Last year, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 All-Play for the Nintendo Wii just missed the green. Despite its mostly stellar re-creation of a real golf swing with the Wii Remote, annoying issues with putting sensitivity cost it a couple of strokes. That isn't a problem anymore. The 2010 edition of Tiger is as close to perfect as any golf game ever made, with dead-on swing mechanics thanks to fine-tuned controls and the use of the new Wii MotionPlus add-on. This is a brilliant re-creation of real golf, loaded with little touches and tweaks that make it an addictive pastime whether you're a low handicapper, a weekend hacker, or a first-timer who doesn't know one end of a putter from the other. In short, videogame golf doesn't get any better than this.
With that said, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 is more of an intensive refinement of last year's game than an overhaul. You can't slam the game for suffering from sequelitis, though, because the many changes improve the quality of play across the board. The most noteworthy upgrade is of course the controls. As in the 09 game, gripping and ripping are still handled with the Wii Remote, although you can attach a nunchuk and swing in a more traditional videogame fashion if you prefer. To take a shot, you simply stand up, take the remote in both hands like a real golf club, and then go through a lifelike swing motion to blast little dimpled balls into the great blue yonder. It's all very realistic and addictive, and the challenge is almost on a par with real golf. The lack of a ball on your floor is the only thing spoiling the illusion, because in real golf you need to keep your head down when swinging, while here you find yourself torn between keeping your head tucked away properly and watching the screen to see if your movements are being accurately tracked by your avatar.
And they almost always are. The addition of Wii MotionPlus support has made swing sensitivity more authentic than it was last year. Simply plug the MotionPlus hardware (available both separately and in a special cut-price combo pack with Tiger 10) into the base of the remote, and every little wiggle and waggle of the controller is perfectly mimicked onscreen. This is particularly vital when it comes to approach shots and putting. Last year, Tiger 09 came up a little short in these areas. Lack of remote sensitivity occasionally made playing around holes an exercise in frustration. Approach shots from under 100 yards were tough to finesse, and putting required an absurd amount of effort to get even routine flat-lie 15-footers to the cup. At times, it didn't seem possible to even hit the ball hard enough to get it to the hole. This put you in bizarre situations where you had to swing the remote like you were wielding a driver, and it required adopting a lag-putting philosophy from distances as close in as 30 feet.
Neither are problems anymore. Greater control sensitivity allows you to put a more accurate touch on the ball on approach shots, letting you better handle in-close situations where you need to take a little off your swing to get close to the pin. Turning the remote even slightly is now all that you need to do to perform a fade or draw shot, which is often necessary when you're shooting for the green. Putting is completely different this year. The new Precision Putting mechanic causes the onscreen putter to move with every little twitch of the remote, allowing you to apply the same amount of oomph here that you would use on a real golf course. If you have any experience with putting in the real world, you don't even need to look up at the screen to putt; just check the distance and lie, and then lock your head to the ground just like you would on a real green and shoot. Tap-ins are tap-ins. Ten-footers are ten-footers. Sixty-footers are sixty-footers. These improvements are even noticeable without the MotionPlus gadget installed, although club responsiveness is noticeably better with it in place. The bottom line is that you no longer need to worry about clunky controls, just the greens. They are a real handful, too, with a lot of sculpted features and the kind of incredible speed that gives nightmares to even the finest PGA Tour pros.
Tiburon also took care of some feature oversights and made Tiger 10 a more comprehensive package. Basic golf-game accoutrements have been rounded out. There are three difficulty settings, which run from kid-friendly to a grueling advanced level that's nitpicky about swing movements and removes such crutches as the putting meter (which, oddly enough, doesn't make much of a difference to gameplay due to the outstanding controller sensitivity when putting). The game now includes 27 courses, among them seven newcomers, including Bethpage Black and Banff Springs. Career mode has been beefed up with a more comprehensive player creator and the ability to play in the previously absent US Open.
Online support has been greatly enhanced. You can take on fellow golfers over the Net in solo matches, as you could last year, as well as take part in daily and weekly tournaments in which your rounds are recorded and then posted to a leaderboard. You even get a chance to rehit rounds from the first tee if you get to the end of the back nine and aren't happy with your score. Tournies are categorized for rookie and advanced players, which does a good job of keeping the scrubs apart from the sharps. Don't go anywhere near the advanced tournaments if you lack the chops to shoot rounds in the 60s and 70s. Either way, you need to put in a lot of time building up a character's skills before you can really be competitive online, or even offline against a more experienced buddy.
Another nifty online treat is real-time course weather courtesy of The Weather Channel. If you turn this option on, you play with the actual weather conditions noted at the time of your round. So if it's overcast and blustery at Torrey Pines in the real world, it's overcast and blustery at Torrey Pines in your living room. You can also play along with PGA tournaments as they take place in the real world, comparing scores with the likes of Tiger himself. Golf Party minigames are back again this year, along with the Wii-exclusive Disc Golf. The latter game is goofy and addictive, although perhaps a bit out of place. It's hard to imagine casual gamers buying Tiger 10 just for this novelty, but it adds to the package and is at least a good game for the family. The motion controls are also so accurate that you might as well be throwing a real Frisbee in the park.
This is one of the better-looking Wii sports games out there, with some holes that look pretty when viewed from the right angles. But there are loads of visual jaggies on golfer models and trees, and spectators look like performance-art pyramidal sculptures. The sound quality is much better, at least. There is a ton of commentary here and a tremendous number of atmospheric effects. The lack of Dolby Digital 5.1 support is barely noticeable during tournaments, because the crowd noise swells up all around you in the aftermath of a great shot. About the only quibble would be with the unnecessarily punitive commentary. A double bogey is punishment enough without the incessant wisecracks.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 has turned last year's great near-miss into an all-time classic. Improved motion-control support, more game features, and expanded online modes make it incredibly immersive and authentic. Golf games just don't get any better than this.