Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003 - PS2 - Review

In recent years, golf has changed quite a bit and Tiger Woods has undeniably been at the forefront of this change.  Single-handedly, he's created a fan-base that the game has never before seen.  As a result of this, some great golf games have been released because developers have received more financial backing than ever before.  The Tiger Woods PGA Tour franchise has definitely been the best of the bunch thus far, so how does the newest version stack up?  Read on to find out.

In Tiger Woods 2003 you start out as an amateur golfer with no money and a skill level far below that of the pros.  You've got a long way to go to get to the top of the money list with the man himself, but if you've got determination you can do it.  You must participate in tournaments, play in skins matches, go head-to-head against some fairly strange golfers, and more.  By making money and progressing through the game, you'll be able to buy stat points to increase your skills as well as open up new courses, players, equipment, etc.

Just as in the 2002 version, this game starts out with a brief tutorial that introduces you to all the basic controls in the game.  It's very helpful if you're unfamiliar with the control scheme, but taking advantage of the practice mode may also be worthwhile if you're new to the franchise.  Once you have earned your tour card and think you've got enough game to be competitive; it's time to move on to one of the many game modes that brings in the cash.  Most of these modes are the same as those in the previous version, including: the primary Tiger challenge, scenarios, stroke play, match play, skins, speed golf, and tournament mode.  New for 2003 is the SkillZone mode, which contains five different mini-games, and the online event mode.

The Tiger Challenge is setup a little bit differently than it was before.  Instead of facing all opponents in the traditional match play (hole-by-hole), you must also play skins as well as complete scenarios and tournaments.  This is better because it makes the gameplay a little more diverse, but it also means there's more waiting and watching the computer players than ever.  Meaning, you are still not able to skip watching opponents' every shot, so the result is games that are too lengthy.  It's pretty bad when, for example, it's a four player skins match and you have to watch each golfer's shot before you can shoot.  The option to skip right to your shot would be nice, since it would allow you to get through these games much faster.  Beating opponents opens up the course you played on, the player you beat, and one hole on Tigers dream 18 course.  There are now five different tour cards (T, I, G, E, and R) and as you obtain each, the money you earn increases.  Newly added is the ability to place wagers on each challenge in this mode, which is nice as it provides another opportunity to make some dough.

A great alternative to Tiger Challenge mode is scenario mode.  This mode puts you in a variety of situations out on the course and awards you with a bronze, silver or gold medal depending on your performance (which all yield different amounts of cash).   These scenarios range from getting eagles on several par 5's to coming back and winning after being down a few shots on Tiger.  Some of these are quite difficult while others can be completed effortlessly, but the nice thing is that there are 50 total, which is just about double the amount found in 2002.

Last year's game introduced speed golf, which was really not even worth playing.  It's still available in 2003 and it actually seems a tad more enjoyable.  However, the new SkillZone definitely proves to be much more worthy.  Instead of being about all speed and little skill as speed golf is, many of the SkillZone games are a great balance between the two.  All of the five mini-games are played on courses designed specifically for this mode and they are very impressive, especially the indoor warehouse course.  All of these games are based around accuracy as there are pins placed around the levels with targets that surround them.  Landing the ball right next to the pin on the inner ring gets you the most points and the outer rings result in less.  Some of the games are timed, while others instead have a limited number of balls available to hit.  Two of the games, T-I-G-E-R (like horse), and capture are two-player only games and they prove to be fun to play against others.

Within any game mode, certain shots will also get you some cash, including birdies, eagles, chip ins, hitting the green in regulation and so forth.  There's also the opportunity to earn trophy balls for superior playing.  These can be obtained and added to your trophy case / player resume by getting six birdies in a row, getting a hole in one, hitting the pin, etc.  Unfortunately, these cannot be earned in scenario mode as it seems like at least some of them should be.

There are a wide variety of golfers within Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003.  A large selection of actual PGA players in addition to the more entertaining fantasy characters makes for a great combination.  Each player has a great introduction video that gives you some background on them, whether real or fake.  Playing against characters such as "The Don", who 'might' have some ties with organized crime, may be fun, but beating him may cost you your life (or so the rumor goes).  These characters definitely add a fun element to the game.

The variety of new courses are all incredibly well done and all prove to be unique and fun to play.  Whether playing at Pebble Beach Golf Links, Royal Birkdale, or one of the three new fantasy courses you'll feel like you're actually there due to the reworked visuals.  The fantasy courses are more impressive than ever and they have some of the longest most difficult holes ever to grace the game, which mixes it up a bit.  Another cool new feature is the random 18 course selection that lets you play various holes from all the courses in one round.  However, Tiger's Dream 18 course is a big letdown this year.  Instead of being an actually course designed to his liking; this year it's just a made up of holes from other courses in the game.  Come on now!

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003 is less forgiving in terms of how straight the analog stick must be for an accurate shot, compared to the 2002 version.  As the analog stick is drawn back, even if no colors are shown (these let you know whether or not your backswing is straight), the ball often goes where it shouldn't.  This can be somewhat frustrating, as it takes longer to perfect your swing.  What's more frustrating though is the putting in the game.  You must base your putt solely off of your caddie's tip, as it's not possible to look across the green like it was in 2001.  The problem is that the tip you're given is often not so accurate and if you go by it, there's no way you'll make the shot.  There should be options when planning for a putt so it's more like you're actually out on the course.

The last complaint I have is in regards to the lack of AI computer players possess.  If, for example, a computer player hits the ball into the water, they may continue to do so until the shot limit is exceeded without changing their approach at all.  While it's nice because it guarantees you'll win the hole; it's not too realistic.  Luckily this doesn't happen too often though.

There's a reason why the Tiger Woods franchise has been the best selling golf game out there and the 2003 will be no exception.  The game proves to be a great mix of fun and realism and it brings a lot of energy to the conservative game of golf.  While there still are a few minor issues that need to be resolved, this product is an overall solid performer and should be added to every golf fan's wish list.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003 is rated E for everyone and takes up 145KB on a PS2 memory card.


Gameplay: 8.5
It's amazing just how realistic the gameplay is.  If you have this game there's no reason to go to the course at all!  Okay, maybe that's not true, but if you're horrible at golf like I am...then it is.  The physics are right on and, as a result, each golfer can hit about as far as they can in real life.  So the game is a very accurate links simulation, even though it contains some elements that make it like an arcade title, such as the fantasy golfers/courses.  There are now more courses to play on than ever, and they have all been extremely well modeled.  The control scheme remains as it was last year; there are no new features in this area.  Putting remains to be a major downfall for the game, as the caddy tip is often not accurate and it's still not possible to get down and look across green like most people would actually do.  Other than that, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003 is a pretty solid performer.

Graphics: 9.5
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003 is now by far the best looking golf game on the market.  The environments and the players themselves both look incredible.  The lighting appears completely revamped and every course's sky is now breathtaking; virtually no details have been left out.  The plant-life looks more realistic than ever too, especially the newly added heather grass that softly sways in the wind.  When a golfer is shown close up you'll be amazed at how well they have been modeled, as even the texture on their face looks as if it's real.  Each golfer has a unique swing animation as well as a slew of others, such as the pool style tap-in shot.  If the ball is hit well from the tee, one of many new camera sequences is played, which each nicely emphasize the power of the shot.  The camera problem that resulted in horrible views for certain shots, which was very noticeable in last year's game has been, for the most part, resolved (but it's still not quite perfect).  The camera now often cuts to the golfer's face while the ball is still in the air, but this doesn't inhibit the ability to see where a shot is headed.  Having the ability to change the camera angle before a shot is also very helpful

Sound: 8.6
This game features great sound effects across the board; from the realistic club noises to the fans shouting out phrases like "get in the hole!" when you're putting.  The announcers could use a few more phrases though as they get annoying pretty quick.  The soundtrack has some decent groups on it, including: Boy Sets Fire, Ash, Paul Oakenfold, as well as others.  There's also a really nice feature that allows you to choose which songs are played in each game mode, so if you don't like a particular track you'll never have to hear it again.  Plus this means that you can turn on music during the traditional modes like Tiger Challenge, strokes, skins, etc.  Finally!

Difficulty: Medium
It takes some time get a feel for how to swing, but with a little practice anyone can join the fun.  However, compared to the 2002 version of the game, this one is a bit less forgiving when you don't swing perfectly.  Even though some parts of the game are somewhat difficult when your player is lacking in the stats department; there are always alternate ways to earn money, so it's virtually impossible to get stuck in this one.

Concept: 8.5
The Tiger Woods franchise brings a great deal of energy to the typically conservative game of golf.  New fantasy courses, the innovative SkillZone mini-games, and the somewhat revamped Speed Golf all contribute to making this game unique.  The new courses, especially the fantasy variety, are all very impressive, but the setup of Tiger's Dream 18 is disappointing.

Multiplayer: 8.2
This is truly a great game to play with friends, since there are such a wide variety of game modes to choose from.  Some of these modes support up to four players with or without the multi-tap, while others, such as T-I-G-E-R, support only two players.  However, the minimal support for online gameplay is somewhat disappointing.  Instead of allowing you to actually play against others over the internet, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003 only lets you submit your scores to a worldwide leader board to see how you stack up.  There are also weekly tournaments to participate in, but in this case, you still don't actually play against others.

Overall: 8.8

Great

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