Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Tiburon
Released: 8th June 2010
Other Formats: Xbox 360, Wii, iPhone
How do you go about reviewing a game that year on year is so incrementally different to its precursor. In fact, approaching Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 with new eyes is difficult, a series that strives for familiarity over vast changes to the core game play mechanics. Sticking with the basics first off, PGA Tour 11 alters the key fundamentals in its golfing game play very little, only refining the upgrading rewards, skill advancement and career progression aspects of the game, making sure the latest update is the best yet.
The 'flick-stick' swing mechanic returns once again (ever difficult to master as always!), whilst the ability to put spin on the ball mid-air, adding extra power through repeatedly tapping 'X' and improving accuracy (reducing the size of the expected drop-zone circle) by pressing 'X' within the shot preview screen are also all here. If you'd rather, you can also click the right stick for a more accurate (and my more preferred) setting to hitting the ball, the precise flick mechanic replaced by a more friendly and accessible cursor mechanic in which you must click to begin the back swing, click for power selection and then click when it approaches the right zone. The amount of 'draw' or 'fade' can also be altered by moving the cursor over where you wish to hit the ball. The basic set-up is as ever, tight and easy to use, however, what the latest offers elsewhere is what the game can be remembered for in differentiation from its rivals. The addition of the versatile and brilliantly implemented 'Focus' meter- its semi-circle folded over the HUD of the ball and club type- will enamour those who loved the previous games' granting of unlimited ball spin or power boost in every shot, whereas here you'll have to take into account what aspects of your game are lacking/which will suit the hole, since using any of the mentioned power boost, spin and putting previews will slowly drain the meter (only filled in slight quantities if un-used for a single shot). The system works so well that in actuality, it gives PGA Tour 11 a new lease of life from those that came before it, which were ever so slowly ebbing towards a stale death. You'll be cursing your impatient use of spin onto the green once you then approach a long putt with little more than the coloured gradient grid to help you along, putt preview an impossibility, yet a necessity, with the focus meter drained of all its accrued matter.
Otherwise, the only other additions come from the inclusion of the prestigious Ryder Cup- the dramatic Europe vs. USA battle for supremacy available either online or offline (good luck in getting the whole set of players together), whilst events including 'fourball' (each member of team has their own ball, the lowest scored hole earns a point), 'alternate shots' (teams of two play alternate shots for lowest shot count) and 'single play' all add variety away from the well handled progression of the career mode. This time centred around earned XP deriving from a number of instances (in-game targets such as sinking a long putt, or progressing through the game's other game modes, such as Tiger Woods' 'Skill Challenges' mode against rival golfers- from Suzann Petterson to Tiger himself), experience points will go some way in making sure your once weak character goes on to rival the cream of the crop, as it were, within the game. Thus, you can choose where to spend your accrued XP points in a number of areas; focusing on 'swing speed' and 'power boost' for added power, or 'balance' for accuracy, among others. Again, bringing into play what aspects of your game you feel you must concentrate on is paramount to how you approach such levelling; should you focus on putting prowess, or supreme power? It'd have been nice to have a few more choices regarding where to apply points, although the spread is large enough and broad enough to remain relevant.
The final addition to the game comes in the form of the new 'True Aim' mode which aims to replicate a more realistic golfing experience for those who want added depth and challenge. Removing the over-layed shot circle, as well as moving into a first-person viewpoint in simulation of tracking the ball as the player, 'True Aim' is likely to be enjoyed by only a select few gamers who will sink their teeth into the expansive game play, whilst others, like myself, can applaud its addition into what is otherwise an already weighty package.
Already incredibly accomplished in its TV-style aesthetic, PGA Tour 11 looks vivid, bright and graphically excellent- golfers are accurately animated and modelled, while each golf course is well realised with the lush, green grass contrasting to the ever-altering light and dark from the ever-changing weather effects. Neat TV tricks such as the pseudo EA 'live' tracker bar for shot updates from other golfers is a nice touch and adds to the competitive feel of the game. The way the camera moves and is worked into the style of the game is also well choreographed; panning, zooming and tracking movements to ensure each snippet of play is captured- although once or twice the ball is difficult to spot in its choice of long shots!
PGA Tour 11 can be considered another major step forward for the series, that has struggled recently towards yearly updates becoming insignificant. The addition of the 'Focus' mechanic is superbly handled, ensuring gamer's can finally be held from exploiting the artificiality of the game. Excellent in multiplayer as it has always been, with modes ranging from 'Target' to 'T.I.G.E.R' and 'Bingo Bango Bongo', it's a shame that EA have chosen to include the online pass system as part of its upkeep, requiring players to purchase a code for online play if not purchased new from retail. All in all, it's well worth a purchase if you're yet to get into the series, and a worthy addition to the mounting pile for fans.