Considering that the first incarnation of Electronic Arts' PGA Tour golf-sim series first appeared nearly a decade ago, it's only natural to expect that the latest installment would be the most finely honed golf simulation on the market. That's certainly been the case with other EA Sports games - just look at how much EA Sports improved Madden NFL, NHL Hockey, FIFA Soccer, and NBA Live over the years. But while Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2000 scores high marks in crucial areas like course selection and multiplayer support, it has a host of minor omissions and other problems, as well as some serious technical issues, that keep it from reaching the upper echelon of golf sims.
One of the big selling points in the PGA Tour line has been the ability to play as or against virtual versions of PGA Tour pros, and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2000 adds several new faces to the roster: Mark Calcavecchia, Stewart Cink, Robert Damron, and Justin Leonard, to be precise. Of course Tiger is here, and in a creative double-dip move, EA tapped into its Michael Jordan license to put His Airness out on the links (though if I were M. J. I'd be a little miffed at how poorly my sprite had been rendered). There are nine pros in all (the box says ten) - a far cry from the dozens of PGA players of that first EA game years ago, but still a lot more than any other golf sim currently offers.
Competing against these cyberpros is definitely a blast, but many fans prefer developing their own star player rather than taking on an existing PGA persona - and here Tiger Woods 2000 falls far short of what you're able to do in other golf sims. Not counting Jordan, you can choose from only three character animations (two female and one male). While it's true that you can import a .BMP image of yourself into the game, it only appears during the golfer selection screen and as a small thumbnail at the top left of the screen during play: The actual onscreen golfer remains unchanged. You can't even choose what color shirt to wear. This might seem like a minor concern at best, but at the same time it's a real letdown compared with the comprehensive player editor in Sierra's PGA Championship Golf, or even the multiple player animations of Jack Nicklaus 6 or Links LS 2000.
On the other hand, the selection of courses in Tiger Woods 2000 is outstanding. Besides the game's exclusive rights to Pebble Beach, there are seven TPC courses encompassing a broad spectrum of surroundings, from the dry desert biospheres of Summerlin and Scottsdale to the tree-lined hills of Piper Glen to the gently rolling fairways of Heron Bay. With support for add-on courses released for Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf 99 and The Tiger Woods Collection, its diversity of courses is one area in which Tiger Woods 2000 doesn't disappoint. This is also the first time in the series that EA Sports has included a course architect to let you design your own course or make replicas of your favorite real-life links. While I found it a bit more cumbersome to use than the course editor in PGA Championship Golf, it's certainly functional and definitely beefs up the game's replay value.Don't expect to play every golf variation under the sun on those wonderful courses, though. There are only 12 game types in all in Tiger Woods 2000, and that's if you count the driving range (which also encompasses chipping and putting practice) and the practice mode as distinct game types. Once you get past the standard stuff - stroke play, match play, three types of tournaments, and the PGA Tour Season mode - there are only a handful of other game types to choose from. It's not as though I'm dying to play bingo-bango-bongo every time I sit down at the computer - but tossing in a few extra game styles surely couldn't have taken a whole lot of effort on the part of developer Rainbow Studios, especially since EA Sports will soon have the same kind of multiplayer support for Tiger Woods 2000 that made Tiger Woods 99 so popular among online gaming fans.
But to be fair, the PGA Tour series has never attempted to re-create the experience of amateur golf, which is where most of these variations pop up. PGA Tour has always been about bringing the excitement of televised tourney play to your PC, and in that department Tiger Woods 2000 can be quite satisfying. The commentary doesn't fly as quickly or as furiously as in PGA Championship Golf, but the good news is that you don't hear the same twaddle over and over again - just a sentence or two before tee-off and a remark before and after the shots does the trick nicely. A picture-in-picture feature follows the ball until it comes to a rest, and a variety of TV-style post-shot camera angles are available. Instant replays after especially sweet shots are automatic (they can be turned off, of course), and for fans who like tapping their toes as they tee up there's even an option to play your own music CDs or MP3s. It's a bit annoying to have to qualify for the Tour by finishing in the top ten at TPC at Sawgrass, but the requirement does make the proceeds feel more authentic.
Beginners can turn to a host of golfing aids, including a "risk meter," caddy assistance with club selection (they can even tell you how the lie will affect club distance), an arrow that indicates how a putt will break, and a new "green reader" that gives you a top-down view of the green with contours indicating slopes. Tiger Woods 2000 sports two swing types: the traditional three-click power meter and the pro swing, in which you move the mouse up and down or left and right (or vice versa) to simulate a swing. Though some veteran golf-sim players dislike swinging with mouse clicks and power meters because they make hitting great shots too easy, they have a good alternative in Tiger Woods 2000 because shot accuracy is 100 percent in pro swing mode - all you've got to nail down is how fast you move the mouse. Drives of 290 yards or more are pretty common fare, and the only real challenge comes when you get within 90 yards of the hole. There is one downside to the pro swing: There's apparently no way to back out and reset once you've activated the swing.
Graphically, Tiger Woods 2000 is rather inconsistent: One moment you'll be impressed by the accurate shadows and shimmering water, and the next you'll be wondering why the digitized trees, houses, and golfers look no better than what you'd see in Links LS 1997. But what's more disturbing is just how much horsepower it takes to draw those trees in a timely fashion, especially when you take a glance at the minimum system requirements vs. the recommended system requirements: a Pentium 166MHz vs. a Pentium III 450MHz (with an 8MB 3D card). This isn't merely a question of processing speed; it's mind-boggling that someone would have the chutzpah to suggest a game that runs best on a Pentium III 450 would even begin to play acceptably on a first-generation Pentium.
My first several outings with Tiger Woods 2000 confirmed my worries. I experienced load times of around 90 seconds for saved games (two minutes to start a new PGA Tour); stupendously choppy animations for the PIP and alternate camera views; graphical resets and pop-ups as the system struggled to draw terrain; and five- to ten-second delays between executing the shot and seeing the animation. I was finally able to get decent performance by uninstalling the game, running ScanDisk and Disk Defragmenter (which I'd done before the first install), switching to my newly acquired TNT2 card instead of my old Voodoo2, and reinstalling the game - but I was still left wondering why a game so average in appearance made such strenuous demands on my system.
However, even when it's running relatively smoothly, Tiger Woods 2000's digitized graphics lack the sensation of depth created by the 3D-rendered world of PGA Championship Golf; much like Links LS 2000, Tiger Woods 2000 looks like a flat picture of someone playing golf instead of actually making you feel as if you're on the course. If you're a fan of Tiger Woods or the previous games in this series, Tiger Woods 2000's extensive course library and good multiplayer support make it worth a look - provided you've got a fairly high-powered computer. But those in search of a golf game that looks and feels as close to the real thing as possible would be wise to start their search elsewhere.