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Q4 2002



- Stunning graphics...top-notch for any sports game
- The entire interface is awesome and easy to use
- Lots and lots of game modes and stuff to unlock
- Upholds the EA Sports name



- Some quirky gameplay issues
- The swing system is tough to get used to and can be tricky if you can't have a full swing
- No PGA Tour mode



Review: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2002 (Playstation 2)

Review: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003 (XBox)

Review: Hot Shots Golf 3 (Playstation 2)



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Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003

Score: 9.0 / 10


The last golf game I played on the Playstation 2 was Hot Shots Golf 3 and I gave the game a high score of 9.2 out of 10.  In my opinion, Hot Shots is the PS2 king of the virtual links, albeit with little competition-Disney Golf, Swingaway Golf, and last year's Tiger Woods being the most notable titles.


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What I liked about Hot Shots golf was its depth, challenging courses, unique set of characters, and a sprinkle of arcade-styled gameplay to give the game an additional twist.  Tiger Woods 2003 (TW2003) has all those qualities, even bettering Hot Shots in a few of those areas, but falters in some key categories that prevent it from taking the top ranking.


The determining factor of any game and especially in the sports world, is the gameplay.  In most non-sports game, the gameplay is on a one-tier level meaning you press a button and it happens.  In TW2003 the gameplay takes two tiers with its unique swinging style that does not use a meter system, but the analog sticks, and how the ball interacts with the course.





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Pressing down on either of the analog sticks starts the backswing and the follow-through is completed by pressing up.  I found the swing system to be responsive and realistic (you sway to the left or right just a little bit your shot will be imperfect).  I had a tough adjustment when I first started playing the game because I almost never use the analog sticks, as opposed to the D-pad.  But I liked the swing once I got used to the timing because unlike in Hot Shots, the swing led to a more unpredictable result.  In Hot Shots, a 


game that uses a three-click meter system, the determining factor was usually not if I would hit it straight or accurate, but if I aimed well and far enough.  In TW2003 I hit a variety of shots.  (Whether or not that is a good or a bad thing is yet to be determined.)


The one cool thing I took from the swing system was that for whatever reason, I had a slight hook.  The good thing was that I was consistent and I was able to play the fault.  Not only did this add to the realism to the game, it made for some interesting shots when natural obstacles were in the way.


Having a flaw in my swing was a bad thing, as the rewards for hitting a perfect shot is seeing it in cool replay, a la Madden.  For some shots that hold great significance, you get the Gamebreaker interface seen in NBA Street.  The two aforementioned features, along with a bevy of trash talk and pre and post-shot animations, add to the gaming experience as they pump you up.


The ball acts realistically on the golf course, but there is a problem with the gameplay.  I said above that I liked a few arcade elements to spice up the game (if you don't, you get a stoic game like Links), but the game is made too easy by some of the additions.  For one, you can change the spin of your ball mid-flight.  If you are heading too far to the right of left, you can simply add spin the opposite direction to avert the crisis.  You can also add more power to your shot, every shot, by simply tapping the L1 button during your back swing.  In Hot Shots, you could add 10 yards to your short, but it was rationalized.


Another problem lies within the swing system.  While I like the idea (it's not completely original as it was first seen on a PC game with more or less the same concept of not using the meter system with...not sure if it was the Links or Jack Nicklaus game) of using the analog sticks, it makes it very, very difficult to shoot a shot that is not a full swing.  It also took me a while to determine what a full swing was.


I don't like the arcade elements, but I do like the frequency of eagles and holes-in-ones.  I would like to think I have mad PS2 skills, but it seems as if in some shots the hole has a ball magnet as I have scored over 10 eagles and at least five hole-in-ones.  In Hot Shots in comparison, a game where I have probably logged four or five times as many hours of gaming, I have but four eagles to my name.


Where I had thought Hot Shots had a great number of game modes and options, TW2003 towers over the competition with 10 lengthy game modes where you earn money to unlock courses, characters, and equipment.


Ultimately, all of the game modes (except for maybe the online event game mode) feed to the Tiger Challenge, a series of match-play competitions against fictional and non-fictional characters.  For example, you play PGA tour pros such as Brad Faxon, Ty Tyron (the 17-year old), Charles Howell III, and Tiger himself, as well as created characters that come from non-traditional backgrounds as a banned sumo wrestler and an Italian muscleman.  Each character looks great!  There are no jagged edges and the faces don't look mapped at all -- even the body sizes look golfer-unique.


The competition may not sound too stiff, but here's the catch; you must defeat them using a created character that starts out at minimal ratings.  After you defeat an opponent in the Tiger Challenge you earn varying amounts of money that you put towards your ratings.


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To help increase your earnings, there are tour cards that add multipliers to the amount of money you earn by defeating golfers in the challenges.  The other game mode includes a few mini-games which provide some entertainment: speed golf forces you to run to your ball in competition to see which golfer can get their ball in the hole first; skill zone has you hitting at targets for money.


But the Tiger Challenge is wherein the challenge lies.


While this game mode can be entertaining, I was hoping for an elaborate PGA tour season, fully equipped with the four major tournaments, where I would try to become the number one player in the world.  The challenge's luster loses its shine after you beat everyone and you are left with only the mini-games. (Think what Madden would be like if the franchise mode was cut out after winning your first Super Bowl.)


There are the online tournaments, but they do not utilize the network adapter, but tell you to go online and get a password to first enter the tourney, then another one to report your score.  While this would be fun if everyone played fair-unfortunately they don't.  Somehow some gamers, whether it is with a GameShark or some other venue, can rack up insanely low scores (-20 and lower).  If the tourneys were set up in a bracket with the network adapter, it would be different.  What I am trying to say is that after the Tiger Challenge, which probably will take most gamers a good week and a half to finish, there really isn't much left.


Where TW2003 also excels is the wonderful number of courses they have.  You have to unlock most of them, but there are 13 eye-catching courses that include St. Andrews Golf Course (one of the host sites for the British Open), Pebble Beach, and the TPC at Sawgrass.  The attention to detail is really impressive.  On the 17th hole at Pebble Beach, one of the most famous holes on the planet, the subtle ocean currents in the background and the gentle swaying of the trees, is almost photo-quality.  On par three holes, where a good majority of golfers do not use a tee, divots can be seen.  There is no doubt that TW2003 is the best-looking golf game ever.


Although the game showcases the arcade and simulation style, I don't think it meshes both well enough to top Hot Shots.  On the outside, TW2003 looks like a great-looking, console version of Links or PGA Championship.  While those games are die-hard simulations, TW2003 is not and I think that is the angle it should take on the genre.  The gameplay issues really stunt an otherwise solid game.  The complaints are really nitpicking, but if I had to pick a golf game to sit down and play, it would still be Hot Shots Golf 3.


- Tim Martin

(January 7, 2003)

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