Crispy Gamer

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 (Xbox 360)

If there's one thing that gamers have grown to expect about EA Sports' Tiger Woods series, it's the whole mess of tired and clich?d golf phrases that get tossed into the reviews year after year. ("This year's Tiger attacks the green and gives gamers a disc that's more than just par for the course.") No other franchise has been whacked as hard with the "stick of lazy journalism" as the Tiger franchise. So, in the interest of fairness, this review of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of Tiger will use only clich?s from other sports. Does Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 have trouble finding the plate, or does it hit nothing but net?

EA Sports threw gamers a curveball this year by rolling out its golf game in the spring instead of the fall. I never could understand the franchise's traditional end-of-summer release date. The PGA Tour season starts just after New Year's and wraps up semi-officially in September with the four FedEx Cup tournaments. (Fall tourneys keep things going until mid-November.) But the new release date does more than just make sense calendar-wise. It also lets gamers experience two of the cooler new features of Tiger 10.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10
Learn while you play.

The "Play the Pros" online mode is just flat-out, rim-rattling, pedal-to-the-metal fun. During the season, you can be a part of a virtual PGA Tour event by playing four rounds on the same course that the pros are playing that week to see where you'd end up on the leaderboard. Adding to the realism is the game's new "dynamic weather" feature. If -- for example -- it's raining for the first round of the U.S. Open, you'll be playing alongside Tiger, Vijay and the rest in a downpour. You won't actually get wet, of course. On the other hand, you also won't get 1.3 million-or-so bucks if you win.

The features have their limits, though. Due to the fact that not every tournament course is included in the game, some weeks you'll be playing on substitute courses in Play the Pros. I'm also very curious to see the dynamic weather a few months from now. I'm looking forward to playing a round or two at TPC Boston in February just to see what it's like to play 18 holes in three feet of snow.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10
All that's missing for perfect mini-golf is a giant clown head with a moving mouth.

But while Tiger Woods' online play has been given a big boost, improvements to the rest of the game aren't as sweeping. The major innovation this time around is a new putting scheme. Instead of having multiple putters in your bag -- one for five-yard putts, one for 10-yard putts, etc. -- you now just have one putter. While this adds to the realism and forces you to be a lot more careful and accurate when reading the greens, once you've decided that you've lined up the shot correctly, an on-screen meter makes it far too easy to execute the shot perfectly. Last year's Tiger could be unforgiving when it came to the putting game; this year it seems the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction.

As far as single-player modes, the mode you're going to want to play is Career. Here, you'll spend 10 zillion years perfecting the look of your created player. I think I spent more time playing with just the nose -- width, bridge angle, nostril size and shape -- of my golfer than I did playing through the entirety of Assassin's Creed.

The Career mode gets a slight shake-up, with the Tournament Challenge mode replacing the Tiger Challenge mode. It's still just a series of mini-challenges, but it's presented in a course-by-course setup with some golf history thrown in. You also get an occasional intro and anecdote from Tiger. It's not a whole lot different from what you've been playing Career-wise the past couple of years, but the presentation has been changed to make it feel a bit more engaging.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10
From the "Knock Anthony Kim into the Water" mini-game

Sadly, while you'll dig the look of your created player, you'll be less than blown away by the look of the PGA pros included in the game. The courses are detailed and pretty, but character models are just plain ugly. Graphically, the franchise didn't experience the same leap from Tiger 09 to Tiger 10 that it did from Tiger 08 to Tiger 09.. Unlike just about every other next-gen sports title, where players are immediately recognizable, here even family members might have trouble recognizing the pro golfers. Heck, pretty boy Camilo Villegas still looks like John Malkovich in the game.

Maybe even more disappointing is the developers' failure to update the players' gameplay stats and attributes. The reason that most people buy the latest version of a sports title is to be able to play as the most statistically accurate versions of their favorite players. The pros in Tiger 10 have the exact same stats as in Tiger 09. That Tiger (after coming back from a broken leg) and Camilo Villegas (having won the final two FedEx Cup events) have the same stats for power, accuracy, striking, putting, etc. as in last year's game is just laziness on the side of development. (You will have a couple of new pros to play as, though. New this year are funky-belt-buckle-wearing Anthony Kim and non-funky-belt-buckle-wearing Rocco Mediate.)

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10
Your name could be here!

If you're a real fan of the PGA Tour, you'll be glad that EA Sports has released Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 this early in the tour season. You'll also really dig the chance to be a virtual part of actual PGA Tour events on an almost weekly basis. But if you're the casual Tiger player, there's not a whole lot that'll let you know you're not playing last year's game, other than a new way to putt. Ultimately, you decide whether EA Sports has gone yard with Tiger 10 or thrown up a brick with the non-online aspects of the game.

This review is based on a retail copy of the PlayStation 3 game purchased by the reviewer. The game was tested on the Xbox 360. No significant differences were noted.