We recently grabbed hold of the latest version of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004. The build is feature complete, so we were able to check out the courses and game modes. Tiger Woods 2004 has many improvements over its predecessors. It has lots of new content, an improved career mode, and enhanced EA Sports Online play. In total, there are 16 pro golfers in the game, 16 courses, and numerous companies that contribute brand-name equipment like Nike and Adidas.
We spent some time exploring the career mode, where you create your own golfer and take him or her out for a game of golf. The creation tool is really impressive. You have so many options that you practically have an unlimited number of combinations. For example, take a look at only the head. You can choose your hairstyle and hair color, jaw shape, head width, head depth, and more. You have lots of options for the rest of the body as well, and you can choose from a variety of clothing articles, such as shirts, watches, and hats. We had fun creating characters that were near-replicas of ourselves in the game.
Once you create a character you like, you have to play around with attributes. There are three preset attributes: big hitter, all-around, and pin seeker. As the name may imply, the big hitter attribute gives you power and long-game abilities, all-around means you'll have evenly matched abilities, and the pin seeker attribute will give you more skill with the short game and putting. The differences between these three are negligible in the late game, though, because you can increase your abilities throughout the game. These attributes merely give your character certain strengths in the beginning.
Your new character has limited knowledge of golf and can perform only a few basic shots, such as full swing, pitch, chip, and putt. Your character can learn other shots by going through training sessions, which cost money, and you can take what you learn in these lessons out on the golf course. For example, you may have trouble getting out of a trap until you take a lesson on how to hit out of sand. Once you finish the lesson, you'll have more options the next time you land in a bunker--you can take a sand shot instead of being forced to take a full swing. These tutorials are a great way to learn how to play the game.
Once you have mastered several shots and increased some abilities, you can either attempt a few tour challenges or head out to a tournament. The tour challenges vary--for instance, one requires you to complete a few par-3 holes under a certain score, and another has you attempt to get closest to the pin in a pitching contest. If you succeed at a challenge, you'll be rewarded with a small amount of money and the ability to increase your attributes. The tournaments are where you'll encounter matches and skins games. This is also where the big bucks are and where you get a chance to advance your character. Both game types are fun because you'll get to play in various situations and shoot some tricky golf shots.
The free-form swing mode is really easy to control. We were able to hit the ball accurately almost every time. What you do is draw back the mouse, and then push it forward to swing. You can slow down the mouse for a lighter swing or push it a little faster to try to hit a more powerful shot--though swinging too hard will have bad results, much like in real golf.
The game has seen some improvements in the graphics department. Birds fly overhead, leaves fall from trees, and waves crash on the shoreline. It's entertaining to watch some of the animations after a poor shot or see your golfer get excited after sinking a long putt. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 seems to be a very fun golf game. Be on the lookout for our full review in the coming weeks.