. Also, like the previous entries in the series, the player can utilize the analog stick to execute a swing, which consists of pulling back and then pressing forward in an accurate and timely manner. Veterans of the series will be used this style and feel comfortable with it; it works in much the same fashion as it always has, although it has certainly improved considerably over the years. What I don't like is the aftertouch feature that allows you to put a curve on the ball while it's in mid-flight. This aftertouch effect can mean the difference between a ball in the rough, or a ball that can bounce away from it – not exactly what I'd call a realistic feature.
Other than the questionable aftertouch feature, Tiger Woods '09 plays well. Driving and putting feels solid, and the grids display slope and elevation the same as they do in Hot Shots Golf, making it rather easy to switch between the two games and not have to re-adjust to controls and mechanics. I must say that occasionally, I do feel like the game robs me of certain sinks, leaving my ball, literally, on the very edge of the hole a little too often. Lastly, I am quite fond of the amount of game modes EA has put into Tiger Woods '09; you'll come to find a horde of various gameplay modes, including mini-games.
Visually, Tiger Woods '09 is a decent looking game. While, I personally think that EA can do much better than this, I'd still call this a good looking game for a number of reasons. The courses, for one, look very clean and lush, as the backgrounds are packed with details, such as good looking trees, beautiful water, and bright skies. Furthermore, the picture quality is sharp, running a 720p picture with virtually no jaggies in sight.
On the other hand, player detail could stand to see more work. Clothing looks dull and boring, lacking any shine or quality, as the texture work here is less than average. And while the golfers are easily recognizable, they don't possess any visual traits that really make them look next-gen – again, the textures are at fault, here. I also noticed that the arms of golfers look rather awkward from certain angles, too. So while, overall, Tiger Woods '09 isn't a bad looking game, there is some considerable room for improvement.
As stated earlier, Tiger Woods' coach Hank Haney will guide you all throughout the game, so his voice will be the one you primarily hear. On top of hearing Haney's voice, you'll also hear the voice of the commentators after a swing, and the crowd of spectators, as their cheers range from applause to a roaring ovation. Golfers will also make comments here and there, ranging from excitement to disappointment.
In the end, golfers have yet another superb golf videogame to pick up and play, as Tiger Woods PGA Tour '09 offers a fantastic package for fans of the sport and fans of the game franchise itself. There are a ton of various gameplay modes, on top of a solid career experience, all wrapped up with an ESPN branded presentation that broadcasts real-time sports updates straight through the game. Brilliant. PGA Tour fans should pick this up, no hesitation.