It has been an eventful year for Tiger Woods, but while his personal life and his golf game have suffered, the good news is that his video game has not. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 introduces a number of new features to the long-running golf series that not only make it more realistic, but also add some much-needed challenge to the proceedings. You can still set the game up in such a way that birdies and eagles are easy to attain, but if you prefer a realistic challenge, you'll find that new features such as the focus system, the variable wind, and the optional true-aim control setup more than have you covered. Not all of the changes and additions to this year's game are as significant, but the vast majority of them are welcome, and given that Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 was so great, it's impressive that this year's game is easy to recommend as an upgrade.
6265211NoneIn Ryder Cup mode you're at the mercy of any AI player you partner with.
There are more than 25 professional golfers and a handful of novelty characters on the PGA Tour 11 roster, but while Tiger's near-perfect ratings for power, accuracy, control, and putting make him an obvious choice, it's far more rewarding to play as a custom golfer. That's not only because digital camera support makes it easy to put your face in the game, but also because whereas the stats for other golfers are fixed, custom golfers improve as you earn experience points across several different modes and spend them on stat increases and better equipment. The only downside to playing as a custom character is that, as part of the creation process, you have to choose one of 20 mostly dumb nicknames for spectators to use when they feel the need to yell words of encouragement in your general direction. Nothing detracts from the sense of occasion as you sink a winner on the 18th hole at St. Andrews quite like hearing some moron cheering for Big Dog, Blammo, or Playa.
After creating your custom golfer, you're encouraged to play through an eight-step tutorial that does a great job of introducing you to some of this year's most significant gameplay changes while also rewarding you with a decent number of experience points. The most significant new feature, which comes into play in a number of the tutorial steps, is the concept of player focus: an ingenious system that adds a layer of strategy to just about every shot you play by limiting the use of powerful player aids. You start each round with a finite amount of focus, and you spend a portion of it anytime you hit a ball at more than 100 percent strength, apply spin to a ball while it's in the air, temporarily reduce the size of your targeting circle with the new accuracy boost feature, or use the putt preview. The only way to replenish your focus, which doesn't happen quickly, is to play shots without using any of these things. It's a superb setup, because it forces you to take advantage of these arguably overpowered aids only when you feel you really need them, rather than using them as crutches on every hole.
The final tutorial encourages you to play a hole using the new true-aim control system, which makes the game significantly more difficult and realistic. The basic controls are unchanged, so you still swing the analog stick back and forth as if it were your club, but most of the aids disappear. A single arrow on the horizon shows where you're aiming; scattered markers that are often dozens of yards away from where your ball is likely to land are the only indicators of range and elevation; and draw and fade are applied by changing where you strike the ball rather than using a second targeting circle. Another neat touch when using true aim is that you watch your shots play out as if your head were following the ball. True aim isn't for everyone, but it's a great addition nonetheless, and since you can use it while playing on any of the four difficulty settings and in almost any mode, there's no reason not to try it.
It'll cost you focus to see a preview of this putt before attempting it.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 has so many different modes of play to choose from that the menu screens can be overwhelming. For example, simply hitting the "play now" option takes you to a second menu where you can choose from a dozen traditional modes (stroke play, match play, bingo bango bongo, four ball) and eight minigames (capture the flag, target, closest to the pin, T.I.G.E.R.). All of these modes are fun and afford you good opportunities to practice different aspects of your game. Most support and are best enjoyed with two to four players, but there are a few that work just as well when you're golfing solo. Depending on which of the modes you opt for, you might also need to choose which of the game's 17 real-world courses you want to play on before you can start. Alternatively, you can opt to play on a random course composed of holes from different courses, which is a great way to get a feel for just how varied the different locations are. Classics like St. Andrews, TPC Sawgrass, and Pebble Beach are joined by five new courses this year (Celtic Manor Resort, The Greenbrier, Liberty National, TPC Scottsdale, and Whistling Straits), a couple of which you might recognize as the homes of 2010 tournaments if you follow the sport. Incidentally, an additional fantasy course, named Highlands, is already available as premium downloadable content.