A reasonably good golf "simulation", but a multitude of annoyances make it far worse than it should be.

User Rating: 7 | Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 PS3
Based on the glowing review from GameSpot - it's currently the highest rated golf sim for the PS3 - I picked up this version of Tiger used. I'm a little disappointed.

The golfing "simulation" itself is not bad, by any means, but it's surrounded by a plethora of annoyances. (I am not using a Move, so if you want to use that, don't take my word for this aspect of the game.)

I first have to state that I'm playing the game with strong emphasis on career mode. I think that most of my issues probably apply to all aspects of the game, but it's worth pointing out just in case they don't.

The biggest problem is the upgrading feature. In previous versions of Tiger that I've played, there are two upgrade paths. You get experience points for playing well, and you can use those to upgrade your skills. In addition, you get cash by competing in tournaments, and you can use that to upgrade your equipment. In Tiger 11, there is no cash. Both skills and equipment upgrades are bought with experience points. This means that there's really nothing that actually competing well against the other players gains you.

The next big problem is with game play. Weather is an important factor in golf, to be sure, but the "random" weather seems not to weight for real-world situations. Most notably, sustained 20mph winds are so common that they are almost the norm. I played, I believe, six rounds before ever *not* having to play during a gale. In addition, it's unclear that the wind affects shots evenly. Maybe there's more going into the simulation than I think, but similar shots with similar winds seem to be affected by the wind in wildly different fashions.

Another game play problem is that there is no indication of the strength with which you're striking the ball. You apparently just have to guess based on the amount that your avatar's backswing has traveled. And, yes, I know that real golf doesn't have a strength gauge, but you do have some feel for how hard you're trying to strike the ball, which is virtually nonexistent in Tiger 11.

Putting is also problematic. For one thing, the putt preview seems to occasionally flat-out lie to you. Also, it can be very hard to actually pick out the hole. More than once I've actually had to stand inches away from my TV searching for where the hole is supposed to be. In some cases, I've actually realized that it was off the edge of the screen because I had to move my aiming spot so dramatically to account for a large break in the green.

Back to annoyances: the spectators all move in unison. It's like there's a collection of synchronized Stepford zombies watching, and it's disconcerting. Their movements frequently match exactly, from swaying, making the crowd look like a field of wheat, to hand gestures, as if they all had a drop of sweat drip down their brow simultaneously, to clapping, which makes it seem like they're collectively making fun of you.

The announcers are terrible: the worst I've heard in a long time playing golf games. Their phrases are probably fewer than fifty combined, and they will occasionally contradict each other, one claiming that there's nothing wrong with that shot, while the other stating that I could not be happy with it. There's also timing issues with the comments. Almost every time I sink a long putt, one chimes in with how it looks really good, but gets cut off by the other when the ball goes in the cup. I finally just turned the commentary off altogether.

On a related note, the crowd gasps and oohs and otherwise reacts at appropriate moments, but often too appropriately. For example, on fairway shots, if you hit the rough, the crowd will gasp, and if you're on the fairway, they will clap. Fair enough. But if your ball is on the fairway, but clearly headed toward the rough, they will clap like it's an awesome shot until the instant it touches the rough, at which point they will gasp. Once I took a fairway shot that ended up going right along the edge. The first bounce was on the fairway: clapping. The second on the rough: gasps. The third on the fairway: back to clapping. It's clear that there is the most trivial possible algorithm for this reaction, and it's been done far better in previous versions of Tiger.

Visually, it's okay. Most notably, it's full of aliasing artifacts. As far as I can tell, there is no anti-aliasing at all. Apparently the new visual feature is flowing clothing and hair. The clothing is a nice effect. The hair looks like two dimensional curved surfaces. I'd rather have had that time spent fixing some problems.

Load times are sort of ridiculous. You'll be twiddling your thumbs for a good 15 seconds after each hole. The developers decided to "hide" the loading times by putting a leaderboard up during the loading, and this would have worked if you could actually interact with the leaderboard during the loading. Maybe there's some architectural issue with the PS3 that prevents that, but it would be nice if I didn't have to wait for the next hole to load before I could look at the leaderboard details. In addition, even then, you can't look at the entire leaderboard, just the top five scores, plus yourself if you're not in the top five.

All in all, I had a lot more fun with Tiger '07 for the PSP than this.
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