Going Up Against Tiger

Going Up Against Tiger This year's edition of Tiger Woods PGA Tour packs in enough engaging features and realistic graphics to make it worth the price

Dominate the PGA in Electronic Arts' Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08. This year's edition of the company's annual golf franchise retains the quality play of last year's game, but developer Tiburon injected it with some key features that'll make it stand out from its predecessor.

It starts with EA Sports GamerNet, an online feature designed to build community and get competitive juices flowing. This mode allows you to record and upload everything you do, from dramatic hole in ones to impossible shots. Not only does this give other gamers something to look at, but they can also attempt to recreate your classic moments, the goal to prove that what you did wasn't that amazing. You'll also earn points for successfully completing challenges, and these get uploaded onto online leader boards. Even better, EA may upload its own challenges. Gamers can even vote on which ones they like the best, which (in theory), causes the best ones to bubble to the top. Thus, the mode has infinite replay value. You could play this for months without tapping into the rest of the game.

We envision EA applying GamerNet to all of its sports games. In NBA Live, for example, users could upload their late game heroics and then challenge you to match them. The same goes for Madden and NHL. Score two touchdowns with a minute left in the fourth quarter? No problem.

We also love the Confidence Meter, which will change sports video games forever. Instead of approaching the next hole with all your abilities intact, how you perform depends on what you previously did. If you take risky shots and fail to deliver, for example, your pro golfer loses confidence, increasing the likelihood that you'll screw up even more. Other factors, such as shot type, club used and distance also determine your shakiness. This also affects the targeting circle. If you suck, the circle grows, making it difficult to play. If you dominate the course it decreases, giving you a much better opportunity to make the tour-winning putt.

On one hand, the confidence meter makes things a bit unfair. Just because you botched up the previous hole doesn't mean you should suffer a handicap. Players do, after all, come back and defy the odds. At the same time, EA just wants to convey the stress players suffer from as well as the guts needed to pull it together. Now, instead of sleeping through the first five holes you need to pay attention the entire round, lest you come face to face with a hungry and confident Tiger Woods.

If that's not enough to destroy your confidence, the new putt preview camera definitely will. Instead of repeatedly viewing the best angle, you get once chance. Using up that one opportunity and getting distracted may cost you the hole.

EA also made the game more personal, with the option to upload a picture of your face only and put yourself into the game, essentially creating your own custom golfer. In addition to slapping your mug onto the character model, you can also add accessories like hats, sunglasses and ugly golfer outfits. You can use the Xbox Live Vision Camera (360 version only) or any digital camera. Then, you send the pictures (EA recommends a front and side photo, the front being the most important) to the Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 website.

Tiger's single player component looks more engaging, thanks to a nonlinear structure that lets you pick and choose your next match. You'll square off against golf's best as well as unlock stuff along the way. You just won't have to follow a specific route.

EA tossed new courses into the game as well, such as Harbor Town, TPC Boston, Cog Hill, Westchester Country Club and East Lake. And you'll select from a host of popular golfers such as John Daly, Christie Kerr, Morgan Pressel, Vijay Singh and of course, Tiger Woods.

Furthermore, the game looks outstanding. EA and Tiburon continue to do great work capturing each course as well as the likenesses of each golfer. Tiger Woods, above all the others, looks almost photo realistic.

Previous Tiger Woods games for the Xbox 360 lacked features, making them feel shallow. This year's game packs enough content to justify its $59.99 MSRP, and we strongly suggest you go a few rounds with it August 28.