PGA Tour Golf was the pick of the crop back in the early 1990s and it has remained on top for almost 20 years, on PCs, consoles and now phones. The touch-screen iPhone version is right up, as far as is practical, with the console version, with full almost-photo-realistic, fully-3D terrain and real-time rendered effects, characters and obstacles. It’s an impressive achievement and you have to look very closely in order to spot any graphical glitches. Hole to hole loading screens are kept to around four or five seconds and these delays are cleverly used to show one of about 20 ‘tips’ screens, to help you play better.
Dispensing with the usual button-based ‘three click’ mechanism for selecting power and timing on a shot, an intuitive swing control is used – just tap and hold, drag the ball back and then swipe it forwards, as straight as possible. Arc too much in one direction and you hook the ball, in the other and you slice it. Need a little more power? Just swipe extra fast and your shot receives a ‘boost’. The system works superbly on the iPhone’s screen and the game is utterly engrossing.
In addition to all the courses and their scenery, there’s full modelling of wind, ball lie and slope and you’ve got a full set of virtual clubs to select from. As with most other PGA Tour conversions, getting your shot right in the face of variations in lie and wind, and with an imperfect swing, is distinctly tricky and addictively challenging. After striking the ball in the air, there’s also the option to swipe up or down the screen, to add topspin or backspin, adding yet another element.
Putting is aided by an animated grid superimposed on the green, plus ‘caddy tips’ (basically telling you exactly where to aim) and even a ‘putt preview’ feature, just so you can make sure that your putt drops. It’s here that I have to take issue with the game, in that with both these putting aids Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf is just too easy. When you can nail most putts, it becomes easy to produce birdies and you’re then going to beat the field more often than not. By turning caddy tips off and ignoring putt preview, the game becomes much more challenging and realistic.
The sound’s good-ish, with occasional digitised quotes from real commentators. These do add atmosphere but sadly, they don’t always match what’s just happened on the course, e.g. you end up in a bunker and the voice says “Great shot, he’s got to be pleased” – that sort of thing.
Other nitpick criticisms include the putting assist grid only covering the area around the hole, so that long putts become guesswork. And the crowd are all invisible – you hear the cheers and applause and you see your player acknowledging the people, yet not a single spectator is modelled in the graphics.
But I don’t want to dwell on the negatives, there’s enough glamour and gameplay here to see Tiger Woods PGA Tour happily into a five star rating.