Tiger Woods 08's touchy controls, iffy online play, and a general lack of new content made for one disappointing game. But just as Tiger didn't let torn ligaments and a broken leg keep him from winning the US Open, EA Sports hasn't used the short development cycle associated with yearly games as an excuse. Instead, it has worked to make the controls more user-friendly and further integrated the online gamernet feature. The result is a game that's worthy of carrying the Tiger Woods name.
Now you can evaluate your swing in real time.
Tiger Woods 09's controls aren't vastly different from TW 08, but they're much more forgiving. You start your swing by pulling back on the analog stick and then strike the ball by moving the stick forward. A more traditional three-button-press option is available at any time by clicking the right analog stick. Last year, the slightest deviation left or right during your swing would result in a terrible shot, particularly if you were using a golfer with low skill attributes. This year, not only are you punished less severely if your swing isn't perfect, but you also get instant feedback via an onscreen meter that shows exactly how you moved the stick. By monitoring this feedback, you can learn how to straighten your swing or compensate for your natural swing by adjusting your aim or by adding a draw or fade to the ball with the press of a button.
The addition of Tiger's own coach Hank Haney to TW 09 makes hitting the ball easier as well. You can now head to the driving range and adjust each of your clubs to best suit your playing style. For example, if you're struggling for accuracy off the tee, you can increase the sweet spot on your driver. This will help ensure that your drives stay on the fairway, but you'll sacrifice some distance. This level of customization is often intimidating in sports games, but here, the process is simple and worthwhile.
TW 09 includes 16 golf courses, which is the same number as last year. New courses include Wentworth, Sheshan, Wolf Creek, and Bay Hill. The Gary Player Country Club in South Africa is an excellent addition to the mix, but it's disappointing that there aren't more courses--especially when you consider how quick EA was to charge for downloadable courses in 08. The roster of male and female professional golfers is about the same as before, but there are a few new faces, such as Se Ri Pak and Darren Clarke. Like previous iterations, you can create a golfer using the game's deep customization tools, and you can even import your own photos to make a truly lifelike version of your mug (you can even add eyebrows this year).