Another minor tweak has been made to the levelling-up system, with a single XP currency now earned for solid play and traded in for better skills as well as shop items. It streamlines the process, but the balancing is still off.
It's easy enough to blast through the Skill Challenges to rocket up a few skill levels, but the fact that you can hop into the body of a pro golfer and beat Tiger in the Fedex Cup as soon as you start the game shows up the limitations of this sort of RPG stat-buffing in a sports game. As you chip your way up the ranks, it can be hard to tell where your skill ends and the game's artificial restraints begin.
Elsewhere, the multiplayer menu has expanded to include a Team Play option, where groups of up to 24 players can battle it out in Ryder Cup-style challenges. The Ryder Cup itself is the meatiest part of the career mode, offering a welcome change of pace from the usual scheduled tournaments. Finding and starting a game means navigating a lot of unintuitive menus, however, and both population and connection have been flaky even though the game has been out in the US for several weeks.
It's especially weird, given that Tiger Woods Online has done so much to drag multiplayer golf further into the realms of social gaming, creating an organic community where rewards come from participating and connecting. Going back to the old, starchy lobbies and Friends Lists after that seems like a small step backwards.
Graphically, things also seem to have slipped backwards. There's a nice effect that makes it look as though clothing is rippling in the breeze, but on the whole character models are basic, with most sharing the same body. Those crowds of looped mannequins are also an inevitable, but disappointing, indication of processing resources being deployed elsewhere. It's not quite ugly, but nor does it look like the fifth HD-era entry in a long-running series.
And yet, Tiger Woods 11 still plays a fine game of golf. There are annoyances in the interface, control and balancing, especially once you reach the higher ranks, but as a game that always tries to be all things to all golfers, that particular bunker is hard to avoid. Certainly, it's frustrating to line up what looks like the perfect putt, using all the tools available to make sure everything is just right, only for it to stop dead six inches from the hole, or sail wide for no apparent reason, but ironically those are the moments when videogame and sport feel most alike. Golf is, after all, a sport built on the cruel unpredictability of an unfair universe.
So here comes the obligatory final stretch where we try, once again, to work out if this latest reshuffle is another worthwhile entry in a genre that really only ever needed one great title. For the newcomer, the answer is yes. The golf is solid, and the features that truly impress - GamerNet, online play - are excellent and unchanged. It's an 8/10, easy.
For the seasoned player, it comes down to whether True Aim sounds like something you'd enjoy, and whether five new courses plus some tweaks to the XP and stroke system are enough to justify adding another box to the pile. All the changes are certainly beneficial, but none feel essential, which leaves Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 as a dependable but stagnant 6/10 for existing owners.
So let's split the difference and call it...
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