Sports video games are like birthdays: You more or less know what to expect when they roll around each year, but some are simply better than others.
Hit a hole in one playing "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08."
Such is the case with EA Sports' "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08," the latest in the best-selling golf series now available for all major gaming platforms.
While the core game play is similar to last year's version, the game makers added a bunch of new features to justify the purchase.
Specifically, the two biggest additions are in the community and personalization departments.
All shots are now recorded -- from the opening drive splitting the fairway to the final putt on the 18th green -- so you can save and replay highlights. Called GamerNet, this feature also allows competitive players to upload these moments to the Internet for bragging rights, bonus points and as a challenge to others to best your performance. The online GamerNet menu is divided into four parts: channels, challenges, leaderboards and "browse my clips."
When it comes to customization, for the first time you can upload a front and side photograph of your face to create an in-game golfer that looks like you. While it takes a bit of skill to edit the imported photos using onscreen markers as a guide (as well as tweak features such as hair), the effect is worth the effort.
Photos can be uploaded to TigerWoods08.com using a regular digital camera or using a related console accessory such as the Microsoft Xbox Live Vision camera or Sony PlayStation EyeToy. You also can play as a PGA Tour pro, such as Woods, or top LPGA golfers, such as Annika Sorenstam.
You can hit the ball in one of two ways. The main control scheme is using the controller's dual analog sticks, where the left stick is pulled back and then pushed forward to hit the ball, while the right stick can be used to add a fade, draw, hook or slice to your shot. (In the Nintendo Wii version, you can hold the Wii Remote like a club and take a real swing.)
New to "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08" is the option to go back to the classic three-click swing system by pressing the A or X button (for the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 2/3, respectively): once to start the swing, a second time to select the desired power and third time for accuracy.
Along with the multiple solo and multiplayer game modes -- ranging from Stroke and Match play to popular arcade modes, including Battle Golf and One Ball -- 10 minigames are accessible at any time, including T-I-G-E-R, modeled after the basketball game H-O-R-S-E, where you make a shot and your friend has to make it or they get a letter; the first person to spell the word loses the game. New to this year's game is Playoffs for the FedExCup, with courses such as TPC Boston, Cog Hill and Westchester Country Club.
Add gorgeous graphics and a meaty Tiger Challenge mode -- that lets you earn virtual cash and increase skills as you beat some of the world's top players --and you've got a golf game worth taking a swing at for both newbie and seasoned players. E-mail to a friend
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