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Tiger Woods 99 PGA Tour (PC) Review
Publisher: EA Sports
By: Chris C. 11/18/98
EA (Electronic Arts) Sports has long been known for its popular series of
games based on professional sports leagues/organizations. Both the Madden
(football) and NHL series are perennial choices as among the very best in
their respective sports, combining ever-improving graphics with very
exciting gameplay and a good amount of statistical interface.
Why, then, has the PGA Golf series not arisen as the premiere golf game on
the market? Quite simply because it has not, to date, provided the level of
graphical, gameplay and option-oriented detail and quality of the Links
series by Access. Nor has it equaled the progress of the Jack Nicklaus
series (Accolade, now Activision).
Can the introduction of golf superstar Tiger Woods and 3D acceleration
bring it into the top tier of PC golf games?
Presentation/Graphics : 93
Tiger Woods '99 is the first in the EA PGA Golf series to utilize 3D
acceleration, and it brings a graphical excitement to the game that none of
its predecessors really even approached.
The acceleration doesn't really show its teeth until the ball is actually
struck. At that point, the ball can be viewed from a number of angles
(reverse, gallery, ball view, etc.). The game program automatically
selects one of these perspectives after your golfer strikes the ball, and
all are impressive. The option that follows the ball through its flight is
most impressive, as the 3D terrain of trees and bunkers, mounds and
contours scrolls by in front of you.
An important point should be addressed here. The game is really not worth
purchasing, in my opinion, unless you plan to run it on a system with a 3D
accelerator. Without this capability it is not much more than a slightly
improved version of the prior game in the series - PGA Tour Pro. So unless
you are a Tiger Woods fanatic and absolutely can't imagine playing a PC
golf game as another player I don't recommend the game if you don't have 3D
While the 3D acceleration is visually stunning and adds immensely to the
pleasure of playing Tiger Woods '99, there are certain factors and
limitations that must be noted.
The first is your processor speed. I play the game on my home PC, which
has a Pentium 233 processor. With my system, the smoothness of the
movement in the game is most definitely effected by the level of rendering
detail chosen. In my personal quest for the ultimate in detail, I opt for
the highest detail possible. While making the various objects and
backgrounds as crisp as possible, this does somewhat adversely effect the
smoothness of my golfer's swing and the movement of the ball and the
passing terrain. I would imagine that a Pentium II 400 would not present
the need to choose better detail at the sake of motion smoothness.
The second is the integration of the 3D into the game screen itself. The
entire view is not rendered in 3D. For example, from the default point of
view at a greenside chip, the golfer, green and surrounding spectators
(rendered well, but not as realistically as in Links LS '99) are in
glorified 2D, while the background trees, mounds, etc., are presented in
3D. This can look very awkward, for example, when looking at a reverse
view replay of a great tee shot. On the tee, the sky and background
objects are rendered in 3D, while the tee area and player are not. This
can sometimes be visually annoying, but with the ball in motion, the 3D
does really shine.
Finally, ball physics are improved, but still fall far short of Links LS
'99 in their realism.
Presentation/Audio : 83
The "announcer" audio option can become annoying pretty quickly in a
simple round of 18 hole stroke play. He becomes more varied with his
comments in the tournament mode, which, by the way, is the overall most
entertaining and interesting mode for this game.
Otherwise, the audio here is average and not much improved over prior
versions of the series. Ambient sounds are too few and far between and
this generally hurts the overall realism of gameplay.
Interface/Options : 92
Much like the game set-up interface in other EA sports games, that of
Tiger Woods '99 is generally user-friendly and appealing to the eye.
Unlike some other games that utilize Windows-based interfaces with
dragdowns, check marks, etc, the interface here is much more "arcade"
styled with moving icons and sounds accompanying the choice of various game
options. Movement between screens is relatively quick and clean and can
easily be mastered without reference to the game manual. The interface
allows you to quickly navigate through the various options before getting
into the reason you're playing the game in the first place - to tee it off.
During gameplay, EA has left virtually unchanged the swing meter from its prior
incarnation, except for a few adjustments I will note later. To eliminate
"option clutter" at the screen's bottom, they have also incorporated a
colored "button" on the edge of the swing meter. Click here and up come
your "plain English" gameplay options.
Gameplay : 85
Speaking of gameplay, Tiger Woods '99 moves along at a pace brisker than
any other PC golf game I have encountered. Shot set-up is rather quick and
painless, and the user-friendly swing meter allows quick swing adjustments
(e.g. fade, backspin) to be applied. Changing a club is a snap.
All of the above begs the question - well, then, how does it compare to
real golf? Simply put, it doesn't. The time it takes to set up a shot in
Links LS '99 or Jack Nicklaus 5, for example, is much more akin (if not
longer) to the time I think the average golfer takes for setup of a shot. The
game box boasts on its back, "18 holes in under 30
minutes...unparalleled real-time 3D acceleration keeps you playing, not
waiting." This may be a not-so-subtle stab at the screen redraw times that
other popular golf games require, but, frankly, golf is not a game of speed.
If time is an issue, playing a round in under 30 minutes (which can be
done under par by a good player) is a great option. But for those
cybergolfers who have not experienced the real thing...dream on. I'm not
of the opinion that 18 holes of cybergolf should take 3-5 hours, but with
all of the various "assistance" options engaged (power level on, risk meter
on, caddy advice on, tap-ins on, green grid on), the game can quickly
become an easy exercise in the sub-par round. EA has used the popularity
of Tiger Woods and these options to "arcadize" the game as much as
possible. It's a lot of fun, but not very realistic. Golf is a game of
many things, patience and thoughtfulness among them, and with these options
on, these factors are all but removed.
Turn the options off, and you get a better sense of realism, but the
challenge remains a bit on the easy side, making Tiger Woods '99 a
generally less difficult game than either of the "big two" - Links and Jack
The game offers the option of a mouse swing ("pro-swing") which is not
much of a challenge. Some may argue it is easier to master than EA's
"traditional" 3-click swing and it too often results in shots of
exaggerated distance (an ode to Tiger?) I feel that the mouse swing here
is a big disappointment - if you share my belief that a mouse swing should
as realistically as possible simulate a real golf swing.
Game mode options presented are also somewhat disappointing, especially in
light of Links LS 99's introduction of its "Modes of Play" feature, with
over 30 modes included and the ability to create more. Here EA provides
the eight most common forms of golf play. The only bonus is that the ninth
option is the practice tee - which may be helpful for those who want to
hone their shotmaking without the aid of the aforementioned "assistance"
Finally, on the plus side, EA has expanded the library of courses
available to players. The games ships with three courses (the timeless
Pebble Beach, the ever-popular, albeit controversial TPC at Sawgrass and
the rather boring TPC at Summerlin). There are two add-on disks available
for Tiger Woods '99, however.
The first is the "TPC" disk, which features the TPC courses at Southwind,
Las Colinas and Scottsdale (the first two are interesting layouts, but the
latter is a bore.) The second is the "Tournament" disk, which is kind of a
misnomer because all of the courses currently available for Tiger Woods
'99, with the exception of the Links at Spanish Bay, annually host PGA
The courses here are Colonial, Cog Hill and Bay Hill and they are all
superior layouts. The games also runs the previously released "Classic
Courses" disk, which provides the fun but overrated Spyglass Hill and the
beautiful TPC at Avenel, which has a British feel to it.
These add-ons give a player a maximum of 12 courses to play on - a great
improvement over previous incarnations of the PGA Tour series.
Difficulty : 75
As I've intimated, even with the "assistance" options turned off, Tiger
Woods '99 is a game of moderate difficulty when compared with Links LS '99
or Jack Nicklaus 5. I think the "arcadization" of the game has a lot to do
with this. Don't get me wrong, it can be a challenge for the cybergolf
newcomer, but for dyed-in-the-wool cybergolfers, the challenge curve may
Also, as mentioned before, the mouse swing option provided does nothing to
increase difficulty and I feel that in any PC golf game this option should
inherently do so.
Overall : 87
Tiger Woods '99: PGA Tour Golf is a step in the right direction for the EA
Sports golf series. It is entertaining, visually stimulating - and fast-paced, with its
use of 3D acceleration.
If this is what you are looking for in a PC golf game, and you have a 3D
accelerator, I would recommend it.
As to the question of simulating real golf? If you haven't already
realized my opinion here, let me reiterate it. This is more arcade play
than golf simulation. It's more MTV than rock and roll. If realism is
your desire, Tiger Woods '99 fails to deliver. Even with its gameplay
options set to make it as realistic as possible, other factors make it fall
far short of the simulation benchmark set by Links LS '99 and the second
place Jack Nicklaus 5. Links provides almost 30 courses on which to play
(vs. Tiger's 12), 30 plus options for modes of play (vs. Tiger's 8), a more
realistic ability to come close to simulating the difficulty of the real
game and far superior ball physics. If you play real golf and value the
ability of a PC to simulate it, this game may only be for you if you are
the type - like me - who is simply a PC golf game junkie.
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