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Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004
Platform:  Playstation 2
# of Players:  1-2
Developer:  Electronic Arcs
Publisher:  Electronic Arts
Ratings:  Everyone
Memory Req.:  
Back in 1991, I first played PGA Tour golf on the Sega Genesis. At that time it was the perfect golf game. You could play against 60 real pros on four courses. The game had great control, and for those who were good at math, figuring out what clubs to use and what percent to try to swing a club was not a problem. The three-button click swing was also easy to execute and judge. Since then, I have been a fan of the series, but at times, the series has gotten a little stale. That is no longer the case, as once again, PGA Tour Golf is pretty much the perfect golf game.

Recently, I have been in the favor of the Hot Shots Golf series. It has always offered a realistic physics model, interesting spunky characters and a good amount of unlockables. Also, it?s challenging match play was a welcome change from the doldrums of playing tournament after tournament against imaginary players that were not all that good. This year I decided to give the newly revitalized PGA Tour series another go. Boy was I surprised. I expected a good game, with good graphics, and fun tournaments to play in, and even a good number of different play modes. What I got, was an incredibly deep and detailed game, with a ton of unlockables, and a plethora of goals, objectives, and trophies to shoot for. In fact, there are so many different game modes that it could have easily have been broken into multiple golf games. The game has heavy similarities to other games like Hot Shots Golf and even Animal Crossing. It will be my challenge, to give you the details on exactly what kinds of goals, game modes and gameplay that you can expect to get from this unbelievably fun and diverse game.

Stats, stats, stats. That is what Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 is all about. Can you be as dominate of a golfer as Tiger? The game has many different ways to judge this, most of which results in you winning some sort of award for each feat of greatness or milestone reached. These rewards are called ?trophy balls?. Some objectives to winning a ?trophy ball? include getting a hole in one, completing a round of golf without scoring lower than par on a hole, or getting six birdies in a row. Other trophy balls are a little harder to reach. One is awarded once you?ve eagled every par five in the game. Well, that might take a while because Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 packs a whopping 19 courses into the game. That is an unheard of amount of courses for a golf game and seven more than what was in the 2003 version of the game. In all, there are 18 trophy balls that you can strive to achieve.

Another type of trophy ball you can win, are the ?Tracking Tiger? trophy balls. These are a little harder to accomplish than the normal trophy balls. Winning these awards require you to be dominant for long periods of time. For example, Tiger Woods has 18 career hole-in-ones. One of the ?Tracking Tiger? balls will have you besting that by scoring 19 hole-in-ones over your career. Some other objectives are to lead the tour in Season Mode in 15 statistical categories or to pass Tiger on the career money earnings list. What?s interesting is that Tiger has actually set most of the records that you will be trying to beat.

You will be able to find screens that track all of your progress through the game. For example, there is a menu option that allows you to examine which par 5?s that you have shot an eagle on, per each course in the game. There are 75 par 5?s to eagle in order to win the par 5 eagle trophy ball. There are also a couple of screens that accumulate your total stats. One tells you how much overall money you?ve earned, how much career earnings you?ve made, and how much progress you?ve made through each mode in the game. Another screen tells you your overall stats like your average score on a par 3, average round score, best round score, accuracy and more. There is even a screen that tracks, per course, what your low rounds are. Everything you need to know can be found on a menu screen somewhere. However, due to the many different menus and levels to a menu, you may find it a little frustrating at first to find that data you want. You?ll know that you?ve seen a specific stat before, but might have forgotten which menu tree you were in to view it. It will take a while to know exactly which menu holds the data you want to look at.

In order to start gunning after trophies and records, you will have to create your own golfer profile. You start by creating your golfer?s appearance. Using the best player creation system found in any game called ?Game Face?, you can easily spend over an hour setting up the appearance of your golfer to look like you. Of course if you don?t care about creating a piece of art, you can also allow the game to randomly create your character. There are at least 37 different categories that you can adjust to create your appearance ranging from male/female to the type of teeth you have. A lot of those categories use slider bars from 0 to 100 to allow for very specific adjustments of features. There are 18 facial categories alone that allow you to create just about anyone you want. The number of unique combinations truly seems limitless. Add to that over a thousand articles of clothing, and pieces of golf equipment (a lot of which is locked at first), and you?ve got almost complete freedom in creating your golfer and your style.

Once you are happy with your golfer, you will be able to buy some skill points with the starting money you are given. Your golfer starts with a low 10% rating in each of nine attributes: Power, Power Boost, Driving Accuracy, Ball Striking, Approach, Putting, Recovery, Spin and Luck. Each percentage point increase costs a certain amount of money. In the early stages, points cost as low as $500. Prices steadily increase however, as you build more and more points into a category. When you finally get to buy the last percentage points, it will cost you $100,000 per point.

There is more to spend your money on than just building up your character?s skill. They say it takes money to make money and that is what you will have to do in order to make sponsor money. You will have to spend some dough on the licensed apparel and equipment from companies like Adidas, Nike, Ping, Cleveland Golf and others. Each piece of apparel or equipment can give you different levels of bonus performance in one of your skills. Also if you buy brands that you have acquired sponsorships for, then those items will give you a monetary bonus once you complete a round of season play. And don?t think equipment will be cheap. A good set of golf balls that will add four bonus levels to your spin ability will cost you $100,000. However, in the spirit of the game Animal Crossing, each day you play PGA Tour 2004, you will be able to visit the Pro Shop and view different items that are on sale. Five items a day will be half off, meaning if you are lucky, you might be able to score that same set of golf balls for just $50,000. That $50,000 saved could go a long way in the early stages of building your character.

As mentioned before, there are a ton of items in the game. A lot of these items will be locked at first. These items can be unlocked by various different methods. Some become available when you unlock them through winning a Real Time Event. Other items will only become available after you win a sponsorship. More are unlocked after you?ve met certain levels of your EA Bio. The main importance of an item is to enhance some of your player?s abilities. Another reason to buy items would be to make your sponsors happy. Remember happy sponsors are paying sponsors. But maybe you just want to look cool and buy that gold chain or diamond earring that you?ve always wanted. You can buy shirts, pants, hats, beanies, cowboy hats, shoes, earrings, necklaces, watches, sunglasses, wristbands, drivers, irons, putters, shafts, grips, gloves, and list goes on and on. You can even by gold-capped teeth for your golfer if you?d like. The items in the game provide the ultimate collectible game for those who have nothing else to spend their money on.

Building up your character and buying the numerous different items in the game will take a lot of money. Luckily there are many different modes and games that you can play to make money for your character. You can win money for everything from hitting a green in regulation to winning a season tournament. Birdies, eagles, and hole-in-ones, are good ways to increase your fortune in almost any mode. Basically, the better you play and the harder the course, the more money you?ll make.

Each mode offers a different and fun way to play golf. This variety greatly helps the boredom that you might find in other golf games and the quest to acquire all of the goals and trophies in the game will make you want to explore each of the modes. Here is a summary of the different gameplay modes that you can play.

PGA Tour Season
This is the largest mode of the game. In this mode you will take on the best the PGA has to offer by entering up to 34 tournaments a season for up to 10 consecutive seasons. Some of these tournaments are real and are played on actual tour courses like Pebble Beach or the TPC at Sawgrass. Others however, are based off fantasy courses, such as a course deep in the rain forest called The Predator or Tiger?s Dream 18. A majority of the trophies and records that you can try to beat come from this mode. One goal has you staying under par, every round, for 66 straight rounds. That is just over half of the season where you have to be better than par. Other trophies to achieve that are based off of the career stats or season records that come from this mode. You can also win awards such as Player of the Month, Player of the Year or Rookie of the Year. If you?ve acquired any sponsorship deals, then you will collect sponsor money after the round for each item that you are using. Unfortunately the Season mode is only a one-player event. It would have been nice to allow multiple profiles to enter a season.

World Tour
The World Tour is a mode that is basically like playing Hot Shots Golf. In this mode you challenge some of the best golfers (real and fake) in the world by traveling to their region to play them in a match play event. Some regions are more difficult that others, but beating each golfer will win you a good amount of money and usually unlock either the golfer, a course, or a piece of Tiger?s Dream 18 which is a course that is locked from traditional and arcade modes until you unlock each hole one by one. By beating each of the 25 world tour events you will win the trophy ball for completing the World Tour mode.

If you think you are ready for a little test, try a Scenario. Scenarios usually offer quicker game play where you are thrown into a situation and are given a goal to complete. Goals usually come in the form of Bronze, Silver, and Gold medals based on your performance. Some scenarios put you on the target range trying to achieve a certain score for accuracy while others test specific skills like use of spin or putting. For example, you might play the scenario of par 4?s. In this scenario you play five of the longest par 4?s in the game. In order to score a bronze medal you will have to shoot at least 19. In order to score a gold you might have to have a score 16 or better. Winning a medal will win you some money, and beating all the 30 scenarios will win you the scenario trophy ball. There might even be something special for getting a gold in all 30.

Real Time Events
Real Time Events are sort of like special scenarios. This part of the game uses the system?s internal clock to unlock a Real Time Event. By viewing the RTE calendar, you can see when upcoming events will take place. You will also get a reminder the day before, and on the day of, an event when you turn on the game. You will be able to play the Real Time Event only on the day that it occurs. These scenarios are usually more involved than regular scenarios and are much tougher. Here there are no bronze or silver medals, only gold. Not only that, but the objectives are usually much harder. One example has you playing the Predator golf course in the rain with high winds and challenges you to get an average score of one under per hole for the front nine. Early in the game these scenarios may just be impossible to beat, as your golfer will not have accumulated the skills and abilities that you might need to perform well. Overall there are over 74 real time events scattered throughout the year in the game. Beating a scenario usually wins you a little cash, and unlocks some new items for you to purchase.

Traditional Games
Traditional Games are your basic way to play golf. These games can be played by you or with friends and are a good way to practice a course, your swing, or play with different scoring systems. You?ll also be able to earn a little extra cash in these games. These different games include Stroke Play, Match Play, the ever-popular Skins game (must be at least 2 player), Practice (you can select which course, tees, pin placement, green speed, fairway speed and rough length), Stableford, Alternate Shots, Best Ball and Fourball. Some of the games might be a little unusual to some players. In a Stableford game, players get a score on a hole based on their performance. For example, a par is worth zero points where a birdie is worth two points and a bogey takes a point away. The team with the most points in a Stableford game wins. In an Alternate shots game, teams take turns at making shots with one ball, while in a Best Ball game each player on the team takes a shot with their own ball and then the best-played ball is used to take the next shot from. Some may know this mode as Scramble Golf. These games don?t earn you many trophies but are fun games to play with friends.

Arcade Modes
The Arcade Modes are a set of fun challenges and unusual golf games. These games include Battle Golf, the Long Drive Challenge, the Skillzone, and Speed Golf. In Battle Golf you play a match play round against an opponent. But instead of just winning a hole, you are allowed to remove a club from your opponents bag and add one to yours. Speed Golf is a game for money where not only do you have to score better than your opponent; but you have to do it faster. After each shot you must run to your next shot. You win money from your opponent by completing tasks before your opponent does. The game is over once you?ve drained your opponent?s money. The Long Drive Challenge is pretty simple. Your goal is to out drive your opponent for money. The Skillzone is where you test your skills by trying to hit targets on a fantasy golf range. The more targets you hit within the time limit will get you a better score. There are five different Skillzone games for you to try to beat.

Most of the above modes are played either by one or more players. However, for owners of the PS2 version, there is a more challenging mode for ambitious golfers to check out. That is the online mode. By going to you will be able to read news about upcoming online tournaments and events that are hosted by EA. By going online you can enter these tournaments. You can also just opt to play live with other players in either match play or stroke play. When you choose to play other players, you will be able to check out their stats and rankings to find out if they are a golf god or just merely someone you can pick on. By playing well online you will accumulate online points. These will help rank you and give you an overall rating online rank. If you are worried about having smooth games without lag or drops, there is an easy to read ping graphic that indicates the strength of the connection with another player. If you are playing in an online tournament however, you will actually just download the course settings and then play the round by yourself locally. When the game is over, it will update the EA servers with your results. Be warned, the people who enter the online tournaments are good! The top scores are usually in the mid to high 40?s for a round of 18.

EA also has introduced another interesting feature that makes the game fun by giving you extra incentive to play and buy other EA games. It?s called EA Sports Bio. This is a mode that gives you experience points for playing any EA games. By accomplishing feats in any EA sports game, you can raise your level and unlock extras throughout the EA games. There are even unlockable items in some EA games that can only be unlocked by achieving an experience level from multiple EA games. So as you win trophy balls and break records in Tiger Woods PGA Tour, you will get higher and higher EA gamer levels. Some of these levels will unlock new items in the PGA tour game, but play a few other EA games, and you might find a couple extra items unlocked.

The gameplay in this year?s game uses an analog swing method that is supposed to better simulate the control of a real golf swing. In fact, you are unable to play any of the modes in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 until you?ve completed a short tutorial, which explains how the swing controls work. While it is a little hard sometimes to judge how to swing the club for distances other than 100%, the game never becomes too complicated to play. My first hole in one came only four holes into the game, yet I still struggled to break par for that round as I was learning all aspects of the gameplay. There is a caddy that will help you aim your putts and also a shot direction line that will help show you the break of the green and where the default aim of the ball will go. Putting is as easy as aiming the marker and then hitting the ball. The ball will automatically go the distance of the marker. If you have read the slopes and curves of the green correctly you?ll make the putt. There are also options to turn off caddy and gridline help for those that find it too easy.

What I really didn?t like about the gameplay was the need to rapidly press the L1 or L2 buttons to either add extra power or spin respectively. This button mashing was not only hard on my controller, but it made going for extra power while using the left analog stick, almost impossible. Luckily the game allows you to choose either the left or the right analog stick to use for your swing. Also, to place increased ability into rapid button pressing, lends itself to cheating rather easily when controllers with turbo functions are used. Other than that, I really liked the control scheme.

The graphics of the game are very good. They seem like they could have been better as there is a little lack of detail in the environments, such as the water and grass. The differences in cuts of rough are hardly different other than the color of grass. And being able to recognize the lie is nearly impossible without turning the aid on. In whole, the graphics are not much different than last year?s version. But the player models look excellent. And due to the versatile ?Game Face? feature, creating players is basically like having new graphics as you can create virtually any face you want. Other graphical effects like the fog, rain or even the lighting effects of the time of day, brings good character to the courses.

If you are the artistic type, the game even lets you create your own tattoos or logos with a paint type program. Logos can then be put on your clothing or the tattoos can be put somewhere on your body. They won?t give you any extra abilities but they are a fun way to further customize your golfer. For the golf loving architects, there is even a mode where you can design your own golf course. Unfortunately there is no way in this version to share the courses over the Internet.

The sound in the game is pretty much what you would expect in a typical EA sports game. You will find a set of 19 songs using the familiar ?EA Tracks? style presentation. The songs are a mix of alternative rock, indie rock, and hip hop Most of the tracks are from some lesser known bands, but well know artists DMX do make an appearance. I liked most of the songs in the game, although, I?m not too sure if they fit into a golf game. If you don?t like some of the music, you do have a great deal of control over it. You can mark songs on and off, and even tell the game, which modes to play songs in. By default, only the arcade modes use music during play. The other sounds in the game sounded as good as they probably should. Birds chirp, people clap, clubs strike and crowds Ooo and Ahh at the right times. However, the roars and cheers of the crowds do sound a little fake and canned.

EA tried to make the commentary interesting and upbeat, but in the end, it?s not that great for a golf game. They are a little too eccentric for golf commentators, by being a little too sarcastic and joking. Of course realistic ones would probably be too boring so it was a good effort by EA. There is a lot of room for improvement, and it by no means takes away from the experience.

In the end, there is no golf game better than Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004. Each of the game modes is deep and incredibly fun to play. You will spend hours and hours trying to beat each one as well as improving your golfer, and unlocking all of the different items. If you have the PS2 version and are board of playing by yourself, then take your character online and try your luck against the best in the world. If you are like me, and have skipped over this series for a couple of years, there is no way you should go another day without this game. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 makes a strong bid, in my eyes, for best sports game of the year.


Jesse Labrocca

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