I love golf and I was hoping to see some new must-have features in "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08" from EA Sports that would translate that love to my living room television — something that would make previous versions of this game series feel outdated.
But the Tiger Woods game series seems to have peaked in terms of growth — unlike the real Tiger, of course.
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The game delivered superb graphics in the Sony PS3 version. I built my character to look and hit like the real me. This really made it feel like it was me against the tour on the virtual courses.
The pro players look, walk and swing very much like their real-world selves as well, which is fun in match play.
The links were nicely detailed and the ball-tracking camera effect has improved without making me dizzy. Plants cast shadows, and the water in the pond guarding the front of the green of the 16th hold at Firestone Country Club looked like a video clip it was so realistic.
The side banter from announcers David Feherty and Gary McCord remained mildly entertaining, though I heard a few witty chestnuts left over from a previous version. New and better talk from those two would have been nice.
But the newest features on this game elicited little more than a shrug from me:
— Posting scores on the EA Sports Gamernet: I still paled in comparison to the obscene scores likely thrown up by the cheat-code crowd. Attention EA Sports: It's not a "cheat code" if you advertise it on the back of the manual. It's just code.
— "Shot Confidence": It was supposed to analyze all my shots so I could identify weaknesses on a particular hole before taking the next swing. What it really did was slow down the game when I chose to predict how badly I would hook my tee shot — again.
— The FedExCup Championship format: It's as dumb an idea in the game as it is in real life. It's a waste of rendering power trying to emulate the real tour's pointless points race.
One thing that was rarely on the screen was the par score for the hole.
While playing the daily online tournaments, I had to push select and pause the game just to get a reminder what par was for each hole.
Is it really going to eat up too much screen real estate to put a single digit number in front of me? Save me the extra clicks, please.
Swing control still confounds me a bit. For the first half-dozen rounds, I must have hooked 90 percent of my shots. That's worse than real life.
How do I correct it? Who knows? The game gave me no pop-up windows offering practice sessions after my umpteenth hard draw into the trees. It's kind of funny, until it's redundant and futile.
The putting control was equally baffling when it comes to feel and speed. I know, with more experience playing the game my character should improve his shotmaking abilities.
But this tough-love learning curve was a bit much.
When does the unbridled fun come? Perhaps never, which is too close to real golf.
Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 08 is rated "E" for everyone. Tiger Woods PGA Tour '08 is available for the Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony's PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 and PSP, Nintendo's Wii and DS, PC and Mac.
Two out of four stars.