The Tiger Woods series has long stood atop the charts as the best-selling golf franchise year in and year out. There's typically very little to distinguish one year's version from the next, but the games have always played well, and, judging by the sales numbers, people have been happy with the incremental upgrades. But even those expecting minimal improvements are likely to be disappointed with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08. There are some new features, but many of them don't work. Also, there are a fair amount of frustrating bugs (particularly in the Xbox 360 version) that give the game a rushed feel. Even the game's most noteworthy feature, the analog swing, doesn't work as well as in previous years.
TW 08's game modes are almost exactly the same as last year's. New to the 360 and PS3 is bingo, bango, bongo, a head-to-head mode where you are awarded "bingo" for being the first on the green, "bango" for being the closest to the pin when you reach the green, and "bongo" for having the best score. It's OK, but as the lone new play mode it's underwhelming. Online play is largely unchanged--even the lag issues and glitches are back for another go. Career mode hasn't seen a whole lot of change, but what is different is better. You can now choose how long you want standard and major tournaments to be, which is nice for anyone who doesn't want to go through four rounds on the same course for one tournament. Thanks to the addition of Westchester, TPC Boston, Cog Hill, and East Lake, all FedEx Cup courses are in the game. Thanks to the addition of Westchester, TPC Boston, Cog Hill, and East Lake, all FedEx Cup courses are in the game. Throw in Harbour Town and there are now 16 courses--a healthy amount, but still far fewer than in the last-gen versions. There are 21 professional golfers in the game, eight of which are new: JB Holmes, Justin Rose, Camilo Villegas, Cristie Kerr, Morgan Pressel, Paul Casey, Paula Creamer, and Natalie Gulbis. Of the amateur golfers, many, like Pops Masterson, are returning favorites, but there are also some new faces, such as soccer player Wayne Rooney, to play with and against.
Once again you start your career as either a rookie Tiger Woods or a created golfer with limited skills. You can improve your skills a little by performing well in events, but you'll want to take the skills challenges, which are largely unchanged, to improve them quickly. The idea is to simulate a golfer getting better by practicing and gaining experience, but it feels artificial thanks to the level caps, which are the same for each skill and go up only when you beat certain tasks in the Tiger challenge. Not only do all golfers end up playing the same (because you tend to level their skills up evenly), but the process is cumbersome--especially if you play the series every year. Because your golfer will stink to start off, you won't stand a chance at winning a tournament event. Making you play with such a lousy golfer feels like a contrived, last-ditch effort to make the game challenging. Speaking of artificial challenges, the CPU's tendency to go from making miracle shots to blowing absurdly short putts depending on how close the match is seems more pronounced than ever.
Because your golfer isn't much better than the average weekend hacker, you'll spend your time playing the Tiger Challenge until you've gotten the skills and the equipment to take on the tour. Rather than consisting only of 9- and 18-hole challenges against other golfers like last year, the challenges are typically shorter and more varied. There are long drive contests, par-3 challenges, and challenges from the rough and sand. It's certainly more interesting than before, but the sheer number of events means that the challenges still become tedious because there isn't all that much variety to them.
If you can get it to work, the game face can be pretty entertaining--even if the result doesn't always look much like the picture.
A few changes have been made to how the game plays on the course--some good and some not so good. The best addition is the return of the "3 button press" mechanic from early in the series. At any point in the round, you can push the right analog stick in and the meter comes up. You press one button to start the swing, press it again to set the power, and press it a third time to determine accuracy. This works well, which is a good thing considering what EA did to the analog swing. It's extremely sensitive, so the slightest push to the left or right will send your ball sailing into the rough, or, quite frequently, out of bounds. The sensitive stick is most problematic on the Xbox 360, but it's still an issue on the PS3, just to a lesser degree. This is an issue even when using a golfer like Tiger Woods, but it's a huge problem when starting out with a created golfer--they'll hit the ball everywhere and don't have the power to make up for mistakes.
Another change, this time for the better, is how you add a draw or fade to your shot. You just tap a button to instantly teleport to the landing zone (you can hold it down to slowly zoom), and then add a fade to the shot by pressing left bumper or L1 to move the target to the left, or add a draw by pressing right bumper or R1 to move the target to the right. This works great and really pays dividends when you're hitting off the back tees and are forced to make more creative shots. Putting has gone largely untouched, but now you can check your aim and power by pressing a button to zoom out above the green to see the path the ball will travel. You can't make any adjustments while using this view and you can use it only once per shot--but it still makes putting too easy. It's no problem at all to drain 50-foot putts; in fact, you'll do it so often you'll come to expect to make them nearly every time.