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Cybertiger (PSX) Review

Publisher: EA
Release Date: November 1999

Background Info

In their effort to leave no profitable stone unturned, EA Sports dives into the niche created by Hot Shots Golf. And does it poorly.

Presentation/Graphics : 60
Here's your first clue that this game is aimed at a younger audience -- everything from menus to the gameplay graphics are cartoony. Exaggerated large heads (golfer and club), bright colors, and general 'zaniness' pervade the game. The golfers are even obviously created in the style of Japanese animation, just like Hot Shots Golf. And it's all pretty bad - EA's PSX golf games have never been much to look at, and there really isn't any change here. The only difference on the course from last year's Tiger Woods '99 PSX game is that the trees and bushes are slightly more cartoonish; they're still ugly 2D sprites, and the rest of the course is pretty substandard too.

EA has seemingly made the golfers 3D this year, but to be honest with you, because you can never move the camera to see them from another angle, and because they're so blurry, I don't know that these aren't just the return of the dreaded V-polys, i.e. 2D animations created from 3D objects. The animations of the golfers are bad, too. I know this isn't supposed to be realistic golf, but when the golfers swing, the club should still move in something resembling a smooth circular motion. These are the worst swing mechanics you'll ever see in a golf game, and it just looks ugly. The shot reaction animations are lame too, slow or just emotionally flat, not exciting like they should be.

The 3D animated intro movie and 'victory' movies they play between tournament rounds are nothing special, and the latter are a little worse than that, actually. They even loop so that you see the beginning of the movie at the end again (did they just run out of footage to use to fit the length of the music?).

Presentation/Audio : 65
Again, EA has really gone for the kids in this area. Pretty much every button press in the game makes some kind of 'wacky' noise. Perhaps the kids like this kind of thing, but particularly in gameplay, it really got on my nerves. Every shot makes a zooming sound, and the invisible gallery reacts in an exaggerated way to every shot -- and sometimes reacts wrong, like cheering when you land in the sand. Tiger makes a comment after a lot of the shots (unless you turn this feature off), but these comments are very repetitive, are sometimes wrong ("there's the bird I was looking for," after I got a par), and sometimes sound strange when you're playing with a female golfer. It seems wrong to see a little girl in a pink outfit hole out and hear Tiger's deep voice say "I'll take that!" The game music and ambient sounds are serviceable, but the music does skip in game when the camera changes. One thing I like is the addition of ambient sounds meant to distract. In a very '90's touch, a cell phone actually rang just as I was driving, and it threw my shot off -- I was actually angry at the 'person' in the gallery for a second, while I heard others say "shush!" You can turn the sounds off, but if you leave them on, you actually have to focus harder, which I like.

Interface/Options : 60
You know, I wrote a long bit here explaining how the controls for the game work (and believe me, they need a lot of explanation), and detailing what was wrong with them, but I'd hate to have you spend so much time reading about something this bad. Let me just say this instead: The swing meter control method works decently, the same as in previous EA golf games. The analog swing method (which was new last year) has been changed a bit to address some of the problems, but it's still very complex, particularly when trying to set the distance of the shot. I don't think most kids have the math skills required to figure out how to use this. ("Okay, so my club can hit 140 yards, but I only want to hit 110, so I have to use . . . pass the calculator . . . 79% backswing? Oh wait, I'm in the rough, so that's going to take about 5% power off the shot, so. . . . Oh, never mind.") Even if they can, it's still pretty hard to perform the swing correctly. And when you get on the green, suddenly the analog method sets distance an entirely different way, which is even more confusing. Putting is pretty hard using either method until you earn the 'reading the break' skill in Career Mode (more on this later), which gives you a green line that shows where the path of the ball will go. This is really a pretty bad flaw in the game, making kids earn the basic tools they need to play. Before you get this ability, reading the break is done by hitting an 'exaggerate the land' button that basically makes a grid appear on screen while a minor earthquake appears to shift the terrain drastically. You get a good sense of whether there's a slope on the green or not and what direction it's in, but how much of a slope is tough to say, as it's moving the whole time.

One feature that was added last year that is enjoyable and maybe even a bit improved, is Tiger Control, basically the ability to add left, right, forward or backward movement to a shot once it's in the air -- it's meant to reflect the spin control good golfers have. It only works when hitting off the tee or fairway, certain golfers have the ability to add more spin control than others, and you can earn better clubs in the course of playing tournaments that will give you more control as well. In general, it just has a nice balanced feel as a feature, and adds to the game without becoming a cheat.

Game options are pretty standard, if drastically reduced, which does make sense in a kid's game, I guess. You can't control the cameras at all, and they have a mind of their own that is often annoying. It's not uncommon for a camera to make it hard(er) to putt, or hard to see the result of a shot. Also, there's no way to see the entire hole at once, or just get a look at where the pin is; on long holes with a serious dogleg, this can cause you to purposefully hit behind a tree thinking that your next shot is to the right for example, and then discover that your next shot is supposed to be through that tree to the left.

Gameplay : 65
In all the single game modes (stroke, tournament, practice, range, foursomes, four ball, shoot-out and skins), gameplay is pretty standard, with the drawbacks of controls, graphics and audio previously mentioned. The one aspect of this game that actually packs some fun is the Career Mode, where you play successive tournaments, graduating (and unlocking the older versions of the initially-available kid golfers) by winning a tournament in each of the junior, amateur, and professional tours. In between tournaments, you get 20 balls to hit on a 360 degree driving range. Hitting special targets will give you special 'power up' balls, that you can use in gameplay (balls that always go straight, give you a mulligan, hit for extra distance, or can pass through any obstacle on the course). These are kind of fun, if used in the right places. Also on the practice range, if you hit out of a tough lie and land a shot near the pin, you 'master' that lie -- meaning that in gameplay, if you are hitting out of that lie, you get a little indicator that will tell you what percentage of your normal power you will get out of that lie. Again, this is really helpful for children with good math skills, but not very helpful for others. Lastly, you can earn the putting skill mentioned above by making a long putt. First, I'd like to say that it isn't particularly intuitive to find out how to change your lie to hit from these other places to earn these skills (it's in a menu off the pause menu), and second, why are helpful tools awarded once you've already proven you're good at playing without them? I mean, if I can't sink a long putt to save my life, how am I ever going to get the tool that will help me do so?

Other than the annoying way you have to earn certain skills, the real handicap preventing this game from being fun is its reliance on the same game engine that EA has used for years and years in its PSX games. The ball physics have never been right, and might even be worse here -- I have repeatedly seen a ball moving quite quickly past the hole just suddenly 'stick' to the edge of the hole. Excessively long rolls, bad bounces or lack of bounces really plague this game. As a final plea - please scrap this game engine, EA!!

Replay Value : 60
The various game modes in CyberTiger are mentioned above; as is also mentioned, the only one that really holds any interest is the Career Mode. Difficulty level does increase through the course of a career, making it increasingly challenging to complete (for more of a challenge, try using the analog control mode previously criticized!). Achieving particular feats in Career Mode will earn you special equipment -- three consecutive birdies will get you forged irons with better spin control, for example. There is one default course, Spyglass Hill. By winning tournaments in Career Mode on the other four courses (Sawgrass, Summerlin, Badlands, and Canyons), you can unlock them for play in single game modes. Even if Career Mode intrigues you enough to play all the way through to the end though, the gameplay is bad enough that I don't think you'll want to go back for more.

Overall : 65
My understanding (not having played it for very long, but having talked to some hardcore golfers who have) is that Hot Shots Golf succeeded not because it was cute, but because other than the 'big head,' exaggerated cartoon graphics and sound, it played like real golf, with a great physics model and control mechanisms. Thus it appealed to kids and older golf fans alike. This is what EA tried to copy and failed, ending up with a game that looks like a poor sibling of Hot Shots, and plays like that weird uncle no one likes.

By: Chris Capell 11/27/99

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