Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 Updated Impressions

We take a look the changes under the hood in EA Sports' upcoming golf game, which look to make a big impact.

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By now, you've probably heard of the big features in EA Sports' upcoming Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11--things like the integration of the Ryder Cup, the inclusion of Rory McIlroy on the cover, and so on. However, there are some other subtle changes in Tiger 11 that might arguably end up affecting the game more significantly than any of these splashier inclusions. Yesterday we had a chance to check out the latest build of Tiger ahead of its June release and get some insight as to those under-the-hood changes.

One of the most noticeable of these tweaks is the increasing importance of experience points, or XP. These essentially replace cash for your created golfer and will serve as the global currency across all aspects of the game. You'll earn XP after completing rounds in practically all the modes in the game and you'll be able to spend those XP, most notably on attribute improvements for your golfer.

Rory McIlroy on the cover is big news, but it's the under-the-hood changes to Tiger 11 that have us excited.
Rory McIlroy on the cover is big news, but it's the under-the-hood changes to Tiger 11 that have us excited.

How attributes are organized is another important change in Tiger 11. Swing coach Hank Haney is gone and your attributes won't be wildly swinging up or down after each round you play. Instead, the system is more akin to that found in Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online. You'll be able to spend XP for various aspects of your swing across four main attributes: power, accuracy, putting, and control. These various swing aspects include things like power boost, swing speed, swing plane, and the like. And dumping points into any of these categories will have a measurable effect on your swing.

As you might expect, swing improvements become more expensive as you go, but as producers explained, none of the attributes are ever locked--you'll be able to subtract XP at any time and add those points to another attribute. Essentially, it's a similar system to the club tuner from previous years (which also returns in Tiger 11), in that you can tweak your golfer to your heart's content--perhaps even coming up with specific attribute spreads for specific courses. A new performance tuning mode will combine the club tuning and golfer attribute tweaking in a single mode. This will allow you to test various configurations on a driving range to find the exact combination of attributes and clubs you want.

If you've played Tiger in the past, chances are you've taken advantage of some of the series' more "gamey" features--like the pre-contact power boost or the ability to spin the ball in any direction while the ball is in midair. Tiger 11 will see a new feature in this vein--accuracy control. When aiming a shot, you'll have the familiar aiming circle that will indicate a general area in which the ball will land. With accuracy control, you can shrink that circle with a press of a button, thus making your shot that much more accurate.

Mitigating unrealistic features like power boost, putt previews, and accuracy control is a new focus feature. Your golfer will have a set amount of focus at the beginning of a round (indicated by an onscreen menu). Using features like putt previews, power boost, and the like will drain your focus meter. And, when it's empty, you won't have access to those shot modifiers until you gain some of your focus back. To earn focus, you simply take shots without those special boosts. While it's too early to tell how carefully balanced the focus meter is, personal experience says that there were times that we used focus-style shots in Tiger 10 when we didn't need to use them. By forcing players to be judicious with their boosts, focus seems like it could be an interesting addition.

Of course, there are Tiger players out there who look on power boost or putt previews with a disdain normally reserved for John Daly's wardrobe, and Tiger 11 will have you guys covered too. A so-called True Aim style of play removes all the aforementioned boosts and takes it even a step further. You won't have an aiming circle when you fly to a distance location before a shot. Instead, you'll have a more bare-bones set of information, including on-course yard markers to give you a general idea of the distance ahead of you. You'll also have the carry distance of your currently chosen club to help you make your club decision.

Essentially, True Aim is a much more realistic, as well as more challenging, method of choosing your club and shot selection, forcing you to solve the same problems you do on the links as in real life. Additionally, once you've made contact with the ball, the camera stays with your golfer, so you'll be watching the shot as it flies off. On doglegs or shots with lots of elevation, you might not know where your ball ends up and might often be relying on the response of the crowd as a judge to know how well (or poorly) you shot the ball.

New courses in Tiger 11 include Liberty National, Whistling Straits (home of this year's PGA Championship), and Greenbrier. The game will also include several new PGA pros, including Paul Casey, Boo Weekley, Stehen Ames, Danny Lee, and LPGA star Suzann Pettersen. The game is due for release on June 8, so stay tuned for more soon.

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