At any mention of Tiger Woods '10 for the Wii with the Wii MotionPlus module, there is an immediate question that leaps into peoples minds. In fact, it is very often the only thing they want to know about the game. That's certainly understandable given that there was one very large flaw in the '09 version, and I myself was often irritated by it. That question is, of course, did they get rid of the jackass that yells "Get in the hole!" after every shot. I'm here to share the good news with you: Yes. Yes they did. Mr. Get-In-The-Hole apparently did not have his contract renewed for 2010, and it is a safe bet that he will not be missed.
Now, while that enhancement alone would be worth the purchase price for the latest iteration, it's only fair to mention that a couple of other significant changes have been made. First and foremost is, as you might expect, the addition of the Wii MotionPlus to the swing mechanics. There are those that will deride Nintendo for not "getting the controller right in the first place" and "selling something that they already own to gullible gamers," but I find that sentiment to be highly disingenuous. And at a street price of $20 per ($10 if you buy one bundled with Tiger Woods '10), it's hardly a pecuniary burden.
My only explanation for that attitude is that some folks have twice the dollars wrapped up in their consoles than Wii owners and must be feeling somewhat gullible themselves, at least at a subliminal level. Sure, the graphics on the Wii are at least a generation behind the PS3 and Xbox 360. I'll even stipulate that the superior graphical capabilities of the higher-end consoles are critical to the quality of the game play in some situations. But with regards to golf, I would (and did) willingly trade away the HD graphics in favor of the high fidelity controller. After all, if I want to sit on my rear pushing buttons in front of a lusciously rendered golf course, I'll watch a PGA match on my HD TV. No, I choose to play the game as it's meant to be played rather than twitch my thumbs in time with a sliding bar on the screen.
Tiger Woods '09 was fairly good in the realm of controllability, but it did have some pretty strong weaknesses. Chief amongst those weaknesses was anything requiring a light touch on the “club.” The short game was tough, and putting could generously be described as a debacle. Modulating the force of the swing at anything less than nearly full power was very, very difficult. Many were the times that I needed about 30% of the strength of a club but could only manage 85%. To address this weakness, you had a collection of ten or so putters, each powered for different length putts. This led to ridiculous situations where you had to take a full swing for a 4 ft. putt and still left it short of the hole!
This is all thankfully gone with the advent of the MotionPlus. It so accurately tracks the position and speed of the club as you swing it that the level of control required to place a ball right where you want it feels completely natural. The enhanced controller also “feels” the twist of the club. This allows much better control over Draw and Fade or, as I call them, a #$@! slice or a *^&% hook. Yes, it’s true. The Nintendo engineers spend untold hours and millions of dollars to build a controller that aptly demonstrates something that I already knew: I suck at golf. With Tiger Woods ’09, I could hit any shot arrow straight. Even those that I didn’t want to hit straight, as it turns out, because the Draw/Fade on the old controller was somewhat inconsistent. Now I can hit a slice just like in real life, whether I want to or not.
There is very definitely a need to un-learn your ’09 swing and learn the 2010 swing. The old swing mechanics seemed to reward a fast back swing with very little pause before bringing the club back down to hit the ball. The new swing prefers a gentle backswing and allows for a more natural pause time at the top of the swing. The trade-off is that you have to concentrate on not twisting the controller far more than you had to before. I would say that Tiger Woods ’10 is much harder to play than ’09, but it’s harder in a good way. Rather than being difficult because of a clunky swing mechanic, it’s hard because the swing is now so much more accurate. What qualifies that as a good kind of hard is the fact that it can be improved with practice. Bad controllability is forever. Difficulty from realism lasts only until you can practice it away.
Other updates include a revamped user interface and a couple of new game modes, the most notable of which is the Disc Golf mode. There are also changes to the online mode; you can read about those on the box. There is an interesting new use of internet connectivity in that the game can go out and find the real world weather at the golf course of your choice and reflect those conditions in the game. This is actually a common feature in flight simulators and has been for a few years, but it’s interesting to see this new application of it. I doubt if I’ll use it much, though. I prefer a nice, sunny day for my virtual golf escapism.
I’ve only been playing for a few days, but I’ve already noted some things that I wish had been updated but haven’t. For example, I’d like to see the full leader board when playing in a tournament, but just the top 6 plus me. I’d like to have a driving range. I’d like to have a practice green at each course that I could use before teeing off. I’d like an online multiplayer mode where I would see my opponent’s avatar and shots. I see the advantage of the simultaneous play when playing against a total stranger, but when I’m playing against someone I know I want it to feel like we’re actually together. I’d also like to be able to play a Match game against on online opponent. (That might be in the 2010 version – I haven’t had a chance to look yet.) Another bug that I hope to be able to test soon is the Sudden Death play after a tie. In ’09, every single time I’ve gone to Sudden Death I’ve birdied the first hole and lost. That doesn’t seem likely. The game also never told me who won or what score they had achieved on the hole. I hope that’s fixed!
Those are very minor issues, though. Nothing is ever perfect, but in my considered opinion, Tiger Woods ’10 with the MotionPlus controller is very, very close.