Publisher: EA Tiburon/EA Sports
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii
It takes a special kind of thread to maneuver a needle as well-established (and, because it’s a professional golfing simulation, creatively handcuffed) as “Tiger Woods PGA Tour,” and it’s doubly difficult to please everybody in doing so. But in making changes that separately benefit those who want a more accessible golf experience and those who want a game that makes that first group cry, that’s precisely what “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11” does.
On the accessibility front, “TW11” introduces a slightly fantastical currency, called focus, that players can accrue by playing well and spend as they choose to add power to a shot, increase accuracy or (among other things) use a putt preview mechanic to help fine-tune a shot on the green.
The focus interface’s subtle design respects the integrity of the simulation, and because it’s rewarded to players through skillful play and hands out benefits with entirely believable results, it’s satisfyingly authentic despite being an inarguably contrived video game mechanic.
The focus currency headlines a number of more subtle changes that let unseasoned players cater “TW11” to best address their shortcomings. The career mode once again distributes skill improvements as players advance their created golfers through the PGA Tour calendar, but now players can allot experience points to the areas — putting, driving, fading and so on — that most need the help.
The optional tutorial lessons do a much better job of preaching the value of draws, lofts and shot types, and the analog stick controls (and meters for reading their accuracy) are responsive without, as they sometimes have in previous games, resorting to excess sensitivity.
On the complete other side of things is the new True Aim mode, which takes away all of “TW11’s” gamey assists and presents the entirety of the action, even post-shot, from the golfer’s point of view. Outside of a GPS device that helps players read the terrain and know the distance to the hole, the True Aim filter is akin to playing golf the way real golfers play it.
It’s little more than a new camera angle and a disabling of certain viewing functions, but it arguably is “TW11’s” best addition for players who crave authenticity and want a new kind of challenge from the series.
Though the aforementioned tweaks might be the best thing about “TW11,” the addition of team play is the most prominent. The Ryder Cup, complete with captain duties and team management, joins the roster of playable championships, and “TW11’s” online team play supports up to six teams of four players each.