|Posted: April 16th, 2005
|EA continues their top-selling series of golf simulation games with the 2004
installment. This game boasts an entire PGA Tour season, a new character-creation
system and several PGA golfers for play. This game is so big that it takes two discs.
Is the space used well?
EA always picks a variety of music that you can listen to at any time in the game. The songs certainly don't feel right when
playing a round of golf, so it is default set to only play during Arcade Modes and the menu screen. That's enough time to
hear all the songs, although they only appear in a certain order. A couple of them are quite excellent, but most are either
boring or unsuitable for this type of game. There are no other songs, except for some courses where you'll hear
background music actually being played on the course (spanning from bagpipes to vocalists).
Although the music isn't so good, it never gets too annoying. What will get annoying after a while are the commentators,
David Feherty and Gary McCord. In real life, I don't mind hearing them, but their character doesn't hold up in this game.
There are many lines, but since you'll be playing lots of golf, you will hear a lot repeated. Some of the lines are also pretty
stupid. It's also tedious to hear them tell you where your ball will land; this takes out the fun of guessing where it will
land. The only part I do like about them is that they introduce most holes. It's weird why some holes don't get an
introduction, but it may have been a disc space thing. You can choose to switch off the music and commentary, even
during the game, which you may have to do.
The sound effects are however pretty good. The lack of music during play is made up by the amazing sound effects. You'll
hear even the most subtle things like water and wind. They remembered to throw in fans cheering in the background, as
you'll occasionally hear while you're setting up your shot. The fans that cheer for you have lots of variations, so it seems
natural each time they clap or shout things. On top of that are some cool effects that may be exclusive to where you play,
like the ocean or Japanese chimes or ducks. The back of the box states that this game has Dolby Pro Logic 2 Surround,
but there is nowhere in the game that indicates that. You don't hear much behind you, anyway, so I really can't tell. The
clarity of the voices, and sound are excellent, so that might be some indicator. Overall the sound is great, with only the
commentary and slightly poor music choice bringing the score down.
The control style is original and unique. You simply use the Control Stick or C Stick to hit the ball. That's right, simply
pull back the desired amount (usually full) and push it the opposite direction, which is forward. Draw and fade shots can be
made by drawing the stick back diagonally left or diagonally right and pushing the exact opposite direction. Those are
somewhat harder shots to make, but can easily be mastered. I may have called this unique and original, but that's not a
good thing necessarily. It makes the game too easy.
Some other things make this game easy. There's a Power Boost executed by pressing Z a lot during a backswing. That can
be hard to reach back there to do that, especially when I use the C Stick. It makes your ball go slightly farther than your
already insane drive. Then there's spin, which is also executed by pressing Z, but this time with an analog stick and during
the ball's flight. This isn't so hard, though. Put these thing together with caddy tips, a green grid and a break line, and
you've got an incredibly easy golf game. However, let's think of a scenario.
Imagine playing a round of golf hitting every fairway possible with 300 yards every shot. Then take out an iron to get to
the green, and just when it looks like it will hit hard and roll off the green, the ball magically rolls the opposite direction
toward the hole. Then you see a grid that shows every contour and even a break line, not mention your own caddy who is
almost always correct. So it sinks for birdie, but this is so unrealistic.
The camera can also be a little glitchy, and you have a limited view of the surroundings. You almost need the caddy tip for
putting, because you can't walk behind the hole in this game like you can in real golf. Basically, the controls are extremely
exaggerated, and this is supposed to be like real golf. I don't think so. The interface in the game is okay, although the
dark blue font that displays accomplishments was a terrible choice. The white font for displaying hole information on the
top of the screen can also be hard to read when the sky is in view. The Pro Shop also seems a little cluttered, although they
do separate things somewhat. The choosing of items, previewing them and equipping them is also a bit messy. It is
however pretty quick loading, although switching discs can be a hassle. Rarely will you have to switch during a round,
though. Everything else seems pretty well organized. Overall, the in-game controls can't be forgotten, and it is something
that can be negotiated after a while, but will cause some minor frustration in the meantime. The easy difficulty of the
game isn't completely due to a control part, but rather the design of the game, so read the design section for more.
The game is loaded with detail and beauty, just like real life. The
character models are realistic, including your own. The courses
are amazingly accurate and look very real. There aren't too
many lighting effects, but those are also displayed well. The game
excels and lacks in detail, though. Yes, it does both. It excels in
the fact that every tree, lake and bunker or so well made to
perfection, that you'll really feel like you're there. That's until
you see any animals, which animate horribly. Some of the trees
appear glitchy, too. Some architecture in backgrounds can appear
rather bland. There's also some framerate problems, and enough
present to make it annoying. The resolution also degrades an
otherwise great-looking game. Those without progressive scan
are really missing out, and it's too bad that it had to be this way.
Overall, I am satisfied with the graphics, but there's a lot left to
be desired. The otherwise great stuff brings the score up.
Here's the real selling point. There are 19 courses. That just about says it, and explains why there are two discs. Come on,
19 courses. It's almost unbelievable, really. 14 of those are real and 5 are fantasy. Who doesn't want to play Pebble Beach
or Spyglass Hill. There are some I'd rather not play, but who cares. There are just so many. There's also three
mini-courses that act as target practice, and even for some scenarios. The scenarios are 30 challenges spread across the
entire game, that really do test your skills. These challenges are a lot of fun, and a great alternative to 18 holes. Another
great alternative are the real-time events. On specific days of the year, you can play special short events. I mean short by
usually no more than 6 holes long. These events really keep you playing every day. It doesn't make or break the game,
but is still cool.
There is no substitute for the full PGA Tour season, though. This aspect alone makes the game about 70 hours long for a
year. You'll replay some courses, obviously. It can get annoying to play the same course four times in a row. The
developers do spruce it up by increasing the difficulty each day and also making some tournaments that span 2-4 different
courses over the course of four days. The PGA Tour lasts for ten years, although I can hardly see anyone playing that long.
If you need a break from that, or need some more action, you can always go to the World Tour and play over 20 people.
The first ones are very easy, but the difficulty gets dramatically harder for the third and fourth people for each region.
On top of that is hours of multiplayer fun with several play modes. There's stroke play, match play, skins, alternate shot,
team stroke (Best Ball), and team match (Fourball). Some Arcade style modes spruce up the game, and add even more.
Creating your own character and customizing is cool, and proves that you can makes virtually anyone. The Pro Shop is
loaded with over a thousand items, some bearing designer logos. Character-building is also fun. This game is easily 100
hours long, and has one of the best replay values I have ever seen.
Here it comes, the beating. This game is too easy, as I said back in control. I only said it back then to point it out. The
score deduction for being too easy goes here. Why I am deducting for an easy game? You just can't call golf easy, and by
placing the Control Stick style instead of the classic meter really degrades the integrity of hitting a good shot. I don't care
how original it is, Mario Golf had the right idea.
The game also has lots of game modes, but the game lacks the variety that Mario Golf has. To get other people to play
this, they have to make their own character or play as a real PGA player who may be better or worse than the level you
are at. There's also little customization in play styles, and setting handicaps for each player is not here. Golf should be
more fun than this. Well, this isn't a boring game, but considering some variables like the commentary and the difficulty,
it can become too easy. You can thankfully adjust the game to make it harder, but it feels weird manually making the
game harder, when it should just be this way. Turning off spin control and power boost also makes those attributes useless.
Even these don't replace how easy it will be to continues hitting straight shots.
The game is still fun in its own right. Never before has a game poured so much real life content into it, and this might
make some feel better about the easy controls. It's also cool to the real guys. This game feels very polished, just not in the
right ways. Changing the control style for future years would make some people turn away from the series, but it might be
what they need to do to actually make the game more real. I am still blow away by the production values on the courses,
and I can overlook some things. If you have a true appreciation for golf, you may do better to play a real round, but on a
rainy day, this is a great game to play. It can also be quite enjoyable to play the courses, and they are all pretty well made.
The fantasy courses are also a great blend into the real ones, and EA does it right. It doesn't feel out of place like Mario
Golf's fantasy courses did. Overall, this is a well-rounded game.
So this is a slightly better game than Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour, but only because of replay. GCN owners can do well with
Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour and GBA owners with Mario Golf: Advance Tour. If you're looking for the closest thing to real,
then this is it. That's unfortunate considering how unrealistic this game can be. This game is still worth buying for all the
courses; not just the real ones, but also the fantasy ones. Emerald Dragon is the most beautiful course I have ever seen,
even though it isn't real. This game is a must-own for golfing fans, nevertheless.
|Nintendo Reviews Rating: