[GAME REVIEW] Tiger Woods PGA Tour for iPhone/iPod Touch

Republished with permission of gamepeople.co.uk game reviews.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour
Platform: iPhone OS
Developer: EA
Publisher: EA Mobile

When I first got my iPod Touch, the game I was keenest about was definitely Tiger Woods PGA Tour. The touch interface and solid graphical horsepower offered the potential of a perfect portable golf experience. The reality is not far from this, although it never cashes in the fully imersive deep game it could have been.

I have been a huge fan of the franchise since its inception but have been pretty disillusioned, with regard to the last Tiger Woods iterations, by the decision move away from the PC to a sole focus on incarnations for the various top consoles. The thing I loved about the PC versions is the incredible level of intuitiveness, accuracy, and control that can be achieved with a mouse – in the 2005 release (which I consider a vintage), for example, I have become an absolute master at chipping in from off the green.

When it comes to console controllers, I have just never found any of them to allow that level of fine-tuning or the same sense that my knowledge of the actual game of golf (I am an enthusiastic, if mediocre, golfer) is of such direct benefit. In this sense, however, what control scheme could be purer than simply the swiping of a finger over the screen? Although I was nervous, knowing it was bound to be a simple, stripped-down version, the prospect of guiding Tiger around the course with the aid of the iPod Touch’s beautifully simple interface intrigued and excited me.

I have now been playing Tiger Woods PGA Tour for a couple of months, and on the whole I have not been disappointed. The presentation and menus are simple and clean, and the graphics are well thought out, being pleasing enough on the eye to sustain the experience, but not so buffed that the available resources are gobbled up causing the game to lag. The in game screen in mostly uncluttered (a problem with which some big-screen Tiger Woods games have suffered), with all the info you need clearly and straightforwardly presented.

From the off I found the general navigation and selection controls is be fairly intuitive and simple, with the one bizarre exclusion of the shot alignment screen. For some strange reason, EA has decided that when you want to change where you are aiming when the camera is zoomed in on the target, you have to do so by moving the cursor around the screen in mirror – so if you want to go left you must drag it to the right and so on. This is a pretty clunky implementation of an action that you need to perform a lot in a game. However, while it is a strange choice, after a while I got used to the back-to-front way of working and can now quickly and accurately aim without any issue.

At first I was a little frustrated by the very shallow learning curve involved. Partly because of the elegant simplicity that the iPod Touch’s interface does indeed lend to proceedings (I knew it, I knew it), after an hour or so of play I could drive the ball in the region of 370 yards, hit the majority of greens on all the available courses in regulation, and sink 30-plus yard putts with decent frequency – high-end achievements which I would have hoped to have had to work harder to master.

The shots with which I initially struggled and got pretty frustrated were atypical approach shots. On the occasions when I’d over or miss-hit a tee shot and found myself in rough or sand, I found playing from these areas of the course a much tougher prospect. I found, as I have with some previous Tiger Woods games, that the information provided on screen was not tremendously accurate, which helped to make things much more difficult if you wandered even a blade from the sanctuary of the fairway. In a way it is nice to have such a strong incentive to drive well and hit sensible second shots on par 5 holes, but it is frustrating if making up a loose shot on a hole seems almost impossible. Over time, however, I improved my ability to control the swing accurately and to judge for myself what shot strength was needed to overcome various types of impaired lie. Indeed, it was this and learning to experiment with fade and draw off the tee and fairway that really brought home to me what a good job EA has done with the simple swing controls.

For me, the key with golf games is rewarding the effort and attention that the dedicated fan will be willing to put in, and on the whole this version passes that test. For starters, the level of accuracy needed, while still high enough to encourage the experienced, long-term golf gamer, has been suitably scaled down to fit with the portable, dip-in, dip-out approach to gaming that the iPod Touch caters for so well. This having been said, the game feels consistent – i.e. I feel I can trust things to be and feel the same over time (even if the information given on screen regarding power and lie are not that useful, they allow for a fairly standard adjustment factor).

Tiger Woods PGA Tour really has lived up to both my expectations. The simplicity of the touch screen controls really do make for an elegant interface, but I was also right to be concerned about the scope for exploring this that the game would allow. Tiger Woods PGA Tour is a really well put together golf game that has something for the casual, waste-some-time-during-a-bus-ride gamer and the ardent golf game fan alike.

However, while it certainly whet my appetite for golf on the iPod Touch, at the high end it is missing the depth to really cash in on all its potential – I guess predictably for a $5 app on a fledgling portable platform. Hopefully, with the iPod/iPhone’s gaming credentials being confirmed by the minute, it will not be that long until a fully fledged Tiger Woods game appears. In the meantime, if you haven’t got it already, this version is well worth exploring, especially if you see it reduced in the App Store.

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