Game Over Online ~ Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf

GameOver Game Reviews - Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf (c) Zio Interactive, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf (c) Zio Interactive
System Requirements Pocket PC, 5.5 MB of Memory
Overall Rating 88%
Date Published Monday, May 27th, 2002 at 05:01 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

EA Sports' Tiger Woods Golf is no stranger to handhelds and PDAs. It was one of the first big name publisher titles to be released; initially on the Palm platform. Success was so great that it even spawned its own proprietary Handspring Visor module. This time around, Tiger Woods PGA Golf Tour, developed by Zio Interactive, brings the incumbent golf game up to speed with the latest in handheld technology for both Pocket PC and Palm platforms. Tour is part of a whole slate of recent Tiger Woods golf releases this year for console and PC platforms so EA definitely thinks handhelds are legitimate game as well.

In terms of presentation, Tour doesn't deviate from its Tiger Woods brethren. It too is presented in full 3D format with 2D sprites to fill in the flora and fauna. For the longest time, golf games, especially on the PC, resisted the move to 3D. Developers cited that there was nothing to be gained from creating a 3D engine and that a static background was much better looking. But once the 3D rage caught up with the rather plebian golf franchises, people soon realized that the physics and movement of golf was fluid and more natural in a 3D setting. Even on a handheld, Tour is able to demonstrate this fluidity. Every shot takes you through a picture-in-picture tracking of the ball's trajectory. The grids on greens to read breaks are more realistic. The contours and lay of the ground has a more natural feel to it. This is due in no small part to the 3D engine within Tour; a feat accomplished in only a few short years following up the top-down 2D Palm version of Tiger Woods Golf. All this happens with minimal slowdown and none of the jerkiness that plagued early 3D titles. The resolution makes the Pocket PC version look great. Technically though, the textures need some work, particularly the grass which is in sore need of some bilinear filtering to make it look smoother.

On some holes, you just won't be seeing much grass and this depends on which course you take on in Tour. Tour comes initially with two courses: Badlands Golf Club and The Las Vegas Country Club. The original Tiger Woods Golf for Palm had three courses: TPC Sawgrass, TPC Summerlin and Badlands. If the three courses in the original weighed down on your Palm PDA back then, these two courses alone take up almost seven megabytes on a Pocket PC. The original Badlands was also atrocious to play with the slightest error penalizing with an out of bounds decree. Tour is more flexible and provides several game types to augment the traditional stroke play. It features a practice mode to allow you to practice driving, chipping as well as putting. It also features match play, skins games as well as four ball and foursomes to give a fuller experience of golf. It doesn't feature some of the zanier golf variants or the increasingly popular speedgolf but to be honest, I hadn't expected anything beyond stroke play.

Like the Tiger Woods franchises on other platforms, Tour features realistic rendering of PGA Tour golfers. Tour includes four of them: Tiger Woods, Justin Leonard, Mark O'Meara and Brad Faxon. While these are all respectable golfers you'll hear on television, some key players I thought were also missing like the ever popular Sergio Garcia and some stalwarts like Davis Love III, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson. I'm sure you can add a few yourself if you're a golf fan. Sergio, I understand, has signed on to the Links franchise so it seems golfers are dividing themselves up into licensed factions like other sports. The golfing animations for drive, chip and putt are smooth. There's very little in the way of celebratory animations, only a few shots of classic Tiger expressions for near misses but this probably reflects the realistic nature of the game itself. Tour is going for an accurate representation of golf.

So far, everything about Tour looks great but the aural part is a little underwhelming. The slick menu shell and music had me convinced this was a no compromise version of a golf game. Unfortunately, while Tour maintains the realistic look with television style presentation, it doesn't sound very realistic. Tour remains silent in everything besides ball effects. There's no commentary speech or even commentary by the players themselves. These would have added significant bulk to the game itself. I understand if they were left out for space concerns but it would have been nice to add them in a modular fashion. Even without commentary, the game lacks basic ambient noises like birds, trees, leaves, frogs and a whole host of other cues that could easily have been incorporated without burdening the engine.

While Tour looks great, it could have undergone a few more usability tests. I'll take two examples of how Tour isn't exactly as user friendly as it could be. First, the order of play is confusing when AI players are involved. For AI players, you must tap once to get the computer to start making its swing. For human players, if you tap once, you change the aim of your swing. The problem lies in the fact that you must watch the AI play out the full game, as you would yourself. There are no options to skip the animation of the AI golfer or to bypass their picture-in-picture flybys. This makes any incessant tapping to get the game going inadvertently affect your own turn, potentially starting off a swing or putt, when it comes around. Thus when you have a game with four players involved, it slows down the pace of Tour needlessly. Furthermore, a handheld game should be designed with a minimal amount of interaction required to get the game going. When you first start a game, you get an informational notice of a 'who versus who' and what type of game you're about to begin. While you can tap anywhere to advance the AI's turn for example, you must tap a tiny Continue label for the first screen. These inconsistencies don't help with making the game easier, especially since there's very little informational help within the game itself.

The controls, luckily, are quite intuitive in nature. Tour goes with the tried and true tri-click mode, perfected a long time ago by the Links franchise. Here, it works great too and provides excellent control of the ball. I lament that there's no swing like TruSwing or one of the more radical styles of golf play on a computer but keep in mind that Tour is a fairly conservative game. Chipping is easy similarly but putting proves to be problem. Without a lot of practice (perhaps that's why there's a practice mode available), you can needlessly add more than a few strokes to your game by being careless with putting. It's not hard to chip within a few feet to the pin but the difficulty to sink those putts thereafter is not proportional to the rest of the game.

Even with those faults, Tour remains a wonderful golf game. With practice, it's an easy game to play, with a wide variety of games beyond traditional stroke play. You can setup a bunch of golf rounds since you can save in the middle of any game. You also get the realistic golfer animations that the Tiger Woods franchise is known for. The swift 3D performance and television-style presentation is something that is a testament to Zio's commitment to excellence, ultimately reflecting what the Tiger Woods franchise has achieved on other platforms; great looking visuals.

Tiger Woods emerged in the PGA Tour as more than just a premier marquee player. He took golfing to another level altogether. Tour has a few kinks with the controls and the lack of sound makes it a rather silent experience. These faults prevent Tour from taking golfing to another level on the PDA platform. But for now, it's one of the best-looking tickets to the greens on your handheld.

[10/10] Addictiveness
[20/20] Gameplay
[14/15] Graphics
[07/10] Interface/controls
[08/10] Program Size
[03/05] Sound
[05/05] Discreetness
[12/15] Learning Curve
[ N/A ] Multiplayer


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