Tiger Woods is now on the green. Where last year's Nintendo Wii edition of EA Sports' golf franchise was comparable to one of the golf legend's majestic drives that used to inspire awe in galleries across the globe, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 is more of a brilliant approach shot that winds up just inches from the pin. This is a superb follow-up in just about every possible way, although it is also an awfully safe one that is content to subtly build on last year's successes. New features are mostly enhancements, like even more finely tuned swing mechanics, a camera angle that lets you address the ball from a first-person point of view, the ability to play the Ryder Cup and even some minigolf. But even though there aren't any show-stopping changes here, this is another tremendously strong outing with an unerringly accurate and addicting take on real golf.
The optional first-person camera angle makes Tiger Woods 11 an even more lifelike simulation than last year's game. (Credit: EA Sports)
As with the previous Tiger Woods games for the Wii, the swing is the thing here. Like its predecessor, this golf game handles drivers, woods, irons, and putters extremely well. You simply point the Wii Remote at the ground — holding it as if it were a real golf club — press the B button to start your swing, and then have at it and hope for the best. To hit the ball long and straight, you need to swing the remote just as you would a golf club on the real links. If you turn your wrist, hit up or down on the ball, and wreck your swing plane, you'll soon be saying hello to some trees or putting on your hip waders for an excursion into a pond. It's all very lifelike for the most part — not exactly like real golf, but close. You can get as hooked on this game as you can on the real thing, which really says it all for what a stellar job developer EA Tiburon continues to do with this series.
That said, the feel of the swing is very close to what it was last year. Nothing here seems wildly improved, although you could make the argument that there wasn't much room for improvement on last year's effort. There are no marquee upgrades here, like the revamped short game and putting that made Tiger Woods 10 so exceptional. Still, control sensitivity has been noticeably improved across the board. The developers have made great use of the extra year to play around with the Wii MotionPlus that is helping to make this franchise a true evolution in golf-game design. As a result, swinging is tougher. You need to be more precise in your movements in every way, from performing a backswing and addressing the ball with a straight club face to following through. More punishment is doled out whenever you screw up as well. If you get twisted around after you swing through the ball — which is very easy to do when you're swinging a little remote control instead of an actual golf club with real weight — you won't like the end results unless you have an affection for really tall grass. Same with coming through; even the slightest turn of your wrists can mean hitting with the club face open and slicing into the deep stuff.
Minigolf is one of the new features for this year. (Credit: EA Sports)
Advanced Plus and Tour Pro swing settings "for experts only" are now available as well, giving serious Wii golfers a chance to make the game even more demanding. Both react to the slightest movement of your hands when swinging the remote. You can even miss the ball entirely here and make the virtual greenskeepers grumpy by chopping turf divots into the air. It makes for an uncannily realistic experience when it comes to the sheer challenge-and-frustration twin bill that makes actual golfing so addictive, but it can be pretty depressing if you're a poor-to-average real golfer looking for the video game illusion of being a PGA Tour pro. A big-time slicer in real life, for instance, will be a big-time slicer here. At least these options give the game a lot of longevity. Just like real golf, you could put a considerable number of hours into the game without ever feeling like you've completely mastered your swing.
Another move toward more authenticity in Tiger Woods 11 comes courtesy of the new True View camera. Here, instead of the standard third-person camera positioned behind the tee, you get a first-person view. So when settling in for a shot, you see nothing on the screen except for the club and the ball. This mode of play purports to be so realistic that the tutorial advises you to place a real golf ball on the floor and target it when you're lining up a shot by holding down the B button. But this great idea on paper isn't quite so hot in reality. While it is immersive, the screen showing what's at your feet leaves you confused when it comes to what you should be looking at when swinging. It's disconcerting to be looking straight ahead at your TV and seeing what should be below your golf club — er, Wii Remote. You're also limited in what you can see, especially when putting; you'll want to glance up at the hole before taking a shot but really can't. Also, the camera doesn't change the perspective after the shot has been taken. So you're stuck trying to follow the flight of the ball from where it was struck or even looking into the sand of a bunker, which can be a challenge due to the pixelated graphics that are largely unchanged from those in last year's game.