Last year’s Tiger Woods wasn’t just a great playing game of golf, it was a pretty awesome showcase for Nintendo’s Wii MotionPlus peripheral. The company was clearly so proud about what it accomplished, it even beat Nintendo to the punch as the first game on the market to support the motion device. Armed with all that Wii MotionPlus knowhow, the Wii Tiger Woods team set out to improve an already fantastic golfing experience with the yearly follow-up. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 might not be a massive step up from the previous incarnation, the game is a significant improvement and there’s a ton to enjoy even if you’ve plowed through last year’s 2010 edition.
Look, even though Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 doesn’t absolutely require you to have a Wii MotionPlus peripheral, at this point in the game you owe it to yourself to get one: for this year’s version, EA Sports’ Tiger Woods team outdid last year’s incredibly impressive golfing experience with a swing mechanic that mirrors golfing as accurately as you can get on a videogame controller. While armchair golfers might swear by the two/three click system or the analog flick control, virtual golf feels much more real when you’re swinging a stick around. EA Sports has been working to get this mechanic right for four iterations now, but I think for 2011, its fifth game using the Wii remote, the team nailed it with something that’s both fun to experience and accurate as hell.
Though the Nintendo version isn’t a slouch in visuals, you’re obviously going to get a better looking experience on the HD consoles – those systems have the strength to make all the PGA courses look far more beautiful than the Wii edition. But it’s not the visuals that make Tiger Woods work here: you’re not going to get a more immersive game of golf than on Wii. The Wii remote has been a tricky beast for some developers to handle, but the Tiger Woods Wii team clearly shows a true understanding and manage to make the Wii remote work as close to an actual set of golf clubs as you can get with this generation of controllers.
There are a variety of different control schemes: a pick-up-and-play “All Play” option for the beginner and the “Normal” and “Advanced” options that are pretty much what the team created for Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 on Wii. Then there are the new tweaks: Advanced Plus and Tour Pro, two Motion Plus-enhanced controls that take into account all the subtle twists and turns in the backswing and the drive that apply the draw or fade. If you can get a grasp of what the game’s looking for and how it affects the ball’s flight in these two modes, you’ll find it an incredibly accurate simulation of golfing even without the feedback of the club head connecting with a ball.
To enhance the “you are there” feel, the team added a new first-person “True View” mode. Here, everything you’re doing is through the eyes of your golfer, right down to the drive of the ball. When you’re ready to swing, you glance down at the ball, either on the ground or the tee, and you can move the club with insane accuracy – this mode really shows off just how much the Wii MotionPlus helps with 1:1 motion.
It’s a great viewing option that comes at a cost: if you play this way, you see the whole game from your eyes. Which means, once the ball sails off into the distance, the camera doesn’t zoom in or cut away to a different view. While accurate and true to the sport, this definitely hurts a major Tiger Woods design: the control of the ball’s spin while in-flight. I’ve never been a fan of the “put forward/back/side spin after the shot” design due to its lack of realism, but it’s been a part of Tiger Woods for nearly a half decade so it’s a staple. But without the ability to see where your ball is going – the ball will disappear behind hills and trees or simply get lost in a mess of low resolution pixels – it’s difficult to know which direction you should apply the ball’s spin, and how much.
You can choose to switch back to the standard camera system at any time through the option menu, but it would have been so helpful had the developers added a hybrid “True View with Classic Camera” option to cover all its bases. Maybe next year?
It’s not just in the controls where the Wii version excels. Remember last year’s unbelievably fun Disc Golf mode? It’s back, and while it didn’t get (nor did it need) any tweaks in its control, it is now a mode you can play online along with normal golf. Disc Golf is really just the developers showing off its ability to know and understand Wii MotionPlus – again, you can play this mode without the peripheral, but it’s far more natural (and fun) with it. College students should flock to this game for those rainy days when they can’t head to their officially sanctioned disc golf course. I’m still up in the air in deciding which of the two — EA’s disc golf or Wii Sports Resort’s Frisbee Golf – plays better, but considering how many courses you can play, and the fact you can play online, well, you’re clearly going to have a good time here.
The developers throw in the same batch of “party game” options that enhance the golfing experience that ensures this isn’t just a dry golf simulation: lots of target shooting, lots of fast-paced modes. And this year, we get Mini Golf! Yep, 36 holes of traditional putt-putt, and, while this mode isn’t much better than some of the ten dollar options you can get on WiiWare, it’s not a throwaway feature and it’s certainly fun if you can get a couple people to play with you. But sorry, no online Mini Golf – this mode’s just for the local players.
Of course, the focus here is true 18-hole golf, and this game does it all: Stroke, Skins, Best Ball…all the main options are here for single and multiplayer, both offline and on. The big bulletpoint for the 2011 series is the addition of the Ryder Cup, a USA vs. Europe team-focused competition, and you can incorporate your Career Mode custom profile characters in this tournament as well as select from an army of dozens of professional golfers. There’s an insane amount of depth in this golf game, but – other than the inclusion of Ryder Cup – last year was pretty insane in the depth department, too.
The online uses EA’s servers so, thankfully no Friend Codes are needed. Once you’re all signed up for access you can set up a lobby for either standard or disc golf with specific settings, or simply look for a random match-up. Strangely, the random matches are only set up between players who selected this option — it won’t pair you up with anyone who’s created a specific game lobby. Oh, and beyond a basic keyword chat system, you really won’t be able to talk with your opponent — no WiiSpeak support in Tiger Woods.
Golf nuts of any level – from armchair to aspiring pros – will love what Wii team has done for Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2011. There’s a lot of recycling from previous games but this year’s edition does improve the experience with things like higher sensitivity controls, new camera perspectives, the Ryder Cup tournament, miniature golf, and – most importantly – online disc golf. While not a tremendous night and day difference from Tiger Woods 2010, there’s still enough here to warrant an upgrade for those who leapt on the game last year. And if you haven’t yet hit the links on Wii yet, this is a fantastic place to start.