Mark Twain once described golf as "a good walk ruined." Perhaps he'd have been a little more forgiving of the sport if he'd had an opportunity to spend some time with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10. EA Sports' latest hit-the-ball-at-the-hole simulator doesn't reinvent the genre, nor does it represent a huge leap forward over its predecessor, but there are plenty of new features and refinements on its scorecard to make it a winner for newcomers and veterans alike.
Should a guy in a bunny suit really be taking his putts so seriously?
Tiger Woods 10 is a golf game that seems designed to be all things for all people. For purists, there are 16 of the world's finest courses, club tuning options, US Golf Association rules, and a Tournament Challenge mode in which you can relive memorable achievements alongside pros. There are also live tournaments that take place alongside real-world events, such as the US Open, and let you compete with pros on the same leaderboard and in similar weather. For those whose knowledge of golf is limited to having seen Adam Sandler's Happy Gilmore, on the other hand, there are items of clothing that dramatically improve your attributes, an extremely forgiving default difficulty level, and wacky customization options that include a pink rabbit suit and a biker jacket. There are also laughable unlockable golfer animations and the ability to hit the ball significantly farther than any real-life pro--much like the hero of the aforementioned movie. Tiger Woods 10 is a game that anyone with even a passing interest in golf can enjoy, but it's unfortunate that its serious side and its Sandler side don't always play well together.
The game's biggest problem is that while new game-changing weather, the great new (optional) putting system, and the quality of your analog or three-click swing are factors that affect your performance on the course, all too often, it's your choice of golfer that has the biggest impact on how well you do. There are more than 30 pro and novelty golfers to choose from, but unless you're deliberately looking to handicap yourself, there's really no reason to play as anybody but Tiger Woods. There are a handful of characters with slightly better ratings for accuracy, but none that come close to matching Tiger's near-perfect ratings for all three of the remaining attributes: power, short game, and putting. None, save for the countless superhuman player-created golfers online who, after several hours of play, can make a trip to the pro shop and purchase a "max attributes" outfit.
Initially, creating and playing as a custom golfer can be very satisfying. You have the option to use digital photos uploaded to an EA Web site or your console's camera to put something vaguely resembling your face into the game; you play a few shots to determine your starting attributes; and, for a few rounds, you really have to play well to keep up with the pros. Your attributes will improve (or occasionally worsen) after every round based on your performance, and you're given opportunities to work on aspects of your game by replaying shots from your previous round in simple exercises presented by your in-game coach. That's all well and good, but your golfer improves so rapidly that by the time you reach your second or third Career mode tournament, it's relatively easy for you to win every competition thereafter--at least playing on the default difficulty.
Tiger Woods. Custom characters aside, there's no reason to play as anyone else.
Switching among Tiger 10's four difficulty modes doesn't impact which tees you play from or the inconsistent AI of the pro players. Rather, it determines how forgiving the controls are and which player aids you get to use. For example, on the default amateur difficulty, moving the analog stick down and then up to perform a swing determines the power of your shot but has very little impact on its direction. However, on pro difficulty, anything other than a perfectly vertical movement of the stick will result in a hook or a slice. If you ramp up the difficulty to the most challenging tour pro setting, you can no longer use power boosts, which you trigger by tapping a button during your swing; you can no longer add spin to the ball after striking it, which is done in much the same way; and, you don't get to use the putt preview, which gives you a second chance to line up shots on the green by showing you what your first attempt will look like without actually having to play it.