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Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09

For: PSP   Also on: Mobile

Stuck in the rough

Product: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 | Developer: Exient | Publisher: Electronic Arts | Format: PSP | Genre: Sports | Players: 1-2 | Version: Europe
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 PSP, thumbnail 1
EA comes in for a fair amount of abuse for its infamous yearly update policy, but more often than not this strategy is an effective one because it cunningly allows the publisher to constantly improve each sporting franchise with incremental revisions and thereby create a more pleasurable gaming experience for the likes of us.

That's how it's supposed to work, anyway.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 bucks that trend. In almost every respect the game is a huge backwards stride from the advancements made by last year's moderately entertaining effort, and where the game isn't substantially worse it merely remains motionless.

The most sweeping alteration is the new analogue shot control system. The one witnessed in Tiger Woods 08 wasn't perfect but it made a refreshing change from the years of simply pushing buttons in order to power up your swings. Back in '08, pulling back the analogue nub would initiate your power build up and pushing upwards would execute the swing itself. With this system the focus was on getting your timing right, as had been the case with the numerous earlier editions of the game.

This year things are a little different. The all-important timing aspect is gone and in its place is something a lot less satisfying. Instead of having a 'charging' system, Tiger Woods 09 contains a control method that attempts to grant more accuracy but actually ends up being cumbersome and unwieldy. To determine the potency of your drive you have to draw back the analogue nub to the correct point on the power gauge, displayed as a predicted distance.

For example, if you're going for a massive shot up the green then you drag the nub back to the marker on the gauge that denotes '200 yards' (or whatever distance you deem acceptable) and then, as was the case in the previous game, push up to unleash the pent-up aggression of your digital avatar. Gently stroking left or right duly applies spin so you can alter the trajectory of the ball.

To be fair, this new method isn't too bad when making big drives, but when you want to be more precise about the strength of your swing (when putting, for example) it really starts to display its shortcomings. It's almost impossible to accurately set the power of your shots and nine times out of ten the ball will end up sailing hopelessly past the hole.

Thankfully EA has had the good sense to include the time-honoured 'button press' shot method, where you simply press a button at several points on a gauge in order to select the clout of your stroke. It's included here as a simplified option for inexperienced gamers (much like the 'Family Play' modes seen in other recent EA Sports titles) but it would be better described as the 'traditionalist' mode, as it harks back to the 'timing' setup seen in the very early PGA Tour outings.

Struggling with such interface issues isn't exactly anyone's idea of fun, but sadly the disappointment doesn't end there - EA has implemented some puzzling changes when it comes to game modes, too. Gone are the hugely enjoyable mini-games from last year and in their place sits a championship mode called the EA Sports Cup. It's a long-winded proposition and although it offers something for prospective golf superstars to really sink their teeth into, one could argue that the usurped mini-games were far better suited to the portable 'quick play' ethos of the PSP. Plus, it's unlikely that you'll want to expend too much effort in this portion of the game as the full-bodied PGA Tour mode is a much better investment of your valuable time.

The multiplayer options are lamentably pared-down this year, too. Gone is the online mode; we can only assume that someone at EA bumped their head prior to making this staggeringly misguided decision but it leaves you with only local multiplayer to satisfy your desire for human golfing companionship.

Elsewhere, there's little that should entice anyone to ditch their copy of Tiger Woods '08 in favour of this dubious 'upgrade'. The visuals are practically identical, with impressively smooth animation but strangely artificial-looking characters and downright ugly courses. The presentation elsewhere is of the typically polished EA variety, but the menu systems look cold and unfriendly, and load times when switching between each mode border on the absurd. Just loading the character edit screen takes around 10-15 seconds.

Speaking of which, the golfer creation mode works as well as it did previously and it's a genuine joy to develop and enhance your character's attributes as you progress through tournaments and earn cold, hard cash for new clothing and equipment. As you proceed through the game you earn points which can be assigned to various areas such as shot strength, putting skill and even luck. It's a system that works fairly well and encourages you to play the game for longer than you might ordinarily want to.

EA's insistence on adopting an 'assembly line' of yearly sporting updates relies on each title offering the player something fresh and new every 12 months. Sadly, the company has broken that mantra with this latest Tiger Woods excursion. If you're a fan of the series then this game offers no convincing reason for you to abandon last year's instalment. Those of you who are looking for a decent golf game on the PSP should either investigate Tiger Woods '08 or pick up Sony's own Hot Shots Golf 2: Open Tee, because this latest walk of the green is essentially a totally superfluous exercise.

At least EA will have something to improve on next year.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09
Reviewer photo
Damien McFerran | 8 September 2008
Shorn of many of last year's features and lumbered with an awkward control method, Tiger Woods 09 singularly fails to improve on its predecessor and in many respects is a definite regression
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