EA Sports has really done a good job of transcending typical sports-games presentation. With each and every passing game, it feels more and more like a televised sporting event. The same rule applies with Tiger Woods 99, EA's newest golf-game franchise. Yes, along with the vigor and exuberance the young Tiger has brought to the game of golf, so too has EA livened up the often drab trappings of virtual golf. But is it good enough to make a difference?
As with most golf games, the usual array of options and modes are included: number of holes played, Mulligans, weather effects, the Skins Game, shoot-out, tournament, and tour play, etc. In Tiger Woods 99 you can also use or play against seven other professional golfers, including Lee Jacobsen and Tom Kite. For armchair golfers who need to get up to speed, there's also a practice mode. Let's put it this way, practically every option you could want or need is included. Five courses are also available for the plundering, ranging from Summerlin to Scottsdale.
Graphically, Tiger Woods is like any other golf game. Digitized sprites thwack away at little white balls on polygonal courses. While not exactly the smoothest golf engine out there, Tiger Woods imparts a clean, functional look that is easy on the eyes and efficient enough to get the job done. Tiger, as well as the other golfers, is animated fairly well, although they all look a little like cardboard cutouts, and as usual, the trees and other background objects are flat sprites as well.
Gameplay falls into the familiar routine of pressing a button to activate the time-honored "swing arc" and pressing the button again upon its return to hit the ball. Fortunately, the whole interface is very clean (unlike Fox Sports Golf) and, as a result, is very user friendly. Tiger Woods 99 is as easy to play as Hot Shots Golf or Nintendo's Waialae Country Club. Definitely a very good thing. What's also convenient for newbies is the automatic club selection. If you don't know a five iron from a high five, well, you needn't worry. This is one of the few golf games you can just pick up and play. If you've got some golfing buddies who are video-game novices, this would be a great game to pick up. Keeping your score under par isn't an impossibility here.
The sound is where it all drops down as far as overall experience. Crowd noises sound flat and canned, and even though golf is a quiet game, if you turn the music off, this game is almost completely silent. Which is how you'll end up playing this game if you value your sanity. It seems as if EA decided to amplify its Tiger Woods license with some "rockin'" tunes, a move that doesn't really work here, whether you're young or old. The best advice would be to turn off the music. It sounds like the stuff you'd hear in a monster-truck game, not a golf game.
Although arriving on the scene later than some other golf games, Tiger Woods 99 is still as good a golf sim as you're likely to find. Although a little more arcade-y than some might like, for the majority of gamers out there, this'll do just fine.