I’m not Mario. In Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11, I need to make my shots seriously stronger if I want to send the ball sailing over the sand dunes and water ponds that look like they were salvaged from an overhaul of Everquest. In order to strengthen my swings, improve my putt and increase all of those other golf statistics, I need to spend experience points. But those same experience points also unlock the clothes that I wear. I must chose between spending experience points on better golf skills or a new pair of shoes. In the world of Tiger Woods, it’s not easy to be both well-dressed and a good golfer.
Mario, that little tricky marionette, always has kid-friendly button pushing and timing games to rely on in his easy-access sports franchises (Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, etc.). (He hasn’t yet proven that he’s mastered motion-sensitive golf for the Wii.) Tiger Woods makes every swing a tense moment of immobile precision. The left thumbstick controls the golf club’s swing backwards and forwards, and in that meager half inch of motion every deviation to the left or right is deducted from the overall power and accuracy of the swing.
The thumbstick is great for controlling direction in shooters and works its broad, circular magic on the 3-D camera in Mario action games. But the tiny distance the thumbstick swings makes it a poor sensor of power. How fast, after all, is it possible to flick the stick? Tiger Woods allows me to add a little more spin and other subtleties to my swings by tapping buttons. But the left thumbstick is Swing Central when it comes to both control and power, and that’s a little too much dexterity to demand from one piece of plastic.
The Mario Golf games have the advantage of a cast of superstars. Mario has to be at least as good a golfer as Bowser, who must be a fair match for Luigi, who is balanced against Peach.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 expects me to create my own feeble little pro and work him up, mercilessly, through the game’s clunky series of tournaments, collecting experience points and, presumably, a better wardrobe along the way. There is always the option to step into the shoes of Tiger Woods himself and play a quick game with his maxed-out statistics. But with the same wobbly controller in charge of his swing, even Tiger Woods is no Mario.
THE GOOD: When I pop Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 in the PlayStation 3, an image of Tiger Woods fills the screen, his abdominal muscles furrowed beneath his shirt which is, appropriately, Jezebel red. At least EA is keeping their frontman looking trim and fit, even while the game behind him is looking flabby and old.
THE BAD: An alternative method of viewing the golf course gives a GPS reading, making for a more statistical selection of clubs and control. It entirely eliminates the enjoyable guesswork that comes with making a good golf swing. It’s also a pain to figure out how to turn this system off and return to traditional golfing.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 is a clunky, fussy golf game that makes the swing all thumbs.