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Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08
Score: 85%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: Tiburon
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 2; 2 - 4 (Online)
Genre: Sports (Golf)/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
As with many of its other sports franchises, EA has never been one to completely reinvent the wheel. There are always a few features added in each year's addition, though they rarely do much to disrupt the basic gameplay. Those looking for major changes in the latest edition of Tiger Woods PGA Tour will be disappointed; though the number of courses and a few features have been tweaked, the game mostly resembles last year's game.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 looks great - there's no question about that. But what really makes the game impressive is the Photo Face feature. When creating your character, you can import a digital photo of yourself (I assume you'll also be able to use the new PlayStation Eye when it releases) and map it to your character. It is really neat to see how well the photo is mapped to the model and the end result is pretty accurate (provided you begin with a good picture and do a good job adding map points). You can further customize your character by adding hairstyles, clothes and other physical features.

Beyond the player-creation, the game looks incredible. Golfers are really detailed, right down to little mannerisms that add more life to the digital characters. With the exception of spectators, who look blocky and blurry, the courses look good.

Sound is the presentation's weakest link. The commentary is lame and overly-repetitive. The jokes aren't funny and will probably have you rolling your eyes more than laughing. Music isn't much better, but thankfully the game is mostly quiet...

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 includes all of the modes found in last year's version along with a new one called "Bingo, Bango, Bongo," where players are awarded points for reaching the green first, getting closest to the pin on the green or having the highest score. For anyone looking for something just a little different, the mode is mildly entertaining, though it won't hold your interest for very long.

In Career Mode, you take the role of a player-created golfer (or a skill-reduced Tiger) and compete in tournaments. Between tournaments you compete in events, such as skill challenges. By performing well in these events, your golfer will improve his stats. The idea behind the system is well intentioned, but rendered useless by the addition of skill caps; as a result, everyone ends up playing the same. Early on, you'll notice some skill differences as you level up certain skills, but once you start hitting caps there isn't much of a difference.

Several challenges have been added to Tiger Challenge. Here you go through a number of challenges and contests, all leading to a one-on-one game with Tiger. New golfers, both real and fictional, are unlocked as you defeat them. You also earn money in these modes that you can later spend in the Pro Shop. The equipment you purchase can help to raise your stats, giving you a better shot at winning.

Though it doesn't serve a practical gameplay purpose (at least for casual golf fans), the Shot Confidence mechanic is a cool new addition for players who obsess over stats. The mechanic tracks how you do at certain holes or with certain clubs, giving you a good idea of your current skill level.

Up to four players can take part in multiplayer modes. In addition to playing rounds online, you can also create custom challenges using the GamerNet feature. Once you complete one of these challenges, you can upload your score and challenge other players to beat it. There's really no limit to the number of parameters your can set, though some are really ridiculous.

When you first begin Career Mode, the game is incredibly hard. Your rookie golfer has nothing when it comes to skills, making it difficult to place high in any tournaments (unless you're just THAT awesome). The progression is understandable and, again, works well in theory. However, the slow progression becomes such a grind that eventually the challenge feels artificial. Rather than testing the player's skills, it tests their patience.

A.I. opponents outstripe you in every sense, making it hard to win tournaments, especially at lower levels.

Game Mechanics:
A new addition to the putting game is Putt Preview, which allows you to see the path your putt will take. You can use the feature once in each spot, which - at least in theory - should quickly become one of your most-used tools in the game. Although the projected path would sometimes show up right on the mark, most of the time it was a bit off the mark, so it wasn't all that useful. Eventually you'll learn little tricks when putting, so even if the preview over-estimates the shot, you'll still know exactly how much power to put into it. Since you can use the preview before every putt, eventually you'll find yourself missing few putts.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 brings back the time-tested 3-button shooting mechanic which was the golf videogame standard until moving to the analog stick. I've always preferred this method to the stick and was happy to see that it returned. However, the system returns with a major downside; the timing is very unforgiving. Managing to get just the right amount of power and accuracy is tough, so veterans may notice a few strokes added to their game as they re-adjust. The system works, though it doesn't have the feedback offered by the stick.

Although it doesn't add too much, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 is a great game if you're bored of last year's version and want to try something new. However, if the new additions don't sound too appealing, you can stick to last year's version and not miss a whole lot.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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