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Standing at the eighteenth tee at St Andrews, my heart pounding, racing quicker and quicker with every passing second I realised that this was it, this was my shot at the big time. Par this hole and I would finish the tournament an incredible 22 shots in the lead, Tiger Woods wallowing in a lowly second place only able to applaud my exceptional golfing talents. Methodically, I drew my club back, eye on the ball, knees slightly bent and then thwack, I sent the ball rocketing down the fairway as fast as one of Tiger's autograph hunters who has accidentally got one of his sleeves caught in Tiger's Ferrari door. It looks a big one, it's going to reach the gr... No way, it can't reach can it? Oh.. My... God... a 362 yard drive, that is incredible. Tiger is crouched next to me, crying into his hands, as he feels his dominance over the sport slipping away from him. Faintly, as I collect my 'Long Drive Challenge' trophy ball (for hitting a drive over 350 yards) and 'My 1st Par 4 Green in One' (For, you guessed it, reaching a par 4 green in one), I can hear Tiger muttering under his breath: 'I'll get my own back when we play on one of those made up courses. Especially if there's a 26 mph wind blowing. You won't stand a chance then. You may have won the Battle, Pops, but you haven't won the war. Ha ha ha'. The first thing that grabbed me about this game when I started playing it, wasn't just that EA had somehow managed to shrink Tiger Woods down to 20 inches tall and stuffed him in my TV, but I also wondered how it could be so realistic when it's quite obviously very different to playing the real thing. From this, I moved onto wondering whether I coudl really compare it to my own experience of Crazy Golf on Blackpool Prom but, everyone's an expert,
right? This game is incredible. Golf games through the history of time have had me hooked, though, so perhaps I'm showing just a little bias. I remember sitting up for hours and hours on end playing PGA on the Mega Drive. 72 holes, win by 40 shots, earn a fortune, and for some bizarre reason, play it again. Except the reason isn't bizarre. For PGA, like it's modern day counterpart can claim to be one of very few games with such a high level of playability to it. Tiger Woods also has the added advantage of modern technology. It combines 12 (yes 12, I checked on the back of the box) courses of which 9 are true PGA courses. It has somewhere short of 2 and a half thousand real PGA tour players, and 12 (again, I checked on the box) quirky caricature characters. The game itself boasts 10 game modes, from Tiger Challenge (a career type affair) to Online Events. It has the usual suspects like Skins, Tournaments, Match Play, Stroke Play, but it also has the Skillzone section where you can play... 'unusual' golf games like Target golf and Target2Target golf. There's also the scenarios, where you work through a series of different tasks earning a Bronze, Silver or Gold medals and some much needed cash into the bargain. First of all, however, you have to take a quick test to see if you're up to the grade (think of it as a sort of golfing proficiency test. A couple of loops around the cones, make sure you're wearing your helmet and away you go.). Until you've completed this test, you can only play this test. Within Challenge mode (probably the main bit of the game, although there really are so many styles of play that your options are by no means exhausted once you've completed the challenge) you have to beat a series of competitors in either Match Play, Scenario, Skins and Tournament modes against all levels of players. Each time you beat a player, you can then choose to be that pla
yer t he next time you play Challenge Mode. Also, with every group of players you beat you get the next hole in Tiger's dream 18. During each hole, you earn money by fulfilling certain criteria, such as 'pin seeker' bonus for hitting the flag, GIR bonus for reaching the green in the suggested number of shots, and many more including, I think, a Hit the Ball bonus for hitting the ball. You use this cash to attain new attributes and new equipment. If you manage to fulfil extra special criteria, such as a 350+ yard drive you get a tournament ball and a wad of foldy notes. Beating some of your rivals will lead to you being awarded a tour card without which you are unable to play in some of the 'open' tournaments in Tournament mode. This game is so involved that I could, and I think already have, harp on and on about it, but then you'd get bored with me, like my first wife (Boo hoo) so I'll cut it down a little. You can play 1-4 players, you can play online, you can play as Tiger or against Tiger, you can eve play Speed Golf where you actually have to run after your ball to play the next shot!!! All in all, this game is brilliant. Trying to get 100% completed on this has taken me weeks and weeks, and if Tiger 2004 hadn't come out, I would probably take a short break and go back to playing this again. The graphics are sexily smooth, the commentary is frightfully funny, the gameplay is devilishly delightful and the game on the whole is bloody brilliant. So, buy it or buy 2004, the choice is yours, but I can only imagine this is a lot cheaper than 2004 and still a game well worth owning. The only grip I have about this game, in fact, are the ridiculous made up courses. They are unbelievably difficult. They still look as near perfect as the actual ones, but playing them is like Vinnie Jones (A bit hard). Other than that, I would recommend it to anyone. Even you lot. I caan't give it
a five out of five, because for me these courses were just too silly, and they take up quite a big part of the game, if you're trying to complete all the tournaments. n.b. be warned, if you own a St Bernard, then there's a possibility, albeit only quite a small possibility but a possibility nonetheless, that the disc has been created to smell and taste especially good to them (probably a deviously crafty ploy by EA in order to sell more than one copy to each gamer) but this game is so good that when our St B ate my copy, I had to go out and buy another copy the same day because I hadn't finished playing it yet. oh, and about the two and a half thousand PGA tour players. I was actually exxagerating about that, you know, to try and accentuate the point that there are a considerable amount of them (apparently, in fact, 'the most PGA tour pros to date', so there.)
How computer games change. The last time theediscerning played an electronic golf game, way back when, all one really had to do was up the size of club, and thus was the system beat ~ from that easy discovery on, the game was really rather easy, if still enjoyable. Nowadays, however, there is a greater learning curve demanded of our computerised entertainment. And in the golf sim world, there is a sure and pleasant one to be had in the realms of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003, from E A Sports. OK, so this is a golf game ~ there is therefore no need of a plot or any background to be given for this game. Look Tiger Woods up on google if you need any reason for why he merits his name on the franchise. This shortens the task considerably in reviewing it, and one can concentrate on the few things that would sell the game to the interested buyer. First, the graphics. These are on the whole excellent. The animated golfers are great, and while all are created by pasting a skin and look onto a basic frame ~ therefore they all create the same movements, dances of success etc ~ they all have their own character (especially the fat one who knocks in dead close puts with the handle of his putter a la a snooker cue). The female ones are, apparently, attractive, too. The courses look great, and the animation of the camera-work is perfect. The weather effects are fine, with a variety of skies and times of day to play under, and while the seaside courses offer up some odd-looking spray at times, one is certainly given a great help in the ?feels as if you?re there? stakes. Unfortunately there are downers to this ~ the audience sometimes have to disappear, especially when you are expected to hit through them from the deep rough around the greens, and are on the whole horribly cheap semi-transparent triangular shapes. Some of the trees behave a bit oddly too, and as for the squirrels? The sound is commendable too, apart from the
awful choice of American soft-nu-metal tracks on the soundtrack (whose playlist is editable). There is a great thwock, apparently very realistic too, on contact with the ball, but best by far is the spread of commentary snippets. Provided by two unheard-of American TV pundits (presumably), they provide many a humorous moment, from the sarcastic (?well, after that last scything attempt??) to the cruel, to the cheery upon success. If you ignore their horrible suggestions of which club to use, they provide nothing but enjoyment, and even after more than a week of fairly strong use, will still come up with unheard samples. But the playability is surely the key here. And although theediscerning has never tried to play golf, this seems to be emulated just as well as it could be. There even has to be a matchingly unique grip on the PS2 controller for one, especially if one is to get a perfect toggle on the left stick, combined with maximum power-giving pushes on L1. It would be silly to list all the controls here, but one button zooms to the pin (or destination en route) for targeting, one changes club, one the type of shot to be played, and so on. It is in the marriage of power and accuracy needed by the swing and stroke that the skill has to be learnt, just as in the real game. The manual is at times a bit obscure, and of course would rather detail all the playing options available to create depth, rather than guide you smoothly into understanding the on-screeen percentages, etc (is a red glowing power-ball indicating 100%, or more? is one initial query players will have to work out), but is decent enough. And so, where, when and who are playing, and how? Well, the licence has provided replicas of some very famous courses ~ even theediscerning has heard of St Andrews, and Royal Birkdale. There are some bizarre American courses too, but the less said about Black Rock Cove the better (grrr!). The wide range of playing options a
llows one to four players to play a round of 9 or 18 on any unlocked course, or a random mixture of holes. Here one can potter around merrily, making the practise mode completely redundant (and eerily silent), and pick up a little money, for a birdie here, a close approach there, a par-even-though-you-hit-a-bunker,-you-Nellie-award, etc? A full round can also be in tournament mode too, but the bigger prizes, and better chance of character progression, is to be found playing solo. Tiger Woods has ?himself? (gee, thanks, Tiger!) provided us with a host of scenarios to fulfil, all of which give us a medal and a little pocket money. But the challenges are the ones to go for, as the difficulty in the first range of match-play 9-hole contests is slender, against a medley of weak putters. These provide your character with great moolah. The point of all this dosh is that it is converted into your attributes. Starting your character on a basic template, buying up in power, accuracy, putting and recovery skills, for example, unlocks a greater ability in your character to succeed, hit those long drives etc ~ as long as you yourself are progressing in your own talents and judgment. It eventually also leads to the inevitable equipment trade-ins. These challenges also unlock the players you beat, as if they are ever of interest, but more importantly, the more interesting courses. Thus the game opens up, and if played a sensible number of hours per day, whatever your ability, would still take over a week to unlock all the main elements. Even if everything is open to you, there are still the tournaments, and trophy balls to win ~ awarded from things as easy as a 30?put, to scoring double eagles. The multi-player option will surely provide many a repeat visit, as other people get hooked easily, and join in ~ it?s a shame, then, that one can save only a measly four character set-ups per memory card. Along the way, as one is upping
your game progression score on your stats screen, there are the rather silly/fun side games. There are different fantasy ranges with bulls-eye type greens to play for, either one or two-player. Also for pairs, speed golf provides a merry diversion, featuring much old-fashioned rapid button tapping, just as old Daley Thompson?s Decathlon had us pressing away like billy-oh to get anywhere. Of course there will be those playing this, like theediscerning, who have got no nearer a golf club than a day?s drive, let alone a 3 wood drive. For those, the game provides logical assistance, all seemingly in keeping with a professional?s outlook on the game. The wind meter, relative height of pin, distance to target, lie of ball etc, are all portrayed, but can all be switched off, should you think Tiger et al couldn?t possibly be privy to such data. The numbers and screen display are nice and uncluttered, once one gets used to knowing where to look. Putting in fact relies on numbers, as the ?caddy?s advice? is displayed. Move your target to the exact spot the computer has worked out will provide you with a fine putt, and on the whole you are OK. However they are sometimes wrong, and other ways of approach are available. Take your pick, and knock it in, if you can. Yet never worry that the statistics and so on that golf seems to thrive on will bog you down here. (Someone cleverer than theediscerning once pointed out that golf is a game where every single permutation is measured in progress, feet and inches, career stats, etc, and what does it rely on at the end? Some chap picking his ball up and putting a coin in its place?) The learning curve, then, is the main feature of the game, as it doesn?t exactly start out difficult, but your character is soon advanced, with just $300,000, to quite a decent player. How complacent you will quickly feel when you switch tee and pin positions to hard levels, and give the groundsmen the day off as the rou
gh grows to long. However there will come a time when Mr Woods himself is the opponent? Admittedly with nothing to compare it with, theediscerning is mightily impressed with the gameplay on this golf sim. It?s a very user-friendly game that never comes across as deathly difficult, but is still easy to muck up of your own volition. You can squeeze a full round in, solo at least, in under 20 minutes, as the loading times are decent throughout. It is therefore fine for a quick dip (one can play for much shorter a time than that, if just a couple of thousand dollars earnt is your goal), or for much greater immersion, as you perfect your character?s abilities. (Cheesy op-end alert.) Anyone with half a mind to buy a PS2 golf sim, really ought to take a look at Tiger. It?s ?g-r-r-e-e-a-a-t?! (Non-cheesy op-addendum alert.) Tiger Woods 2004 for the PS2 is out the week of posting this op (the end of September 2003), and that can only mean one thing ~ 2003 will come down in price. Pay for the new model for different courses and options to alter your character?s facial characteristics, clothing licensing and celebratory dances, or just buy a dang good game.
Take the intensity of the PGA tour and combine it with the fun of weekend golf at your local course. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003 is an ultrarealistic golf simulation that blurs the line between fantasy and reality. It's so real you'll practically be able to smell the freshly clipped grass on the fairway. Experience enhanced graphics and player physics that render the course lush and green with players that deliver golf in a precise 3-D world.