Tiger Woods PGA TOUR
EA SPORTS™ has dominated just about every computer game sport around, from basketball to NASCAR to crickets. In fact, there are really only two sports where the company has failed to meet expectations. One is baseball, and the other is the Tiger Woods PGA TOUR® series. While the 2000 edition adds several new features, including a multiplayer mode where you compete live against the scores of real pro golfers, the aging game experience and shot interface keep this one deep in the sand trap.
For those new to the EA golf line, there are some compelling features. Shooting a round of golf with Tiger Woods is fun and, because of a new licensing pact, completely unique to this title. EA also has exclusive rights to Pebble Beach (commonly considered the best golf course in the world), and includes such big-time courses as Sawgrass and the rolling greenery of Piper Glen. You can now design your own course using a course designer, which is on one self-contained disc. There are no completely new courses in this year’s version, however.
New pro players were added to the mix including Justin Leonard and Stewart Cink, plus one notable amateur: Michael Jordan. Playing as one of the characters does help with the immersive quality of the game, but you will quickly realize that there is no distinct difference between any of the players. For me, playing as Tiger Woods was a minor disservice to the current master: there’s no chance in a million years he would shank his drive this many times.
Other new features include the ability to read your own likeness into the game (which only appears in setup screens), and a “Play with the Pros” multiplayer option that automatically feeds live tournament data for specific golfers into multiplayer games. All of these additions enhance the experience, but as we’ll see in covering the finer details of the game, they never elevate it past a run-of-the-mill golf sim.
Gameplay = 4
Game modes abound, from the new skins game (standard in most golf sims) to the typical stroke and best ball modes. You can qualify for the PGA TOUR® and play through an entire PGA season, which keeps your attention. Still, PGA TOUR® is facing some stiff competition from Links 2000 (with some gameplay modes focused on specific “challenges” against Arnold Palmer or Fuzzy Zoeller) and Sierra PGA Championship Golf (with more play modes than any competitor, including medal rounds and the Ryder Cup).
While it does have some new game options, the only real gameplay changes are a tiny “3D” green reading tool that was poorly implemented and almost completely useless. Carryovers from last year include a risk meter (which tells you whether your shot selection will get you close to the hole), an analog swing that lets you swing the club with your mouse, and other help aids. If the aids are all enabled, the game becomes way too easy (I scored -8 at Pebble Beach); even expert sim golfers will be challenged without them, which has more to do with the dated graphics than anything...
Graphics = 3
The EA PGA TOUR® series has never really pressed the boundaries of 3D simulation. Trees, spectators, and surroundings stand perfectly still (funny, that), and the only movement on the course (besides the ball itself) is a short video clip of either the selected pro, Mr. Jordon, or a generic male golfer. While EA SPORTS™ continues to enhance the ultra-3D experience in other sports titles, they relegate golf to unmoving 2D backgrounds. Thirty-yards out from the green might as well be 100, because the flat patch of fairway looks about as richly detailed as the surface of a pool table. Granted, the outdoor environment for golf is difficult to simulate. However, in Sierra’s golf offering the 3D-animated golfer and surroundings seem to be living and breathing...and moving. To compete next year, EA will need to consider building an entirely new golf sim engine that focuses on 3D movement and dynamic terrain changes.
Sound = 5
The standard bird chirps and wind rushes are here, although there are actually only four distinct locations depending on the course (desert, ocean, etc.). The most obtrusive sounds are the announcers, who seem to repeat the same golf tips over and over. Crowds fill in appropriately for bigger matches and become more vocal depending on who is golfing and what they do on the links. In the end, the only really great sound is the whack of the club on tee shots.
Difficulty = 2
Tiger Woods PGA TOUR® 2000 suffers from the same gameplay issues as the Microsoft sports sim line (NBA Drive 2000, most notably). Although you can tweak many difficulty settings, there’s a point where the game is either too easy (golf aids enabled, amateur golfer, auto-club selection) or too difficult (aids disabled, pro golfer, and very few visual clues about ball position and lie). The golf environment doesn’t help: not being able to judge distances to the green or even ball lie can seriously dampen the experience, no matter which difficulty setting is enabled.
Concept = 3
Golf translates well to the computer screen, especially with its static backgrounds and negligible need for computer AI. However, for this very same reason, sim golf requires more innovation and artistry to become a realistic experience. I wanted more movement, more depth to the graphics, and more immersion. Instead, the game feels dated and ultimately lacks the vision and overall quality of Sierra’s PGA Championship Golf.
Multiplayer = 7
“Play with the Pros” was a great idea, and the implementation is equally sound. For example, it was a thrill to compete against a cyber Justin Leonard on the sixth hole at Sawgrass the other day. And, watching other players slowly eliminate themselves from the competition was also satisfying. The only complaint here is that the setup and configuration screens were often garbled or mixed into other options on the screen, probably because they were fed into the game from an EA server. Internet play is also engaging, although without an in-game chat mode or any other indication that you are in multiplayer, internet play looks and plays exactly like any other game mode. Internet speed was never an issue, a given for this type of static gameplay.
Overall = 4
Does PGA TOUR® 2000 live up to the Tiger Woods name? Definitely not, since the static backgrounds and video clips never help to re-create a true golfing experience. Is it fun to compete against real pros on some of the best courses in the world? You bet, and for that reason I do recommend PGA TOUR® 2000 to golf fans who just can’t wait for Sierra’s 2000 edition of PGA Championship Golf.
Installation was painless. Including the course designer on a separate disc was a good move, since you can build courses on, say, a work computer and them tee up at home with the full version.
Buy the Game?
For those who wants to compete live against cyberpros in the latest tournaments, and for big fans of Tiger Woods and the exclusive Pebble Beach course, PGA 2000 is highly recommended. For those looking to simulate the golf experience instead of the real thing, the Sierra offering is more realistic and fun to play - and the 2000 version will make it the reigning king of the fairways.