Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2002
|a game by||EA Sports|
Last year's Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2001 was a solid (but not spectacular) golf game that filled an important hole in Sony's lineup of next-generation sports software. I say important because other than Hot Shots Golf and Swing Away Golf 'two arcade-oriented club-fests'it was the only game of links to be found on the PS2. And while the game may have been far from perfect, overall it offered a gaming experience that was reasonably authentic and fun to play. Unfortunately, its sparse feature set, with only three courses and six pro golfers, coupled with a graphics engine that was a bit rough around the edges, left many gamers wanting for more.
Well, after an additional year of development time, EA Sports has just released Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2002, a one to four-player game that not only promises a completely revamped graphics engine, but one which ups the ante in the features department, as well. Chock full of several new game modes, seven newly-designed courses including Tiger's Dream 18, a new create-a-player, and a host of new pros and amateurs to play as or against, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2002 attempts to reinvent video-game golf like never before. But as we all know, 'new' does not necessarily mean improved. So, is this a game that's prime for purchase, or is it a load of links that really stinks? Well, tie yer cleats and grab yer clubs; we got a Tiger by the tail and it's time to tee up!
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Upon your initial boot-up, you'll immediately notice that this year's game features a new twist. The game opens with a tutorial where you'll learn the basics of controlling the analog stick to hit an assortment of golf shots. From driving at the tee to putting on the green, you'll need to master all of the basic skills required to be successful on the course. Once completed, you'll earn your first Tour Card and proceed to the other game modes.
This year's game features several different modes of play. These include: Play Now, The Tiger Challenge, Speed Golf, Stroke, Match, Skins, Tournament, Scenarios, and Practice. You can earn money in all game modes, except for Practice. Once you start raking in the cash, you'll be able to purchase an assortment of upgrades including new courses, hidden golfers, higher level Tour Cards, and attributes points, which enable you to improve your created-golfer's abilities. Play Now allows you to go straight to the tee and begin your first unfinished scenario. In the Tiger Challenge Mode, you'll compete against golf's best to unlock golfers, additional Tour Cards, and Tiger's Dream 18, a fantasy course designed by Tiger himself. Speed Golf is an interesting new game mode for one or two players. Here, you'll race through the course and earn points/money for accomplishing a predetermined list of feats such as, hitting the longest drive, getting on to the green first, finishing the hole first, and more. The Scenario Mode is a pressure-packed competition, consisting of over 25 scenarios for you to conquer. But, before you even think about tackling these games modes, you'll want to go to the Practice Mode'believe it or not, one of my favorite modes of play. Here you can practice every type of shot imaginable, from wedging out of the deep rough, to smackin' that 300-yard drive. And with a simple press of the circle button, you can replay each shot over and over.
Camera angles during game play are not customizable, however, those included serve their purpose quite well, bringing you close to the action at almost all times. Fortunately, the developers have fixed a flaw from last year's game, where for some reason, the camera would not track your tee shot. That problem is a thing of the past, as shot tracking is now spot on. After each and every shot, you can view an instant replay over and over again to your hearts content. Again, the viewing angles are not customizable, but they are varied enough to please even the most finicky of gamer. Force feedback completes the package, adding a nice touch (pun intended) for the gamer who demands to get the right 'feel' for the game
This year's game, like last year's, featured an interesting analog control scheme for hitting the ball. However, at best, its design was overly sensitive and cumbersome. As a result, hitting a straight shot (or any shot for that matter) quickly became a lesson in frustration. I am happy to report that the developers have done their homework by completely redesigning the swing mechanism. The analog stick has been reworked to near perfection, as it now allows for precise control of each and every type of shot. And what a selection of shots there are! Take a full swing to drive it long and straight, or use draws and fades to get around obstacles. Use a variety of short and medium range shots, such as flops, punches, and approach shots, to nail it close to the pin. And once you're on the putting surface, your caddy will offer his assistance by reading the green and suggesting the right amount of power and direction to sink that crucial putt. As a veteran of many PC golf sims, where the standard two or three-click swing-meter interface is normally used for shot-making, I didn't think I would ever prefer analog control as an alternative. However, after playin' this game for the better part of three days, I can honestly say that I am converted. I have never experienced this level of control, or had as much fun with any golf game like Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2002.
When is the last time an updated version of a sports game didn't boast of having new and improved graphics? The answer to that question is probably never. Of course, from one year to the next, visual enhancements are usually so subtle that, with few exceptions, they're hardly noticeable. However, every now and then a game will actually live up to it's promise; and when it does, it hits you right between the eyes. Such is the case with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2002.
In a word, the graphics in the game are 'sweet.'? While last year's player models were impressive, believe it or not, this year's are even better. As you continue to play through the game, you'll unlock several different pro and amateur golfers, who are modeled with clean textures, as well as realistic lighting and shading effects. And once again the facial features of our favorite PGA Tour Pros bare a remarkable likeness to their real-life counterparts. Ultra smooth motion-captured animations bring each player to life, whether they're driving, chipping, or negotiating the next big putt. Along with Tiger's famous signature fist-pump, you'll also get a kick out of numerous different player reactions that do a nice job of capturing the emotion of the sport.
Each course is meticulously crafted with breathtaking environmental effects. Fairways, sand traps, and trees are realistically modeled with detailed textures. As compared to last year's game, there are a greater variety of trees, which will actually sway back and forth in the wind' nice touch. And just wait until you see the water. Play a few holes at Pebble Beach, and you'll see what I mean. The ominous-looking rocks and cliffs give way to an ocean filled with crashing waves and bubbling foam. A fine mist will eventually rise above the precipice and float across the fairway with stunning realism.
Live-action and replay cameras will immerse you into the action like no other golf game before it. They'll twist, turn and rotate from a distance and then suddenly swoop down to a close-up of your ball. And once you're on the putting surface, you'll witness your ball disappearing into the cup from one of several different camera angles.
On the whole, the sound effects do a fine job of bringing the game to life. The thwack and ping of hitting a long drive will satisfy hardcore golfers and newcomers alike. Standard background audio effects of birds, wind, water, and trees provide a believable ambiance, which blends nicely with the hoots and hollers of the crowd.
Dave Feherty and Bill Macatee handle this year's commentary and together they provide a suitable, if not flashy description of the action. Like a real television broadcast, the usual quiet whisper of their pre-swing analysis will erupt into a mild outburst of emotion, indicating their approval of a well-placed shot.
For the past several years, anyone who has ever had an interest in playing an accurate simulation of golf has had to rely on owning a state-of-the-art PC. And while there may have been a few noteworthy console titles that were great fun, truth be told, they weren't very realistic. But thanks to the power of the PS2 and our friends over at EA Sports, there is finally a console golf sim that considerably closes the gap. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2002 combines slick visuals with an awesome game-play engine to deliver a legitimate golfing experience that's truly a gas to play. With a host of new game modes and challenges to be had, the game offers some serious replay value. It may not be perfect (let's face it, gamers will always complain about something), but I can tell ya this, 'If you love golf games and you have a preference for normal size heads (sorry, had to get that in there), this game is a must buy' and that's something I don't say very often!'?