Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online First Look

EA Sports is taking the venerable golf series to a Web browser near you. First details inside.

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You're away from home on a business trip. Or at your in-laws' house. Or enduring a grueling wait at the DMV. You're stuck. But if you've got a laptop handy and a Wi-Fi signal available, you'll be able to play a few holes in EA Sports' upcoming Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online. The game, available later this year on the PC and Mac (via a Web browser), was shown behind closed doors at EA's recent pre-E3 showcase in Los Angeles. We didn't get a chance to try it out for ourselves to see how it compares to the console version but, from the look of things, it seems that the online version will comparable and, better yet, portable.

The demo, shown running on development servers, looks as if it will be a reasonably full-featured version of Tiger straight out of the box. But unlike the old Tiger PC games, Tiger Online will run in a Web browser, with the game content streaming to your PC/Mac or laptop over your Internet connection. Based on what we saw of the demo, the graphics look comparable to what we've seen in recent console versions of Tiger and, as the producers said, the game will scale to your PC specs. Indeed, we saw two versions of the game, one running on a relatively high-end PC, the other on a more budget-minded laptop, and even the scaled-down version seemed respectable.

The real questions about Tiger Online will be how it plays and what content will be available at launch. As for the first question, we know that long-time PC golf fans will be happy to hear that both the three-click and true-swing options will be available when the game is released. As for the second question, Tiger Online will ship with six courses (to be determined), but you can expect more courses postlaunch (producers estimate one new course will be added per month). This being a server-based game, the developers plan on introducing new content to the game on a regular basis, including courses, tournaments (which, producers hope, will be able to eventually synch up to real-life PGA Tour events), as well as smaller features that currently exist on the console game, such as the club tuner.

Of course, all of those new add-ons will probably cost you. Although details on how much you'll be paying to play Tiger Online are still under wraps, producers did say that they are planning a subscription-based fee for access to Tiger Online (though they are also planning a free-to-play version). For virtual golfers looking to get in for the long haul, Tiger Online looks like an interesting premise. Not only will you be able to check your online stats at any time via a Web site, but you can also shut down the game even mid-hole and return to your round the next time you fire up your browser.

Could Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online end up being the ultimate version of Tiger? That will depend on a number of factors, including the frequency of additional content, the system requirements, and, of course, how much it will cost to play. Expect those answers in the coming months as the game prepares to go into public beta this fall. In the meantime, follow the game's progress on GameSpot's sports gaming blog.

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