Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003 - XB - Review
This year EA Sports has really outdone themselves with a slew of fantastic sports titles from NHL hockey to NBA basketball and thankfully they have not forgotten other sports events such as NASCAR racing. Still it was the golf fans that were beginning to feel left out--that is, until Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003. So dust off that putter, sports fan, it’s time to play with the pros.
The game offers a large number of game modes and challenges. There is Tiger Challenge, Scenarios, Stroke Play, Match Play, Skins, Tournament, Online Events, Practice, Speed Golf and SkillZone. Each mode offers both individual challenges and multiplayer challenges (for up to four players) that are actually unique and tremendously fun. SkillZone, for example, has five different modes such as Target mode where you earn cash by hitting the ball into a series of bull’s eye targets. And Scenarios puts gamers in various tight spots to see how well you can handle challenges such as getting yourself out of a sand trap or an area with trees blocking your line of sight.
Tiger Challenge is considered the game’s main mode of playing since this is where you unlock new golfers and courses--there are twelve courses in total that are based on real courses as well as fantasy courses. In this mode, you get to select one of seven different golfers (mostly made up characters such as Pops) and accept the challenge by real life pros such as Brad Faxon. Along the way, your golfer earns cash and, depending on how well gamers play, win Trophy Balls, bonuses and Tour Cards (Silver cards, for example, multiplies your earnings by two times).
Surprisingly, the game’s controls are not at all complicated to figure out, in fact, they‘re a dream come true. An arrow targets the location of the hole and it could be repositioned for a more accurate shot. The controls are broken off in three simple segments: pre-swing, pre-putt and swing. Using the left or right thumbstick, all you really have to do is move it back and forth to swing and connect with the ball. Push the white button repeatedly for an impressive Power Boost and use the black button to move the ball in mid-air. Gamers might expect to be overly cautious by things such as what type of club to use but listening to the tips provided by your caddie makes things so much easier and less daunting (or you can switch off the caddie‘s tips and go by instinct).
The game’s difficulty level is also quite a challenge but not so challenging that the game is really frustrating. One of this game’s strengths is the fact that even pros such as Charles Gordon Howell III are prone to mistakes or also have bad days (at one point, a pro could not even get out of a sand trap). Tiger Woods can also have his share of troubles and although his name carries the game, he can just as easily make a mistake or make bad plays. The game’s only flaw is that sometimes the weaker players can easily put a ball in the hole from great distances while yours seems to be repelled by the hole when you match their shot.
If the game’s controls are a tasty morsel then the game’s visuals are a main course. The highly detailed characters and the overall beauty of the courses themselves will impress gamers. Imagine the grand lushness of the St. Andrews Golf Links or a fantasy course set near the mist covered castles of Scotland. Gamers will be impressed by the vastness of each environment that comes to life with wildlife and things such as a rushing waterfall. Equally astonishing are the athletes with realistic body movements and amazingly rich facial features.
Praise should also go to the game’s sound that does a good job of perfectly blending a televised presentation style with a live-on-location feel. There’s a two-man commentator team that not only explains what type of terrain you’re going to play through but also how well you’re doing out there. To top things off, there is just an amazing amount of sound details such as the sounds of a train passing in the distance to the cheers of the spectators. During the main menu or breaks in the game there are a couple of rock tunes played by artists such as Saliva or Silverchair.
It is difficult to create a realistic golf simulator and also make it extremely entertaining but Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003 manages to pull it off brilliantly. Sports gamers looking for a true-to-the-sport golf title will not be disappointed by this game that offers various modes including online play. If that is not enough to buy this game, I don’t know what is.
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Thankfully the controls are not really complicated and even novice players can find themselves getting into the game thanks to the great tutorial and Practice mode. You can switch clubs on the fly and swing the club with easy thanks to the thumbstick control. Not sure where the hole is then all you have to do is press and hold the B button and the camera will zoom in on its exact location. You don’t have to know golf rules and regulations to enjoy this title.
There is also a long list of modes and challenges to keep gamers more than entertained. Speed Golf, for example, has you racing across the golf course to earn money. While in SkillZone challenge called TIGER, you must match your opponent’s shot. If you fail, you earn a letter that will eventually spell the word Tiger and thus losing the game.
The game’s visuals are truly spectacular and it is good to see the Xbox’s full graphics capabilities put to use. Each course is rendered beautifully with enough scrupulous details added to make the environments appear gorgeously brimming with life. Birds take flight overhead and if your ball happens to land in a water hazard, the water ripples realistically. There are times, however, where the foliage takes on an odd shape--like looking at a green splotch on the screen--but it’s nothing that takes away from the game’s overall beauty.
Much attention was placed on each golfer as well, adding realistic expression to the faces as well as small facial details. The pros actually do resemble the real thing, especially Tiger Woods himself both in the close ups and during a play. The golfers also move realistically, with the musculature so realistically displayed that you’ll swear you’re watching a real game in progress.
The sound is another element in the game that is done wonderfully and most of it centers on the environmental effects. If you’re playing near a waterfall, you’ll hear the water rushing down or if you’re playing in the dense jungle near the Aztec temple, you’ll hear monkeys and exotic birds. Still, even if you’re not playing in some exotic locale, there are still many other details such as a passing airplane overhead or the whooping cheers of the more excited spectators.
There is also the two-man commentator team of Jack Kulp and David Feherty that is actually very insightful and is great at pointing out the current situation, although it does tend to be repetitive at times. Soundtrack-wise, the game offers some rock tunes by Saliva, Ash, Paul Oakenfold and the 12 Stones. They are the usual collection of rock tunes heard in sports titles recently but are still quite welcome.
Going up against the pros in any mode is not an easy task but the game is never frustratingly difficult thanks in part to the fact that pros can also make mistakes or make bad plays. There are times when pros can make perfect shots (eagles or a hole in one) more than once throughout the game. Most gamers will find that it is often difficult trying to guess a shot or to figure out what wedge to use. Luckily the caddie offers plenty of tips and can even push you in the right direction by offering you the exact inches between your ball and the hole.
Aside from playing as or attempting to beat Tiger Woods himself, the game has enough pro challengers and fantasy players to go up against. There are also fantasy courses to unlock such as the Aztec jungles to the highlands of Scotland. The ability to post your stats online is also a welcome addition so you can see how well your friends or yourself stack up against other players.
The game also offers four multiplayer options for up four players. Tournament, Stroke Play, Skins and Match Play allow you to play the game with your friends. Stroke Play has you and up to three other players attempting to beat each another out by completing a round with the fewest strokes. In Match Play, the player with the most holes wins the game. This is the perfect game to play with friends when the weather is too bad to play the real thing.
Simply put: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003 is the most satisfying golf title to grace the Xbox console so far. With gorgeous visuals, great controls and a nice assortment of game modes, the game of golf could not be more pleasurable than this. And with so many modes, you definitely get your money’s worth.