The Tiger Woods games are the current ‘serious’ golf games for PCs and consoles, but let's be honest: how seriously can you take a game of golf that you play with a keyboard or analogue sticks? Tiger Woods 10, (the 12th game in the Tiger Woods series, or the 20th game in the PGA Tour Series, for those keeping count), is the fourth game in the series on the Wii. Even with all that time to improve the game's mechanics, on non-Wii consoles it still plays like you’re piloting a submarine. Thankfully, Wii owners get a much better deal: this year's Wii entry is the first attempt on any machine to try to emulate the actual experience of playing golf, with the addition of the Wii MotionPlus attachment to the Wii Remote.
For all its good points, the Wii Remote alone has never been sufficient to provide a ‘realistic’ golfing experience. In earlier releases the Wii Remote provided no more input than measuring the speed of your swing, with aspects such as the angle of your swing, the twisting of your hands, and yes, even the twisting of your shoulders completely ignored by the lovely white controller.
That's all about to change though, with the Wii version of Tiger Woods 10 measuring and translating every detail of your golf swing into your onscreen play. This is exciting because it means that the game is finally playable in a form very similar to the sport it's based on. The game is so ‘realistic’ that it can finally teach you more about golf than just how the scoring works; you can actually improve your real life swing by practising here. Of course, the downside to this that you can no longer blame the game when you miss a critical shot: the motion tracking is so sensitive and so accurate that there's no doubt any adverse results are entirely the result of a bad stroke, and not bad game mechanics.
With all that said, the system is not perfect. For all of its improvements in accuracy, there is still no way to emulate the swinging of a full-size golf club, or the actual striking of a ball at a particular angle by the club face: those options must still be chosen with onscreen selections. It’s not as bad as all of the tuning and tweaking found in the other console versions, but it still slightly detracts from the feeling that you are actually stepping up to the tee to play an actual round of golf, but the motion controls are so good that you will forgive the absence of an actual golf ball to hit.
The controls are intuitive and onscreen reminders show you what button to press for less commonly used options. Aiming is accomplished either by pressing the [A] button and moving your target around the course from an above view, or by simply pressing the arrows on the D-pad. Swinging requires only that you point downward with the Remote and press and hold the [B] button to avoid any unintentional swings from waving the Remote around.
The game features a tutorial that you should probably run through before playing, especially if you are new to Tiger Woods or golf in general, although it’s nothing that you couldn’t figure out pretty quickly during your first game. The game features three skill levels: the easiest is designed for the extremely inexperienced, in that it will actually show you where your shot will go before you even swing. It still requires you to swing well to produce this result, but newcomers to golf or golfers inexperienced with the Wii Remote will appreciate this hand-holding to help them work on their aim. The intermediate skill level plays a lot like ‘normal’ Tiger Woods is played on the other consoles, but of course with the motion controls. This is the level most players will want to play on, at least at first, even if they are very experienced at playing Tiger Woods on the Wii, because the Advanced level attempts to make the game play like a real game of golf. No Putt Preview, no waggling the Wii Remote to add spin, no video game silliness of any kind. Advanced mode is just like real golf: as real as it can get short of playing on an actual course.
There are 28 courses included in the game, and although this is billed as ‘the entire PGA tour', be warned that the PGA tour changes from year to year so your favorite course from past years may not be included this time around. The courses are beautifully drawn and look as good as the Wii is capable of rendering them: in fact, having checked out Tiger Woods 10 on the Xbox 360, the courses were identical and frankly didn’t really look all that much better. This is one game where the HD graphics of the other consoles just don’t provide a significant advantage over the Wii version.
Perhaps the one flaw we could find with the game is that the putting green is simply too difficult to read without leaving a very unrealistic graph in place to show you the direction of slope on the green. Call us old-fashioned, but we would like to be able to figure out how to putt simply by looking at the green ourselves. This is possible, but extremely difficult to do, although it is just as difficult to see on the HD consoles as well. Perhaps it is just a case of familiarity and skill, but next time around we would like to see a more clearly delineated field rather than just a flat green with barely visible nuances that greatly impact the course your ball will take.
The online mode of Tiger Woods 10 is simply spectacular and is the real bread and butter of the game. Although the game features the typical ‘career’ mode in which you design a golfer and enter tournaments, there is nothing special about it and it serves simply as a way to get good at the game. While you are playing career mode, you are missing out on the following online features: play against a friend or random person at any time for free; compete in weekly tournaments; compete in daily tournaments and ‘play with the pros’. Surely the best feature is being able to play in a tournament on the actual course while it is taking place in the real world, complete with the weather conditions pulled from the Forecast Channel, and see where your score would have placed you in the rankings. Complete with the ability to use an actual golf swing, Tiger Woods 10 provides you with more than just a realistic golf experience, but also an experience that you could never have in real life (unless you are actually a pro, that is).
With all of the money you’ll be winning at tournaments, you can go to the ‘pro shop’ and buy things like clubs and clothing. It’s nothing special, but it’s there for those who like to customize. Not missing an opportunity to make more money, EA has placed a Wii Points price tag on some of the more interesting items to purchase, perhaps explaining why the game features a password system, to keep any unwanted players from buying that bunny costume for your player with your actual Wii Points.
In addition to regular golf, there is a passable ‘party mode’ that features numerous mini-games to while away the time. These mini-games range from skill building, such as aiming at a bullseye on the field, to pointless wastes of time, and sadly none of them are as fun as just playing a round of golf with your friends. It's unlikely that this mode will see much play, but it is there for the casual crowd that enjoys this lighter fare.
Perhaps the best addition, and featured as a completely separate game mode unique unto itself, is Disc Golf. More commonly known by its trademarked ‘f’ word name, Disc Golf is an actual sport (albeit extremely uncommon) played on specially designed courses with floating discs and is played almost exactly like golf. It is included here for the first time, perhaps in any video game, and it is playable on all 28 PGA courses (almost certainly for the first time). Although not a full experience - you only get three discs to choose from and cannot tweak them like you can your golf clubs - the game is pretty realistically realized and your disc control is completely one-to-one. As with the golf controls, you must learn to master your swing in order to do well. Frankly the game plays well enough that it could have qualified as its own retail release, but sadly, it does not feature online play, not even with friends.
All of these bonus features, however welcome, pale in comparison to the excellence of the golf game that is on display here. Tiger Woods 09 was a great golf game and all of its controls remain in place here for those game ‘purists’ who just don’t like realism, but the real star of the show is the new Wii MotionPlus and the stunningly realistic control scheme it brings with it. It's fair to say once you’ve given it a try, you won’t accept anything less in a golf game. By comparison, the Tiger Woods 10 releases on the other consoles look positively ‘last-gen’ with their controller-based, inelegant control schemes.
With an all-new play control scheme and several new bonus features, as well as an online mode that can keep you busy every single day, Tiger Woods 10 for the Wii is a must-have game for fans of golf, as well as for those Wii owners looking to learn how to play real golf. Although not 100% realistic (we’ll need 3-D televisions and full-blown golf club and golf tee game accessories for that), Tiger Woods 10 for the Wii offers the most realistic golf experience yet made and is head and shoulders beyond the other versions of the game available. There remains room for a few minor improvements here and there, but EA will be hard-pressed to provide a better play experience next year now that they have finally produced a golf game so close to perfection.