After a less than spectacular beginning, Tiger Woods 2003 almost made
up for previous years broken, sometimes unplayable, versions of the
game. Almost. TW 2003 solved the resource-related issues that
plagued TW 2002, became visually more appealing, and added an innovative
"career" mode. There were still some flies in the ointment. Hardcore
golf simulation fans complained and repeatedly used the term "too easy" to
describe TW 2003. The career mode was too easy, the short game was too
easy, and poor ball physics made the game too easy. But it was clear
EA Sports was serious about producing a product both hard core
and casual cyber-golfers could enjoy.
The current Tiger Woods franchise can trace its roots to one of the
finest PC sports games ever created Ñ PGA Championship Golf 2000.
Headgate Software, then in the Sierra Sports stable of developers, finally
perfected their momentum based swing system in PGA 2000. It contained a
robust course architect and was the first golf game that allowed players
to create a complete PGA field using the player editor. Fan created
files and utilities made PGA 2000 a complete "PGA" sim. The transition
from Sierra to EA Sports was rough. TW 2003 captured some of the PGA
2000 feeling, but it felt a bit shallow in comparison. Many serious golf
fans questioned the arcade feeling of the career mode. The game itself
was very pretty to look at, but golf simulation fans were looking for a
more realistic simulation. With a revamped Microsoft Links series in
the background, EA Sports needed to pull another rabbit out of its hat.
Presentation/Graphics : 96
There's usually a huge battle in various PC golf forums over Links vs.
TW graphics. The argument essentially boils down to photorealism vs.
dynamic atmosphere. Links fans like the detail shown in their golf
courses and don't seem to mind the lack of environmental effects. TW fans
place less emphasis on detail and more on the interesting things
happening around them on the course. If you liked TW 2003's course graphics,
you'll be very happy with TW 2004. There aren't any radical departures
from last year's presentation. But there are a number of finer details
that improve the visuals.
I own an ATI Radeon 9800 Pro and TW 2004 shows off the power of this
graphics card rather nicely. Trees sway realistically in the breeze.
Birds fly overhead Ñ sometimes in formation and other times by
themselves. The flags flap gracefully on their poles. Shadows are perfectly
placed on the course. TW 2004 is the finest visual presentation ever
available on a PC.
A noticeable improvement was made in the golfer graphics. The key word
here is choice. There's a lot more customization available, from the
type of sunglasses you'll wear (if any), to sweatbands, and a wide
variety of hats. The golfer model is so tweakable that it finally makes it
possible for your face to be truly in the game. Eye color, jaw line,
hair, age lines, and many other items can be adjusted.
Golfer animations are silky smooth. I tend to watch my golfer swing
more in TW 2004 than in previous Headgate golf products because I get a
nice visual queue about the speed and sensitivity of my stroke.
There are relatively few camera angles, but I honestly didn't need any
additional choices. The system that graced TW 2003 is back and it works
very nicely. Keyboard commands and pre-set swing, ball-drop, and green
reading views are back. And if these don't satisfy, the camera editor
allows custom view creation.
Although TW 2004 generally looks great, there is still room for
improvement. The golfer will occasionally forget where he or she is on the
course and the actions won't match the location. This usually occurred on
the green. Making a nice chip shot shouldn't cause a golfer to holster
his iron and go stomping off across the green. There were strange
telescoping issues on the grass every now and then. This was barely
noticeable, but it seemed out of place in an otherwise flawless presentation.
Presentation/Audio : 85
Why is golf commentary so difficult to do? We're not talking about
lightening fast action here. Somebody swings a club, the ball goes
somewhere, the ball is hit again - you get the idea. For some reason, David
Feherty and Gary McCord's commentary is sometimes mistimed and not
reflective of what is going on the screen. The commentators will describe
the lie of balls that are still in the air. Headgate needs to listen
to the nearly flawless commentary in most of Sega's sports products or
even EA Sports' NHL 2004 to hear what smooth and unforced play-by-play
sounds like. The crowd also at times suffers from not "in-synch" itis.
If I am four putting on the green from 45 feet, the crowd shouldn't
wildly cheer if I putt within two feet of the pin. This could be crowd
sarcasm at work here, but I doubt it.
The ambient sound around the course are very nice. Whether it's birds
chirping or the sound of waves crashing against rocks, TW 2004 provides
an unparalleled aural experience. The quality of the sound is first
rate, as is the 3D positioning of the sounds.
Yes, there is music - this is an EA Sports product so that goes without saying. However, playing a golf simulation for music purposes is, um,
not recommended. The music that is there is tasteful and appropriate
for the setting.
Interface/Options : 95
I must admit that I am a huge TrueSwing fan and have been since the
perfection of this momentum based swing in PGA Championship 2000. There
is a very large Links nation that will disagree, but no golf swing
really simulates an actual golf swing better than TrueSwing. Players chose
between the vertical or horizontal version of the swing. Swing success
is determined by the path the mouse takes in one direction, and the
direction it travels in the opposite direction. Miss hits occur if the
mouse travels too quickly, movement isn't in a perfect line, or if the
transition to a new direction is too fast or slow. This is pretty much
how it works on a real golf course.
This year EA Sports includes seven more courses to increase the ante
from 12 to 19. Four of these courses are "challenge designs", but this
is still quite a bang for the buck. Throw in the fan created TW 2003
catalog and there's a very nice number of options available. There are
an increased number of PGA Tour Pros and fictional characters that can
accompany your golfer around the course. Fifteen PGA Tour Pros and 12
fictional characters are available.
The career mode in TW 2003 was innovative and received rave reviews.
Over time, many fans were disappointed in how easy career mode became
and how repetitive some of the challenges were. Headgate partially
responded to this criticism by allowing the career mode's difficulty level
to be adjusted. They also got rid of the calendar format and created a
series of "world tour" events. These are various challenges and events
that must be completed in order to advance to the next stage of a
Many hardcore golf simulation fans will find TW 2004's career mode too
"arcadey". EA Sports has institutionalized the unlocking model across
all of its products. Some people enjoy this, others don't. I would
prefer having access to all of the different clubs, balls, etc. right up
front because I am more interested in the act of playing golf as
opposed to the "fun" of unlocking equipment.