Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10

"Golf is so popular simply because it is the best game in the world at which to be bad."
-- A. A. Milne

It's raining. I'm standing in in knee-high weeds. I set my bag down in a puddle and extract a muddy 9-iron. I wipe the grip as best I can on the front of my faded "Tears for Fears" T-Shirt. With little joy, I hack at the orange ball embedded in the mud. It leaps like an arthritic frog 20 feet into the fairway.

"Beautiful day," says Jeff. And he's serious. There's no where else he'd rather be on this October morning than here, on these patchy, muddy, miserable, municipal 9 holes. He looks out from the brim of his umbrella, grinning maniacally. He shoulders his bag. "You can just call yours nine -- let's putt."

Golf. I hate golf. At least, I did until Wii MotionPlus and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 made it all make sense.

For me, golf has always been an exercise in controlled failure. I've never considered myself a "golfer," but the nature of being in my 30s and trying to have a career in the '90s meant "business golf" was mandatory. I resigned myself to the inevitable, and bought cheap clubs, a cheap bag, cheap shoes, and expensive lessons. I became just good enough that I could go on a client's golf outing and be an effective clown. I could talk the game, which meant I could socialize, and the social experience would make up for the fact that my golf game was a long, slow slide downhill from 2-over par, each-and-every hole.

In other words, I have played just enough golf to know exactly what I've done wrong after every agonizing stroke. A game of golf -- a real one, in the real world, with the cigar smoke and golf carts and people I generally don't like -- is 5 hours of self-aware penance for my transgressions in skill.

I had not played golf, real or virtual, for over four years until last week. Last week, Tiger Woods for the Wii arrived in its brown Amazon.com shipping box. I'll be honest, I bought it almost exclusively because I considered it a tech-demo for the Wii MotionPlus controller -- that little nubbin of plastic which promised to take my Wii controller and make it an extension of my soul. That it came with a golf game was simply an unfortunate coincidence -- a poor substitute for the one-on-one multiplayer swordfighting game I'd been dreaming off since the first YouTube videos of the Wii surfaced.

To my surprise, Tiger Woods has made me love golf.

I should warn you that it's extraordinarily difficult for me to separate my Tiger Woods experience from the Wii MotionPlus hardware.

As a checklist of features, Tiger Woods is entirely what I would have expected having never played a previous iteration of the franchise: a set of well rendered courses, a customizable golf career, and a bunch of mini-games. Golf is simply not that complex a game when compared to Madden-level football or any other number of mediocre-yet-detailed EA Sports games. At its core, golf is a game my 5-year old son understands perfectly: you whack a little ball into a cup that starts out very, very far away.

The in-person game of golf is only interesting because of the environment itself (many golf courses are indeed stunning places for a nice walk), and the subtlety and unpredictability of each shot: wind speed, greens conditions, the vagaries of every lie, the fractal randomness of the courses themselves. I suspect that every version of Tiger Woods, not only on other systems, but in previous generations, does a good job of modeling those exogenous subtleties. After all, by definition there have been ten versions of this game in which to figure out how to model sweet spots and sand traps.

But as an experience, not just an environment or a system, golf is really just about hitting the ball. Sitting on a couch, that act could easily be just a matter of flicking thumbsticks and hitting buttons. The swing devolves to RPG-like-skills and sussing out the system in order to translate the unnatural inputs of the controller into the natural outputs of the golf swing.

And that's where I have a hard time separating the game from the hardware. The feeling of swinging a virtual club with MotionPlus is simply astounding. Putting, driving, chipping, getting out of bunkers -- each just feels right in the same way that hitting the drums in Rock Band feels right compared to generating the same inputs with four buttons on a controller. As I approach each shot, the tapes from all those grudging golf lessons play in my head -- putt through the ball, chip like you're tossing a horseshoe, hit the sand not the ball, make your drive a 360 degree circle of club. And after each dismal failure, a quick hit of the replay button shows me exactly what I've done wrong. Each swing feels like my swing, not a disembodied representation. Each swing matters.

I'm sure it's not perfect. I'm sure that I could figure out how to mimic the perfect swing by simply flicking the MotionPlus through a 10 inch arc on the end of a string. But a quick switch to the normal Wiimote was enough to make me realize I could never go back. It's the difference between a 1970's transistor radio and $500 Sennheiser headphones.

That sense that "I'm really playing" immediately made me long for the aspect of the game that I actually occasionally enjoyed when confronted with an 8AM T-time and a cigar-smoking heathen: the social aspect. To EA's credit, they've bolted their own community system into Tiger Woods, and it actually works. Yes, you can punch in the 128 digit number for your Wii Friends, but more practically you can also just enter EA login. If you've played Spore or The Sims or any number of EA games online, chances are you already have a profile, if not a populated friends list. Once in an online game, the system works extremely well: players take shots simultaneously on a thirty second shot clock, and competitors' positions and ball trajectories show up as colored ribbons, making it easy to crow about great puts and long drives. But there is no representation of the other golfers at all -- just those colored dots and lines.

To make up for this, Certis and I decided to build a holodeck out of 2000 miles of copper and two MacBooks. We set up the laptops with their cameras pointed at us head on, as if we were watching a golf buddy taking his swing from the comfort of the cart. A quick skype video call later, and we recreated the real-world experience of golf with surprising accuracy and far better access to bathrooms and cocktails. Geeky beyond belief indeed, but also extremely satisfying. Watching Certis jump up and down like a little girl after sinking a 40 foot putt simply won't get old. Nor, I'm sure, will the cavalcade of profanity and virtual breaking of clubs that ensue when I go 7 over par into the wind over a lake.

Perhaps it's too much to expect the current generation of consoles and games to deliver this experience on a regular basis. MotionPlus almost seems to have been designed with Tiger Woods in mind, and not everyone is going to go to the trouble to set up a laptop in their living room solely to look like a fool for the entertainment of their distant friends. But I can say this: Tiger Woods + MotionPlus + Full Screen Videochat is the most connected I have ever felt to a videogame. It's not perfect. It isn't truly a holodeck. But it is definitely the vector on which the future lies. And it is very, very good.

Comments

Thank you for sharing your appreciation for this title. I was one of those people who was content to hit the A button a few times to swing, but this makes golf seem far more interesting.

Oh, and if you could post some video of Certis jumping up and down like a girl, I'm sure you'd make a lot of people happy.

I told you to change that line to something manly! What's the point of a writer's guild if you won't take my valuable creative input to heart?

Seriously though, it's reinvigorated my interested and enjoyment of video golf. A real next step after years of dull sameness.

That's really awesome that you guys did that. I am definitely going to pick up this game, since Grand Slam Tennis has it's problems. But alas, all games could use some improvement.

Don't make me buy this! I already own Woods 09!

Well, maybe if some of you's gonna play it online? Sunday Night Links?

So where's the link to the video?

Somebody just sold me a copy of Tiger Woods '10 for the Wii.

Now I guess I've gotta put Tiger Woods '09 up for sale or trade.

Glad to hear the game and the Motion Plus get such a glow from you. My copy should be here in a few hours and I'm rather anxious to whack at virtual weeds.

Just make sure you use the practice swing option, pay attention to the percentages and have some patience. I'd say it took me 18 holes to really get a solid feel for the mechanics.

trip1eX wrote:

So where's the link to the video?

Ha! I only dance like a little girl for rabbit.

That's right, I said it.

Oh, please don't make me go buy a Wii! The sad thing is, I could get all of the hardware and the game for about the same cost as a round of golf for a four-some at a reasonably nice course.

However, I must take issue with the idea that Wii golf has

far better access to bathrooms and cocktails

This is the true beauty of golf. They deliver booze to you on a little cart, and then you have all of Nature in which to relieve yourself. I'd like to see THAT in a golf sim.

Did you try the Frisbee golf option? How is it?

...my faded "Tears for Fears" T-Shirt.

This is where I was sold. Also, it made me cry a little at how old I am.

The feeling of swinging a virtual club with MotionPlus is simply astounding. Putting, driving, chipping, getting out of bunkers -- each just feels right in the same way that hitting the drums in Rock Band feels right compared to generating the same inputs with four buttons on a controller.

And yet some will be still be unhappy with even that.

Now if Nintendo would just get their heads out of the sand and realize no matter how they spin it, their arcahaic online implementation is hurting them more than it helps anyone. Maybe then you wouldn't need that laptop either.

Your description of golf hits close to home. I'm also a reluctant golfer of meager but essentially passable skill, although my motives for originally picking up the game were a bit different: my father is an avid player, and golf is one of the few activities that we can enjoy together.

I use the word "enjoy" rather loosely there, since it's not the act of golfing itself that I enjoy so much as the "bonding" that results from it. Shot after disastrous shot, my repeated failure never really bothers me, for one simple reason: I'm not really there to play golf, I'm there to be with my father.

When the stars align and I manage to create a shot that lands in the fairway or on the green, my dad's ready for it - "nice shot, buddy," he says approvingly - and it makes the whole exercise worthwhile.

I gave my father a Wii in the hopes that we could somehow replicate the experience across the internet in a more readily accessible form, but that's largely been a failure. One round of Tiger Woods '09 and he gave up in frustration - it never felt "right" to him, and I can easily see what he's talking about.

I'm hoping that Tiger Woods 10 and Motion Plus gives us what the earlier incarnations could not: something close enough to golf that we can both play, without technical failings that prevent us from really enjoying our time together.

Your review is just what I wanted to hear, and just in time for father's day.

So I tried "advanced" mode for several tournaments and caved in to returning to "Normal". Now I have more fun, but it is accompanied with the knowledge that I am just not using the awesomeness of the Motion-Plus like I should. Has anyone else experienced something similar with this game/tech?

I'm not enough of a big serious man to play real golf, even in a video game. If they made a MotionPlus minigolf game I would play it right away.

I played most of a full round yesterday, and it seemed pretty accurate to me. Of course, I hit the ball farther than I do in real life (or at least than I did the last time I played a few years ago). I think the game might get me back into real golf sometime this summer.

I'd be interested in doing an online round with some Goodjers. Any day after Thursday, that is, as Time Warner screwed up and didn't come and install my internet yesterday.

Switchbreak wrote:

I'm not enough of a big serious man to play real golf, even in a video game. If they made a MotionPlus minigolf game I would play it right away.

I'm sure there's a compilation that has it out there for you!

Actually, I think a well thought out mini golf motion plus game with crazy, but grounded in reality courses might be interesting. I'd probably never give buying it more than a second thought, but I'm sure it could be fun.

While there are no windmills, the minigames are pretty fun. Most importantly, you can vary the realism settings, so I can play advanced and my son can play "all play" and kick my ass.

Disc golf is a solid tech demo - the throwing feels great. But it feels very much like an afterthought.

A game of golf -- a real one, in the real world, with the cigar smoke and golf carts and people I generally don't like -- is 5 hours of self-aware penance

I tried offering this sort of description as my reason for not joining the last corporate golf function I was invited to. That may have been a mistake.

I've been hearing nothing but astounded reviews for this game, and it seems like a very worthy buy. I just can't bring myself to buy it when I could go outside and play golf for real. Now if the mini-games were just as excellent...

misterglass wrote:

I just can't bring myself to buy it when I could go outside and play golf for real.

Around here the courses are over crowded, too expensive, and difficult to play on in November.

LilCodger wrote:

too expensive

That's what I was about to say. TW10 cost me what 18 holes would. Plus to play at the (very nice) course here at the house I'd have to buy some slacks and a collared shirt.

LiquidMantis wrote:

Plus to play at the (very nice) course here at the house I'd have to buy some slacks and a collared shirt.

We have one of those too. I remember talking to a member about how much it was to join. I'd rather sleep indoors.

I have been there with Jeff in the rain and you are right, the guy prefers nothing in the world more than being on the golf course. I feel the same way, love the concept of a golf umbrella, but really do not appreciate playing in the rain as he does.

However, and can't wait to come over and try TW10 on your Wii... There I said it, I'll come visit sometime soon.

I took golf lessons when i was in Junior High, but never really played after that. Still, i thought i had the basics of a swing. In the game though, i was only getting about 80-90%, so i figured i had a ways to go.

Last night i was taking a few practice holes before going for a run, and my wife walks up. "Let me take a turn."

BAM. 100%, down the middle of the fairway.

"What the hey? I didn't know you could play golf?"

"Sure, i learned in High School!"

Crap. Maybe i just suck. Then i notice she's even holding the Wiimote incorrectly, sideways. Still crushed it. Blargh.

Just picked up this little gem too. When is the first GWJ Sawgrass Open?

jonnypolite wrote:

I took golf lessons when i was in Junior High, but never really played after that. Still, i thought i had the basics of a swing. In the game though, i was only getting about 80-90%, so i figured i had a ways to go.

Last night i was taking a few practice holes before going for a run, and my wife walks up. "Let me take a turn."

BAM. 100%, down the middle of the fairway.

"What the hey? I didn't know you could play golf?"

"Sure, i learned in High School!"

Crap. Maybe i just suck. Then i notice she's even holding the Wiimote incorrectly, sideways. Still crushed it. Blargh.

There's no question that you could game the accelerometers -- after all, its supposed ot be playable by people of all shapes and sizes, left and right handed, etc. But what's awesome is that if you do it RIGHT, then your miserableness will be easy to understand and correct.

I can cheat at real golf too (grin).

I was already interested, now I really want this.

Question: Is Wii Motion Plus a pure hardware "booster" type tech, or does it require the game itself to be coded to take advantage of it? Like if I get Wii Motion Plus, will it improve the accuracy of moving goo balls in World of Goo or make the Tennis game in Wii Sports (or the Golf) feel more accurate?

duckilama wrote:

I was already interested, now I really want this.

Question: Is Wii Motion Plus a pure hardware "booster" type tech, or does it require the game itself to be coded to take advantage of it? Like if I get Wii Motion Plus, will it improve the accuracy of moving goo balls in World of Goo or make the Tennis game in Wii Sports (or the Golf) feel more accurate?

Games have to be coded for the M+.

I picked this up yesterday to play with my kids. We played through Banff and the game looks really good, the M+ plays really well - especially the putting where you seem to have a little bit of "touch" that you lack when using a traditional controller. my only problem is that power is too over-powered - you really need to bring the controller back just a very very little bit to hit a 50% shot. Hard to judge, at least out of the gate.
It's really a good time. The only things missing are the bugs, sunburn and beer carts!