I hate golf. I find it boring, long-winded and pointless. Its only redeeming features are the open air and the occasional murmur of nearby fauna. So imagine my surprise when, having acquired a shiny new Nintendo Wii, I became profoundly addicted to the Wii Sports golf game!
As other reviewers have mentioned, playing the same 9 holes over again is not so much boring as frustratingly limited, and I soon felt the urge to take my living-room golfing career to a new level. Bratz and Barbies are not exactly my cup of tea, so Panya Golf was of course out of the question, and I sought a more realistic, professional style of game. The most obvious option (and most likely the safest bet) was Tiger Woods 08. Fortunately I was not disappointed...
The first thing that struck me was of course the graphical realism compared Wii Sports. Ahh... I can almost smell that country air and freshly-mown grass. These highly-detailed graphics do tend to cause juddery images all too frequently, but that is more down to hardware than software. This also accounts for the lack of visible spectators (they cheer a lot, but are nowhere to be seen) but I don't wanna be looking at people anyway. The second thing that struck me was the rather unintuitive menu system, which uses the "-" button to backtrack through the options, whereas "B" would seem the obvious choice, and a cumbersome zig-zag layout of the icons. Still, it doesn't take long to get used to. Only Nintendo can make 100% user-friendly user interfaces, so EA can be forgiven for not quite hitting the mark here.
Gameplay-wise, EA have come up with ALMOST exactly what I was looking for. Sure, the Wiimote does not always respond as intended, you can't feel the club hitting the ball like in Wii Sports, and the ball seems preprogrammed to stop 6mm short of the hole on every putt (this effect diminishes as your "Luck" increases), but with eighteen full 18-hole courses and dozens of different championships, game modes and customization options, and even the occasional murmur of nearby fauna, TW'08 is sure to keep me engrossed for many, many months to come. The learning curve is fairly steep, but highly rewarding after a while as you win money and experience points that can be spent on improving skills and equipment.
The courses are beautifully recreated (I imagine) as are the picturesque landscapes (I suppose) and the real-life players (I guess - the only one I know is Tiger Woods. Wot no Sevvy Ballesteros?!?) The commentators' remarks are poignant to the point of clairvoyance and often dryly humorous, which makes for a more lighthearted feel to it all, but in no way detracts from the constant feeling of striving for professional perfection. I really feel compelled to improve my swings, pitches and putts, and after only a few days am already feeling that yearning to get on the links of an evening and work my way to the top!
Pro golfers would probably scoff at the tacked-on frivolities such as taunts, post-tee-off spin control, RPG-style levelling-up system and $1000 blue rinses, but for links-virgins like me the sheer enormity, variety and well-roundedness of this game are enough to justify spending 40 quid on the in-home green fees.
So did I mention I love golf? It's one of the most challenging, frustrating and satisfying sports in the world, and certainly the most addictive. And it's all recreated here in Tiger Woods '08, in the comfort of your own home. All, that is, except REAL open air and nearby fauna....