Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 Review

By Scott Alan Marriott - Posted Jun 09, 2010

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 offers robust online features and a new focus strategy in addition to the same tried and true formula seen in past games. Unfortunately, it's an update that doesn't make enough progress from its predecessor to hit greatness.

The Pros
  • Robust online features
  • Addictive character progression system
  • Focus mechanic adds strategy to matches
The Cons
  • Game doesn't feel substantially new or different
  • Weak character models and awkward visual effects
  • Generic commentary doesn't help presentation

With a new year -- and so much buzz about the advancement of golf gaming -- should come a fresh approach. Unfortunately, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 feels more like a refurbished model than a new game. While there are plenty of added features and marketing bullet points, none of the additions are distinctive enough to justify a blind purchase unless you're a die-hard golf fan.

PGA Tour 11 is essentially the same game you've enjoyed for the past few years with a few relatively minor enhancements. Sure, there are the requisite new modes and tweaks you expect with each annual release, but the play mechanics, presentation, and "feel" of the game haven't taken a significant leap forward. The game's most glaring fault is that it doesn't do enough to distinguish itself from the mechanically superior Wii version, apart from the analog-based swing system. The technology behind the platforms could not be more disparate, yet there's really only one area where the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions outshine the "lesser" console: online play. Only now there's an annoying restriction attached to it.

Performance Issues

The presentation is one of the biggest letdowns in PGA Tour 11. Players look like plastic action figures, and despite a wide assortment of customization options to personalize your golfer, the results are merely passable. Athletes look "pasted" onto the environments, and you'll notice weird things like clubs disappearing into the terrain as you make contact. The 18 available courses, five of which are new, are also underwhelming in appearance. The water looks great, but the rough in some environments looks more like hair plugs than actual grass. While you'll see your golfer's shirt and even some strands of hair blowing in the wind, the course itself is unaffected. The cloth flapping effect is overdone, reminiscent of the perpetual "sweating" of athletes in early Xbox 360 NBA games. 

 

Crowd galleries appearing on each hole is a great idea, but they all have the same animations, clapping in unison like some robotic zombie horde. The commentary is still painfully generic. There's no banter between the two announcers, nor are there interesting stories, situation-specific observations, and so forth. Instead you'll hear things like "that was a great approach" or "looks like it's in the tall grass." Gee, you think? Thanks for the insight. Maybe next time you can tell us what exactly happened during the swing to cause the ball to do what it did.

More of the Same?

In addition to the modes from last year's game, PGA Tour 11 introduces a skills challenge and the Ryder Cup. The skills challenge has you attempting to complete 48 goals against 16 real-life professionals such as Suzann Petersen and Stephen Ames. Completing each task will earn your created golfer experience points, which is part of the game's new progression system. Instead of cash, you'll be earning experience for each birdie, long putt, fairway in regulation, and similar action you achieve. Your character will level up, and you can spend points to customize one of 11 attributes. The system is quite addictive and offers you an added incentive to keep playing a course even if you aren't performing at your best.

The Ryder Cup is a bit of a disappointment, since there's not much to it other than choosing an initial 12-person team and completing a series of matches. There's no real team management functions or strategy in between matches, other than deciding which golfer on your team you'd like to control during the event's five sessions. You can customize the course, game types, and other settings associated with the mode, and you'll be able to use your created golfer if you so desire. Yet, other than the team-based format, there's nothing in the Ryder Cup mode you can't get elsewhere in the game.

Focus Pocus

The most substantial gameplay change is the addition of a focus meter, which adds a bit of strategy to matches. Previous games let you bang on a button like a wild chimpanzee to increase your power, or frantically tap a button to influence spin while the ball was in the air. Now performing these arcade-style actions will cost you focus, represented by a circular meter. To build focus, you simply need to play solid golf. Then you can decide how best to use focus during play. Perhaps you want to increase your accuracy for a particular shot, which will shrink your targeting circle, or maybe you want to save your focus to help your short game. It's far from a revolutionary idea, but it does give you some options on the links, and the added strategy is certainly welcome.

Pay to Play

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 is the first EA Sports title to include the controversial Online Pass. Each new copy of the game comes with a code printed on the back of the instruction manual that grants you full access to online features, something that was normally offered on consoles, with no strings attached, since 2003. What this means, unfortunately, is that those who borrow, rent, or purchase the game used will have to pay roughly ten dollars to access the online features. There's also a seven-day trial included, but this system effectively punishes families who want to purchase one game to share between siblings by adding an additional fee for online play.

And online play is easily the game's best feature. The GamerNet system is still as enjoyable as ever, rewarding you with points for beating another online user's drive, putt, chip, or score on any of the included holes in the game. You also have daily challenges to complete; daily, weekly, and monthly tournaments; and a new 12-on-12 team option inspired by the single-player Ryder Cup feature. Here you'll be able to choose a side within a lobby, select someone to play against, and attempt to win the match for your team. You'll see how well your teammates (and competition) are doing via color-coded shot arcs displayed on the screen while you play, adding to the excitement.

Platform Differences: The PlayStation 3 version offers the same play modes and feature set as the Xbox 360 version, and suffers from the same shortcomings as well. There is one notable difference, however, that could easily make this the preferable version of the two titles. EA has already announced that Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 on PS3 will support the PlayStation Move controller upon the peripheral’s release, allowing users to take advantage of Move’s motion-sensing controls as an alternative to the analog-based swing system. Of course, this feature has yet to be implemented.

Par for the Course

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 offers great online features and an engaging progression system to go along with its familiar play mechanics. Yet there's no course designer, disc golf, miniature golf, party games, legendary golfers, or similar features that would have made PGA Tour 11 a more attractive purchase for owners of previous versions. If the Wii version is any indication, a Project Natal update and the announced PlayStation Move compatibility patch may be just the impetus to get this series back on solid footing.

Still want to play it? Why not rent it at Gamefly?