Before starting this review, let me make one thing clear: I’m not a golfer. I’ve played miniature golf a handful of times over the years, and I even played a single round of real golf once when I was a kid, but that’s pretty much it. Who knows, maybe I’ll take it up someday when I have the time and money. For now, the fact remains that I’m not the best person to judge the accuracy of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08. That being said, I do consider myself something of an authority on what I find fun. Although swinging the Wii remote like a golf club in Tiger 08 may offer some brief enjoyment at first, the overall experience is primarily one of profound annoyance and frustration.
The central issue that plagues Tiger 08 for the Wii—the problem that no amount of visual gloss or fancy game modes can alleviate—is its inconsistent and imprecise motion-sensing controls. To succeed, players must be able to effectively manipulate both the power and direction of their shots. Sadly, it is in just these areas that the game is most unsuccessful. Initially, Tiger 08 fares well against the golfing in Wii Sports (the game that most players will compare it to) in that the onscreen swing seems to replicate arm movements with far greater completeness and subtlety. The game’s flaws become painfully apparent, however, once players start trying to gain control over the ball.
By far the most maddening aspect of Tiger 08 is its poor implementation of draw and fade shots (i.e., shots in which the ball curves slightly to the right or left). In theory, draw and fade shots are performed by rotating the Wii remote to the right or left before taking a swing and then maintaining the rotated position throughout the swing. In practice, I was only able to successfully carry out either of these shots around 50 percent of the time at best. To make matters worse, the game has an annoying tendency to interpret straight swings as fade shots. If the developers couldn’t come up with a more reliable system for pulling off special shots, then they should have left them out altogether.
Almost as vexing as the sloppy draw/fade mechanic is the game’s inaccurate detection of swing strength. Power is determined by a combination of controller speed and the height of the front and back swing. Unfortunately, the game can’t seem to differentiate between anything beyond a medium-speed movement. Getting a shot to register at under 100 percent often requires moving at ridiculously sluggish speeds. I may not be a golfer, but I’ve studied physics, and hitting a golf ball in slow motion shouldn’t send it soaring 300 yards. Having to swing the Wii remote in a way that seems to fly in the face of common sense makes me feel like giving up and reverting back to a standard controller.
Fortunately, matters become less baffling once the ball is on the green. In putting mode, players can actually gauge the swing power using an onscreen meter. While the physical movement of the remote doesn’t exactly reflect the experience of putting, the strength meter at least affords a welcome degree of control. Overlaid on the green is a square grid with moving dots on the gridlines indicating which way the ball will roll in a given area. The dots and lines are somewhat useful for planning which direction to hit the ball in, but it makes the screen look too busy and cluttered. It would have been nice if the developers could have found a more natural way to convey the contours of the green.
I was really hoping that Tiger 08 would satisfy my desire to have a polished and refined golfing experience that uses the Wii remote. Wii Sports hinted at the possibilities, but still left a lot to be desired in terms of graphics, variety, and gameplay. Tiger 08 delivers realistic visuals and a wide variety of courses, but at the end of the day a golf game for the Wii is really only as good as the precision and reliability of its motion-sensing controls. With its frustrating and inconsistent gameplay, however, Tiger 08 is (much as I hate to say it) way under par. I’m no golfer, but if this game is anything like the real thing, then I think I’d better find another hobby to take up after I retire.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the Wii version of the game.