Wii Game Review: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10

I’ve never been a big fan of golf games on consoles.  The button pushing just left a great deal of somethings to be desired.  But I saw potential in the Nintendo Wii and the Wii-mote system for sports games.  The basic Wii Sports package had a short golf game in it, a mere 9 holes, and only 1 course, but it showed me the potential for game play in such games.  I ws intrigued enough to begin considering the Tiger Woods golf game.  When I began looking at the game, I noticed it was only a few more weeks before Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 would be released, and with the new Wii-Motion sensor attachment.  So I held off buying the game, and it was worth the wait.

The biggest addition to the franchise, and the Wii in general is the new Wii-Motion sensor attachment for the Wii-Motes.  This new sensor addition allows the system to pick up on rotation of the Wii-Mote in addition to the usual motion sensor aspects.  With the sensor attached, the system will pick up on left-right rotation, beyond the usual up-down, left-right cardinal movements.  For a game like Tiger Woods, and I can imagine for games like tennis, this adds a wonderful new layer of “realism” and game play.

The game itself is pretty straight forward.  It plays almost exactly like real life golf.  Anyone who has ever picked up a club will have no problem settling into this game out of the box.  More so on the Wii, as if you use the Wii-mote as a golf club, as you will get a real feel of playing.  This is unlike either the PS3 or X-Box systems, where you would still be using a traditional controller set up.  In other words, on the Wii this is an active participation game, where on any of the other consoles, you;d still be sitting on the couch.

The games has several game modes, from casual play (pick a course and go), a career mode (where it’s really at), a “party” mode (multiple players in a casual setting), and several on line features.  The real meat and potatoes of the game lay in the career mode, which is standard for most sports games.  Just like many other sports games, be it MLB, or Madden, or what have you, you create your golfer from the ground up.  The customization is fairly extensive, and perhaps over done given the level of details you can adjust.  I’m not one to bother adjusting my eye widths or tinkering with chin shapes, but there are those that do, and it’s here for them.

As with other similar games, you can set your player’s statistics.  As you progress through the game, you will gain experience points, by making good shots, meeting challenges, and winning tournements, which you can then spend to improve your player.  Unlike other game however, the experience points are specific to the skills, with a general category which can be used for any skill.  So just because you have great drives off the tee, doesn’t mean your putting will improve.

Once you have your player, you can begin in one of three categories: PGA Tour; FedEx Cup; Tournament Challenge.  So far, I have only played the PGA Tour.  In this mode, you start as a rookie amateur golfer.  You have a certain set of objectives to meet to gain your Tour card, after which you can compete with the Pros.  The game will provide you with hints and tips as you play, and if things seem to be going badly, will even offer to ease the difficulty for you.  I have yet to earn my Tour Card, but I’ve still managed to achieve several trophies and win several challenges.

The other career modes, FedEx Cup and Tournament mode, are also accessed from the “My Career” screen.  The FedEx Cup is just as it is in real life.  Individual tournaments and a combined scoring in the chase for the Cup.  The Tournament mode allows you to compete in historical tournaments, against the actual players in those tournaments.  I haven’t tried this one yet, as I’d like to improve my game a great deal before going up against the likes of Nicklaus, Palmer, and Woods.

As you progress, you will get opportunities for things like sponsors, who give you bonus cash for using their gear in tournaments, endorsements, and the like.  This will unlock more items in the club house, such as clubs, clothing, balls, and other gear.  You can adjust what you bring to the course at your leisure, making changes in nearly every aspect.  Club selection prior to a tournament may be important, so be sure to check what you have before each round.

All types of golf tournaments are present in game.  There are match play events, standard tournaments, skins games, and scrambles.  Some are four day tournaments, some less.  The various PGA tournaments, amateur and professional are here to be played, and on the associated courses.

The course selection here is impressive.  All the majors are covered, as are several of the smaller courses.  Every course from Bethpage to St.Andrew’s in accounted for, and are accurately rendered in game.  On of the neater on line features of the game is that you can have the game connect to the Wii Weather Channel and play in the actual weather conditions for that course.  Just as in real life, weather can be a significant factor in how a course plays.

Once you’ve created a profile and a golfer, you can use that golfer in any mode, on or off line.  You can earn some experience points (but not cash) from casual play or in party mode, so it’s worth your while to do so.  The only mode where you don’t (or at least not thaty I’ve noticed), is in Frisbee Golf.  Yes, Frisbee Golf.  Anyone who had a gym class in the 80’s, or spent time on a college campus in that era, will remember this.  It’s silly, it’s fun, and it’s a good easy family type game.

The online aspects, other than the afore mentioned weather connect, are interesting, though I have yet to try most of them out.  One mode allows you to “play along” with the real pros.  So, when say the Masters comes up, you can play along with the real Pros, and compare your game score to their real life scores on the same course on the same day.  There are also online tournaments where you compete against other players, and happen on a regular (weekly I believe) basis.

No matter what mode you choose to play, or at what difficulty, I highly recommend going through the tutorials.  Especially if using the Wii-motion sensor.  In a departure from the usual, these tutorials are actually worth while.  Even if you are an experience golfer, going through the tutorials will give you the feel for the game play, and how to make use of the various features and sensor capabilities.  It will also show you the various differences in some options, such as between classic and precision putting, and how to intentionally do a draw or fade (aka hook or slice).

While I am certain that graphically the PS3 and Xbox versions blow the Wii version out of the water, the game play on the Wii more than makes up for it.  As I said, it’s a more “natural” game play with the Wii-mote compared to the traditional controllers.  You take your stance, then back swing and swing through.  The Wii-mote system is sensitive enough to pick up on the actual force of your swing, so you can control how much force you use in a natural way.  Just like using a real golf club.  It is all very intuitive and wonderfully easy to pick up.

Putting is the same way, no matter which mode you choose to use.  The classic mode is what has gone before.  Anyone who has played a Tiger Woods game prior to this will be familiar with this mode.  It’s an easier (supposedly!) method of putting, geared now more towards the casual and new player.  The precision mode allows for greater individual control, from putter choice, to angles, spin, and strength of putt.  Personally, I much prefer the precision putting to the classic mode.  I just found it easier to assimilate into my game play, and found it a more “natural” choice.  YMMV as usual.

So far, I have progressed about 6% in my career.  I’ve only won 2 tournaments, The Highlands Challenge at Turnberry, and the European Shootout at St.Andrews.  The Highlands Challenge was a 16 player natch play tournament.  After winning round 1 on a play off hole, I quickly dispatched my remaining opponents by the 15 hole in each successive round.  This win earned me a “Player of the Month” trophy ball (there is one for each month).  I then struggled through three more tournaments before the European Shootout.

I only wish I could play like I did at the European Shootout.  After a +1 first round, I shot a -9, -11, and -11 to finish the tournament at a whopping -30!  This was by and far the most impressive game of my life.  I eagled (2 under par) 7 holes, including a par 5.  I was consistently sinking 40+ foot putts, and in successive rounds hit all fairways, then all Greens in Regulation (GIR).  I set course records for lowest score in a round (tied the record actually), fewest putts, most fairways hit, and most GIR.

I can’t quite give this a perfect score.  I’d like to, but Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 suffers from the same issue as every other sports game out there.  That problem is the commentary.  It doesn’t matter what game it is, be it Tiger Woods, MLB09, Madden, NCAA sport game of choice, or what not, the commentary tracks universally suck.  The canned comments get real old real fast.  You play through once with it on, and that is more than enough.  No matter the game, the canned dialogue is generic at best, and inappropriate at worst.  It fast becomes an annoying distraction, and really doesn’t add anything to the game play.  Play with it on once, then turn it off.

Even so, I think that this is by far the best sports game out there, especially on the Wii.  The game play aspects alone makes this more than a worth while pick up.  If you have any interest in golf, this is a game for you.  One of the selling aspects of the game is how professionals say “it will help improve your game,” so it will also appeal to regular golfers as well.  I will say this, it can help your real life game, especially if you have a hook or slice in your swing.  I myself have “corrected” my usual slice (to a degree at least), and improved my putting approach.  And where else can you get 72 holes of golf in 2 hours, and feel like you’ve actually played 72 holes?

9/10

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Wii Game Review- The Force Unleashed **UPDATED**

It’s been a long time since I bought and played a Star Wars game.  The last one I bought and played I think was Force Commander, which was mediocre.  I was hemming and hawing over getting this game.  I wanted something new to play, but was hesitant to take the plunge.  As of right now, I’m glad I did.

I’ve got about 5 hours of game play in at the moment.  So far, things have been pretty good, and highly entertaining.  The story is fairly simple, and pure Star Wars.  You play as Darth Vader’s “secret apprentice,” tasked with aiding Vader in his attempt to over throw the Emperor.  The initial story arc has you running errands for Vader (eliminating troublesome rogue Jedi), and facing several trials.  Star Wars fans, or even just those familiar with the movies, will recognize many of the locations, from the Jedi Temple on Coruscant to Kashyyk, and several movie characters make appearances (Shaak-Ti, Bail Organa, and of course Vader and the Emperor). 

Now, I’m quite sure that the game is more visually stunning on the PS3 or on a XBox, but I doubt it has quite the same game play.  On the Wii, the game is of average graphic quality.  It’s solid, but definitely not “next gen.”  Even so, it is more than adequate for the game.  But you shouldn’t be getting this game on the Wii for the graphics.

The best reason to get The Force Unleahed on the Wii is for the game play.  I had my doubts and worries about how well the Wiimote and nunchuk would work with the game.  I shouldn’t have worried.  This game works etremely well with the Wiimote and nunchuk set up, and is probably better for game play than a PS3 or Xbox controller.  You move using the joystick on the nunchuk, and use the Wiimote for swinging your lightsaber.  Yes, you do need to swing the Wiimote like you would a sword.  Be warned, this can get very tiring on your arm, especially when surrounded by 15-20 stormtroopers.

Force powers are also better suited IMO to the Wiimote-nunchuk set up.  Some powers, like Force Push, rely on you “pushing” the Wiimote or the nunchuk forward.  This would be very much unlike the set up on a PS3 or Xbox controller, where all your actions, combat or force powers, would just be a series of button mashes.  Even “complex” powers are not that difficult to execute, as you use at most 2 buttons and some sort of movement with the controller set up.  If anything, with the Wiimote, many of these will seem “natural,” as the use of a button in combination with a movement makes a degree of “sense.” 

The game has no levels per se.  Instead, you find “power ups” that will increase your force and health bars.  Higher levels of force powers are unlocked as you progress in the game, as are skills like “blaster fire blocking.”  As you eliminate enemies, you gain advancement points, which can be spent to upgrade your force powers to higher levels.  You also can’t die in game.  Or at least not that  I’ve found.  If you get “killed,” you get resurrected and lose a percentage of your accumalted advancement points.  Some enemies will be respawned as well, or if in a boss fight, the boss will regain some of it’s lost health. 

On teh whole, this is not a “instant classic” of a game.  But when it comes to Jedi based games, this one is hard to beat, especially on the Wii.  The lightsabre fights alone are fun with the Wiimote, swing madly and cursing your opponent.  The “finishing moves” that can be triggered in Boss fights are at times extremely enjoyable to watch, once triggered, such as crushing an AT-ST with the force into a ball of scrap.  Combine this with the very easy and natural way of activating force powers, and this becomes very addictive very fast.  The sections between boss fights can get a bit tedious and repetetive, but so far, the boss fights have more than made up for it (if I never see another Rancor again, I will be very happy).   There is a multiplayer (2 player IIRC), Duel Mode, but I have yet to do anything with that.  Other than having unlocked several characters for use with Duel Mode, I’m unsure how it works.

8/10

**UPDATE**

I’ve now finished the game.  Well, at least the first time through.  It only took about 10-11 hours to complete.  That was a bit disappointing, given how engaging the story line was, and how much fun it was to play.  Even so, I am playing through the game again, this time with all the costumes and force powers I’ve unlocked.  This is making all those early missions (so far) much easier.  And there is something entertaining about rampaging through levels as a super powerful Jedi.

Nintendo Wii: Resident Evil Umbrella Chronicles

I’ve finally gotten around to: A. Playing this; B. Playing it enough to review; C. Actually reviewing it.

The game is a “rail shooter.”  That is, you just get brought along, like a carnival ride, and you shoot what comes up in front of you.  You’ve probably seen such games in movie theater lobbies, from Resident Evil to House of the Dead to any of the movie tie in games.  However, there are a number of neat twists on this format in the game.

First off, there are “bonuses” to be found.  These are mainly “files,” which can be read in the main menu.  These files are story bits form the Resident Evil story line, and add to teh over all story with more backgorund details, and explaining some oddities.  You do have to be quick to grab these when they show up (little umbrella symbols), or you will miss the opportunities.  This is a bit of a twist on the usual weapons and ammo to be found.

Second, you do get some chances to go a different way.  Some are short cuts, some are “safer” than the main path, others are harder.  The option to go an alternate route pops up on the screen, and if you press the “A” button, you move down the alternate path.  Yes, this has been done is a fashion previously, but in this case, it is seemlessly integrated into the game play, rather than during cut scenes or end of level screens.

Other game play features include the ability to upgrade your weapons, in a fashion similar to Resident Evil 4, ecept you use “stars” (gained from completing chapters) rather than loot gained in game.  You can upgrade weapon capacity, damage, and the number of rounds you can carry.  I have only done a few upgrades, as they can be “expensive,” and when you’re just happy to get thorugh a chapter, getting maximum stars is just not on the agenda.

The game itself allows you to play thorugh the events of Resident Evil 0, 1, and 3, plus new materials.  So far, in two player, we’re up to Resident Evil 3.  Additional materials to play through include what Albert Wesker was doing, and Rebecca Chambers between Resident Evil 0 and 1.  I have not yet tried any of the extra missions, but if they are even close to the main story missions, they should be extremely fun.

Game play is straight forward.  Point, shoot, repeat.  You will always have at least two viable wepaons, your pistol, and a knife.  Each enemy has a weak point, which if you hit it enough, or hard enough, will cause a critical hit, which will either take them out, or do serious damage (bosses).  The knife is very useful, as the game will tell you, for fending off small enemies that will “jump” at you (parasites, small spiders, et al).  Hold the “A” button and swing madly to force the critters off you and kill ’em.

Guns are your friend.  The bigger the gun, the better the friend.  I know, I know, it’s a “well duh” moment.  Even so, some weapons are better suited to taking out some enemies than others.  The pistol never runs out of ammo, but is limited in damage and capacity.  The shotgun is great for crows, bugs, and the frog things.  The SMG (the classic MP-5), is good for lots of small enemies, leechmen, and giant spiders.  The grenade laucher is fun.  For large groups of small enemeies, it’s king.  The drawback here is it’s slow to hit, and isn’t great for accuracy.  Hand grenades are tricky to use effectively.  The two button command is difficult to use quickly, but can be rewarding with large groups of enemies.

Health items are a must.  There are only two items to be found, herbs and first aid spray.  Herbs restore an amount of health immediately, while first aid sprays will restore you to full health if reduced to zero (essentially a free automatic continue).  These items are also your friend.  You can only have IIRC, two first aid sprays at anytime, and can’t hold on to herbs for future use.  This can be a problem in some situations, where you romp through a section, never using any of them, then get hammered in another section where you don’t have enough. 

I just got the pistol grip gun-con’s (Namco) for the Wii remotes the other day.  I haven’t tried them out yet, but it should at least keep my hand from cramping by using the Wii-mote straight up.  I’ll post on how that effects game play once I’ve played with them for a while. 

On the whole, this is a fun shooter, more so for fans of Resident Evil, but if all you want to do is vent on some poor zombies and genetically mutated critters, this is the one for you.  It’s certainly not for everyone, as the blood and gore content is high.  But if you either like this sort of thing, or are a fan of Resident Evil, this one is a good pick up.  The additions to the story line, the recreated scenes from the older games, and a few “easter eggs” for older fans makes it worth while.  This is a game where the Wii-mote is a decided advantage over more traditional controllers, and does not require you to get a new controller to get the most out of the game.

8.5/10

The Nintendo Wii

Well, the wife finally got her wish on Monday when UPS finally delivered her Nintendo Wii.  It was supposed to have been delivered on Friday, but the packages never made it on the truck.  She had been looking at getting one for a while now, more since some of her employees have been raving about it for months on end, and constantly saying how much fun it is.

So it arrived Monday.  Got it set up, and running in less than a half hour.  Man is this thing small.  I think the 5.25″ Floppy Drive I had for my old C-64 was larger than this console unit. The package deal my wife got came with the unit, and six games, the biggest name being Super Smash Brothers Brawl.  Total was around $500 from Toys-R-Us. 

As we had the weekend to get additional bits for the Wii, we went around and picked up a 4 controller charging station, two extra controllers and “nunchuks” (The unit only comes with 1, and there are 3 of us), as well as “jackets” for the controllers.  I highly reccomend getting the rubber/rubberized jackets for the controllers, just so you get a better grip on them while playing, thus saving you from potential damage to your TV, wall, other family members.

I have yet to play an actual game on the Wii.  So far, I’ve just been puttering around with the Wii Sports, which comes with the basic unit.  Despite the very basic nature of the Wii Sports, and the limitations on it, this is still a lot of fun.  Plus, just like the ads say, you will get a work out with this.

The unique feature (and selling point) of the Wii is its controller.  When playing Wii sports, you will use the wireless controller much like the real sporting equipment.   Playing baseball?  You’ll need to swing the controller like a bat.  Golf?  Grab it and swing like Tiger Woods.  Bowling?  Just imagine the controller is the ball and bowl like you would at the lanes.  Tennis?  It’s a racket, so swing it like you would on the court.  The real work out comes when you play the boxing game. 

Boxing on the Wii Sports is a cardio work out.  You have to not only punch with both hands (the remote in one hand, the nunchuk in the other), but bob and weave to avoid getting hit.  The sensor system of the Wii can not only gauge where you’re hitting, but how hard based on your punches with the controller,  This system also works with the other games, like baseball and golf, where your swing can have different strength levels and effects.

So far, only my daughter has played a “real” game on the Wii, Zack and Wiki.  It’s a platformer puzzle game, obviuosly targeted for a young audience (not the adult or late teen crowd), but is as interactive, both mentally and physically as the Wii Sports.  The game rewards you based on how “smartly” you solve the puzzles (there are often more than one way to do so), and how quickly.  In the meantime, you end up using the controller to saw through things, rings a bell, or hammer away on something.  It can be tiring just watching her play.

This is not a console for everyone IMO, no matter what Nintendo says.  Though the release of the “Wii Fit” may change that somewhat.  This console is geared towards the younger set (8-13), but has some great potential for the older crowd as well (35+).  Those in the 14-34 range will be better served with either a PS3 or X-Box360.  Despite the timeing, the Wii is not a “next gen” console like the PS3 and X-Box360.  But it is a vast improvement upon the Nintendo Game Cube.  I’ll have more once I get around to actually playing a game or two on this.