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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Sports

 

Publisher

Electronic Arts

 

Developer

Electronic Arts

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

March 2002

 

 

- Real PGA courses and players
- Tiger Challenge and Scenario modes add even more replay value
- User-controlled power and spin work well

 

 

- Beginners will have initial difficulty with the analog swing
- Putting system is a lesson in patience

 

 

Review: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003 (Playstation 2)

Review: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003 (XBox)

Review: Hot Shots Golf 3 (Playstation 2)

 

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Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf 2002

Score: 8.5 / 10

 

Golf has certainly enjoyed a boost in popularity thanks to Tiger Woods, who is perhaps the most dominant player the sport has ever seen. Electronic Arts wasted no time in signing Woods to a contract to represent the company’s PGA Tour Golf series for both PC and PlayStation back in 1997. Even with Woods and other actual PGA pros on the series’ roster, Electronic Arts was not able to match the popularity of the Hot Shots Golf series. Hot Shots had neither real courses nor real players, yet the gameplay was easy enough for any gamer—golfer or not—to pick up and play. The PGA Tour series, meanwhile, was trademarked by long loading times and choppy visuals. Now, in 2002, Hot Shots and PGA Tour Golf go head-to-head again… this time on the PlayStation 2. Is this the year that Tiger takes home the title, or will Hot Shots maintain its console dominance?

 

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The game boasts seven golf courses, four of which are actual PGA competition courses. Pebble Beach, TPC at Sawgrass, Princeville, and Royal Birkdale are the “real” courses. The fantasy courses include Copperhead Canyon, Black Rock Cove, and Tiger’s Dream 18—and Tiger’s course boasts some of the toughest holes that you’ll ever play. Each course has its own identity. Princeville and Royal Birkdale play like Links courses. The famous 17th hole at Sawgrass looks as imposing as it does on TV. Mist from crashing surf can be seen throughout Pebble Beach. Some courses even have wildlife, like seagulls and squirrels, which adds to the atmosphere.

 

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Visually, Tiger Woods is impressive. Large golfer models swing and react fluidly and realistically. Golf fans will recognize Tiger’s famous pumping fist celebration after dropping a long putt. Several other PGA Tour pros, such as Justin Leonard, Vijay Singh, Notah Begay III, and Jim Furyk look remarkably like their real-life counterparts. There’s plenty of other eye candy, too. Sweet lens flare effects can be seen as the camera follows players’ shots. Rain can come down hard, at times. Divots can be seen flying through the air. Trees and leaves rustle 

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and sway in the wind. Many of the camera angles can make the game look like an actual broadcast of a PGA tour event, as they follow the flight of the ball to near-perfection. With all of these niceties, the frame rate is locked at 60 frames per second, making for some very smooth animation—which is a switch from the choppiness that PlayStation vets are used to from years past.

 

Tiger Woods also scores in the sound department. For the first time since PGA Tour ’98, running commentary has been implemented, this time from the duo of Bill Macatee and David Feherty, both of whom can be heard giving analysis during actual PGA television events. While Macatee handles the job of updating players on standings and records, Feherty steals the show with some outstanding, and sometimes humorous, shot analysis. Feherty compliments players on good shots, advises on certain putts and ball lies, and pokes occasional fun if shots hit the rough or sand. Tiger Woods also contributes a few lines here and there, ranging from encouragement to insult. Ambient sounds are done well, too, including the sounds of thunder, wind, wildlife, and the other sounds of the game. The gallery is nice and loud, with big-time cheers for great shots and the usual comments like, “You’re da man!” or “Get in the hole!” There’s not a lot of music in Tiger Woods, with the exception of Nelly’s “#1” during the intro and some pretty lame music during the menu screens.

 

The biggest difference between Tiger Woods and Hot Shots 3 lies in the play control schemes for each. While Hot Shots stays with the traditional three click swing method, Tiger Woods relies heavily on the use of the analog sticks. There is certainly a wider margin for error by using the analog sticks, especially when trying to hit the ball straight. It will take several rounds for players to really pick up the nuances of this control scheme; however, it’s a lot more realistic than Hot Shots 3. This margin of error can be likened to actually hitting the golf course yourself. It’s easy to inadvertently hook or slice your ball into the rough (or worse) when actually picking up a gold bag and playing the course, and the same can be said for playing Tiger Woods. With time and practice, errors will happen less frequently… but they will happen.

 

Putting is one area where Tiger Woods will frustrate many players. EA has decided to drop the putting grid in exchange for very accurate caddy advice. Your “caddy” will give you on-screen text directions on how to line up your putt. Unfortunately, there’s no scale for feet or inches, so it’s extremely easy to make incorrect adjustments, which leads to some missed putts that’ll leave you begging for anger management classes. This seems to be another move towards realism; after all, when playing real golf, you don’t see grids, right? While this change is understandable, it doesn’t execute perfectly and may turn some casual players off altogether.

 

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In addition to the analog swing method, extra power and ball spin can be applied using the L1 and L2 buttons, respectively. If you rapidly press the L1 button while drawing the analog stick back for the backswing, you can add yardage to your shot. Once the shot is airborne, rapidly pressing the L2 button adds spin to the ball. The direction of the spin can be adjusted on the fly, until the ball touches any surface. You can pull back on the analog stick for backspin, push up on the stick for more roll, or left or right to roll the ball in that direction. These options add a whole new level of control to the game and, when mastered, can easily improve your scores by at least a couple of strokes.

 

Once you’ve got the controls down, Tiger Woods offers several different gameplay options. The primary mode of play is the Tiger Challenge, which is a match play mode which pits a created player against an increasingly difficult lineup of PGA stars and original opponents. Players earn money for defeating these opponents, as well as for accomplishing other feats like long drives, birdies and eagles, hazard saves, and others. This money is then used to buy stat points in a variety of different areas, including power, accuracy, and putting. There are also a series of scenarios which challenge players’ skills. Some involve coming back from large deficits with a certain number of holes to go. Others challenge players to score well under adverse conditions, such as rain, wind, or poor lies.

 

There is certainly a lot to like about Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf 2002. There is certainly a learning curve involved with the controls (especially putting), but it’s very rewarding once the controls are mastered. The sense of realism is heightened by the inclusion of real players and real courses, and there’s certainly more than enough golf action here to keep players interested for a long time to come, whether you’re playing solo or with a group of friends. Some gamers may argue over whether Tiger Woods is better than Hot Shots 3, but one thing is for certain: the gap in quality between the two games has certainly been narrowed to the point where they’re just about even.

 

- Peter J. Skerritt, Jr.

 

(June 28, 2002)

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