Itís been a while since I last played a golf game on a console. In fact sports games havenít been that high on my Ďwantí list recently. Well as I no longer review MMO games for Gamesxtreme itís time for a change, and Tiger Woods 08 is that change.
Unfortunately I havenít played a Tiger Woods game before and so I cannot comment as to how the current instalment differs from previous games.
The games controls rely heavily on the left analogue stick. To take a shot you pull back the stick and then thrust it forward. You need to do this as accurately as possible, deviation from the central line will cause the ball to hook or slice. To do a shorter swing you push the stick forward before you hit the top of your swing. To boost the swing past 100% you must repeatedly tap either A or left bumper. Obviously doing this makes it more difficult to swing in a straight line. Alternatively there is a three click system. This is much more similar to older golf games where you have a power bar and click the button when the bar hits the required power and accuracy.
One of the core elements of the game is creating the career mode. Your created golfer will start with a stat cap of 10% and all skills set to zero. Skills can be increased by completing Tiger challenges or skill challenges. Skill challenges are simple set pieces which will improve your skill in a specific area. For example the driving challenge (drive a ball further than a computer opponent) will improve your driving skills. Tiger challenges will make up a significant amount of your career. The challenges make up a large grid with Tiger himself at the centre. Completing a challenge will unlock neighbouring challenges. Skills improve by carrying out especially impressive shots. Fir example hit a long straight drive and your accuracy, power boost and power will all increase. Each challenge has three goals, a gold, silver and bronze. To raise your skill cap you must beat a pro. Accessing a pro is done by completing all of the surrounding challenges. Like other challenges the pro games have a gold, silver and bronze reward, the difference here is that bronze awards a 7% increase to your skill cap, silver gives 10% and gold 12%. Donít worry though, once you hit your skill cap your skills will still increase into unrealised potential, you get access to these improved skills next time your stats increase.
In its earlier stages the game is remarkably difficult, the slightest misjudgement on the left analogue stick can cause a terrible shot. Once you get your stats past 20% the game does get easier and less frustrating. One frustrating element of the game is that you can often lead a game for the first seven holes only to lose the last two and come out of it with nothing. There are no prizes for second place. Some of the pro battles can take several attempts. Once you have increased your stats you can go back and replay the proís to increase your rewards.
An additional stat is your players confidence, though this isnít one stat for everything. Every hole, club and shot type has itís own confidence stat. The more confident you are the smaller you targeting circle. Confidence is increased by doing well. Hit a birdie, a fantastic recovery shot or a super accurate long drive and the relevant confidence stat will increase. This is a great mechanic as your best shots on your best holes will get better and better as time progresses.
Clothing and equipment can be upgraded from the pro shop using money obtained from completing challenges. These give boosts to stats. Early in the game itís likely you will find the items of clothing with the boosts you need look terrible. My character initially looked like he purchased his clothes from a charity shop. As you complete challenges the range of items increases.
Graphically the game is a bit of a treat. The character models are extremely detailed as are the games courses. The games sound can be a little frustrating. Like most sports games there are commentators who make (hardly)witty remarks for each shot you make. As with all games they do make mistakes and will say something wholly irrelevant. One nice feature is that they will comment on your history. The commentators seem to track your stats like the confidence stat. If you have played lots of good chips in your career the commentators will say something to that effect. Whilst I am critical of the commentators they do need to be there, the game would be very quiet without them.
There are plenty of fun game modes such as One Ball or Bingo Bango Bongo. In one ball both players share one ball. Players take it in turns to hit the ball, the first person to put it in the hole wins. You canít simply play away from the hole to scupper your opponent. A circle will surround the hole, and you must play into that circle. The circle has a radius equal to 50% of the players distance from the pin. Not playing into the circle will award your opponent two shots, knocking the ball out of bounds or into a water hazard awards the opponent three shots.