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Tiger Woods 2001 PGA Tour (PSX) Review

Publisher: EA Sports

Background Info

Before you know it, Tiger Woods will be a billion-dollar athlete. He's well on his way with the numerous endorsements. His name is attached to shoe, credit card, and automobile sponsors. Video game fans easily recognize him on the cover of EA Sports' Tiger Woods franchise. This year is no different, as Tiger returns for Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf.

Proclaimed by EA to be a "Hole-in-one golf game," the 2001 edition packs in 6 courses and 8 pros on the disc. You can tee it up at Poppy Hills, The Canyons, Sawgrass, Badlands, Summerlin, and Scottsdale with top golfers such as Justin Leonard, Mark O'Meara, and of course Tiger. Whether you like stroke or match play, you and up to 3 other golfers can hit the links with the fast paced gameplay. EA has added a few wrinkles to the game that improve over Tiger Woods 2000 as well as changing the swing mechanics.

Presentation/Graphics : 80
If you owned or played Tiger Woods 2000, you'll instantly pick up on the subtle changes that have been made graphically. The overall look of the game is nearly identical to last year as far as the stylistic touches. However, the courses seem to have a reduced amount of detail. I loved the rich detail in Tiger 2000 on every course. The PSX does its best to render golf course features realistically, including the look of greens, fairways, the rough, and sand traps. Water hazards are disappointingly bland, but the game redeems itself with some nice elevation changes. In last year's version tree-lined fairways looked like national forests, and the desert courses reminded me of some dreaded trips to the Mojave. This year the number of static features takes a slight reduction. While the detail is still there, there are simply fewer trees, rocks, and shrubs.

Fortunately, this appears to be a case of less is more. Even though Tiger 2000 looked great, the game chugged along once the ball was shot. In this year's edition, the game keeps a nice pace as the ball flies through the air. The effect is a more natural feeling trajectory. The camera follows the ball from impact to final rest perfectly.

The user interface has also changed slightly. A more detailed status area shows the lie of the ball both graphically and numerically (how deep in the rough, etc), the wind direction and speed, club and shot selection, and the distance potential of the club. At the bottom of the screen, a new swing meter gives you instant knowledge of your stroke's strength and accuracy. The new meter is a bar which initially fills to the desired power. A bar then reverses direction and approaches the hit zone. Nailing the shot right in the middle of the zone results in a straight shot (with no wind). While effective, I actually liked the top-down swing interface from Tiger 2000.

Watching the golfers hit the ball is a joy. The game again uses digitized images of the golfers. Tiger looks better than any other character in a PlayStation game. His red shirt and black pants crease as he winds up for the shot. Once the backstroke is complete, he'll unleash his power with smooth stroking animations. On the green, he'll pump his fist after a great putt.

Presentation/Audio : 70
Would someone please turn off that radio! Golf isn't like most other sports. It never has, nor ever will, feature music during the tournament. So why oh why does Tiger Woods 2001 have music playing? Beats the heck out of me, and frankly I'm annoyed. There is an option to adjust the "front end" game music, but this only affects the music for menus. Believe it or not, cheesy music plays as you tee it up. Fortunately it doesn't play in every game mode, but it's there in the only new game mode. It's annoying and destroys the ambiance.

The missing ambiance returns with the Tournament mode. With no music to disrupt me, the oohs and aahs of the invisible gallery were clear. However, the ambient sounds don't seem to be anywhere near as good or plentiful as last year. Instead, over-the-top sound affects are present. As you strike the ball off the tee, a deep whoosh overcomes the courses. The arcade sounds are yet another dagger in the heart of a title that deserves more respect. However, you can thankfully turn the volume of the sound effects down or off. The only other sounds of note are comments from the golfers, which are repetitive and short.

Interface/Options : 85
One of my beefs with Tiger Woods 2000 was the lack of match play. While the game included The Skins Game, which is essentially match play, a true match play mode was absent. I'm happy to report that match play is here, along with traditional stroke play, The Skins Game, a tournament mode, and the new EA Sports PGA Tour Challenge. The Tour Challenge lets you start the game as an amateur, and by placing well in events, you earn your tour card. Once a pro, more events await until you become the champ.

Once on the course, the game keeps track of all of your statistics. The stats engine records the best scores in 12 categories for posterity. Things such as longest drive or putt are recorded and saved to the memory card (saving is a paltry one block). You can view your all-time records by navigating the simple menus. Of course, one of the available options is the aforementioned sounds. In fact, the options menu off the main title screen is strictly audio in theme. You can adjust the sound level of the sound effects, commentary, ambient sounds, and menu music here.

Once a particular golf mode is selected, you can adjust the play options with the square button. You can personalize a golfer by changing his name, outfitting your golf bag with certain clubs, or changing the difficulty level. Once a course is selected, hit the square button again to change the course characteristics (wind and number of holes and rounds to play). On the course, the options continue as you can select the type of shot to hit (full, punch, pitch, and chip). All these options and more and discussed in the well- written manual.

Gameplay : 70
The moment you hit the links, veterans of the game will notice a difference. The hitting interface has changed yet again. This year, the aforementioned swing meter controls the swing using either the analog stick or the traditional three-click method. The analog stick approach is really nothing more than the three- click method disguised as something more involved. Tiger Woods 2000 had a much better analog swing interface where you could watch a golfer's backswing as you pulled back on the stick. This gave a sense of realism and put you in the game. Here, the digital-like controls of the swing meter with either the three- click or "analog" methods simply weren't as fun.

Once you strike the ball, another difference is noticeable. The trajectories taken by the ball, whether it be straight, a hook, or a slice, are realistic enough. The Tiger Control is an option in the game. This allows you to control the ball in flight and allow you to correct poor shots. Gladly this option is turned off by default. The game has plenty of shots, ranging from full shots to chip shots. Furthermore, you can finesse a shot by adding spin to the ball. Once the ball hits the fairway it seems to stop faster than expected. When it's time to pull out the putter, the greens are extremely fast. Furthermore, the balls don't break enough on the greens. Going back and playing a few rounds of Tiger Woods 2000, the greens forced me to think about putts. In the current version, even long putts are made without moving the target point; just point straight at the cup and strike the ball. By pressing the R1 button you can read the green, which simply exaggerates the elevation changes. I'd like to play the exaggerated greens since they look like they'd at least offer some challenge.

One area where the game excels is the AI of the opponents. Your competition is stiff at even the amateur level, which is the middle level border by the beginner and pro classes. Your opponents play realistically. At times they'll sink long 50 foot putts (thanks to those flat greens) or hit into bunkers or water. They'll hit a mixture of birdies, pars, bogeys, and even some double or triple bogeys. The Skins Game really demonstrates the strength of the competition. The combined pressure of the tough competition and plenty of money on the line for any given hole is great.

Another area where the game holds plenty of value is the variety of the game modes. The previously mentioned Challenge mode holds plenty of promise. Likewise, the Skins Game is always exciting. The addition of match play complements the stroke play. You can also play in an 18-, 36-, or 72-hole tournament at any of the six courses. If you're having trouble, a nice practice mode lets you pick and choose any hole on any course.

Replay Value : 70
Unfortunately the addition of the wonderful Challenge mode can't save the 2001 edition of Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf. While the title has picked up an additional course, I felt the game was watered down due to the boring putting game and simple swing interface. With last year's interface, I felt, like EA's motto, "in the game." I'll still play the 2001 title, but only for the Challenge mode. Even then I'll have to contend with the game's music or play in silence. For all other modes, I'll take a step back in time. If the game were a repeat of Tiger Woods 2000 with the match play and Challenge mode, I'd be a happy camper.

Overall : 73
Tiger Woods 2001 has some good points. The new game modes are fun to play. However, the repackaged graphics and sound just don't improve significantly over last year's version. In some respects they are worse. While the play mechanics haven't changed much, they have taken a step away from this title being a simulation.

By: James Smith 1/10/010

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