Thursday, June 18, 2009

The new Tiger on the Wii

"Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10'' for the Wii ought to be the Nintendo console's signature game. Using the Wii remote as a full set of of virtual golf clubs, as well being able to interact with simulated versions of challenging and gorgeous courses -- well, that's a formula that should maximize all the Wii's strengths.

But Electronic Arts managed to blow the opportunity for a couple of years running. Indeed, the 09 edition was a stunning atrocity because of a mangled putting mechanism. If the recently released Tiger 10 was seriously flawed in any way, EA's basic competence would be under scrutiny.

The good news: Tiger 10 is a very good game. It's annoying that it's not great -- it damn well should be by now. Still, it's a tremendous value, given how deep all the game's features are and how overwhelmingly well it plays in general. In order to do justice to the long list of positives, I'm going to review the game in a series of posts instead of one windy opus. And I'll start by explaining where the game falls short, even as it solves its most nagging problem:

There's a new way to putt, "precision putting,'' that's adequate. Or slightly better than adequate. That's a big deal. When the putting is broken, everything else -- driving down the fairway, competing for scores and victories, reading the greens -- is for naught. So being able to adequately enjoy a complete golf experience is pivotal. And with Tiger 10 you can.

Now the hitch: "Adequate" is far below ideal.

The system works entirely on touch. Your feel for just the right amount of backswing and contact, with adjustments for downhill and uphill rolls, determines success or failure (as well as some built-in adversity, which for me, on a "medium" overall difficulty setting, has meant seeing some nicely struck putts lip out). Yes, this does emulate what the manual notes is a "more true-to-life golf simulation.'' The more hours played, the more experience with the nuances of a green-to-green touch. So what's wrong? One major thing: The touch that's required is, in almost every instance, just a minor variation on a light tap. There's almost never a putt that demands giving any oomph to the attempt. It's all about the most delicate type of gradations. It's hard to distinguish a two-foot putt from an eight-footer; it's just about as hard to distinguish some 25-footers from some 10-footers. That's no good as a simulation, even though it does function as a manageable challenge, albeit an excessively tricky one at times.

Nothing else in the game -- actually, what I should say is, nothing else I've encountered so far -- is this marginal. But it's not a game-killer. Far from it. The putting works. It's squeaking by, but it works.

Next: The benefits of the new MotionPlus attachment for the Wii remote.

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