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Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004

Two-thousand-and-FORE! Oh, we've done that one.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Ever since E3 in May, we've been foaming at the mouth in anticipation of this year's Tiger Woods PGA Tour. After 2003 built so expertly on the good work carried out by 2002, throwing in a whole lot more single player depth (The Open Championship was just one tee on a huge course of new challenges), the prospect of another year's worth of tweaking, and of course broadband multiplayer via PS2 Online, meant that a mere four-hole demo at the world's noisiest trade show could never sate us for more than a few yards' stroll...

Easy Tiger

So, when we got home, we sat there poking the ball around in Tiger Woods 2003, but it just wasn't the same. We couldn't shout things at the other golfers and have them give it back. We felt lonely. Then the bloody Open happened, so we had almost a week of sitting there watching real golfers do exactly what we wanted to be doing using their imitable visages and pro clubs. Sod the real thing - we want to be setting course records on the Links, and scoring holes-in-one thanks to a bit of deft top spin. And yet all we could do was fire up a thoroughly completed copy of 2003 and pretend we were happy doing it with last year's tools. It just wasn't enough.

You can imagine our delight, then, when just a couple of days later, a dirty brown paper bag turned up in the post containing not only a preview copy of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 on the Xbox, but a copy of the PS2 version to boot! Unlike Xbox Live, PS2 Online works properly on debug code and consoles, and of course the PS2 version was the one we really wanted because EA and Sony have decided to play best friends in the online arena. Approximately ten seconds, several startled yelps of excitement, a rapid untangling of RGB leads and a fumbling of TV remotes later, we were watching the familiar EA Sports startup sequence. "Yes we know it's in the game!" we blurted as Tiger and a few of his professional buddies suckled on EA's promotional teat, and the same old CG'd intro sequence rose and fell in front of us.

Finally, we were in the game, which acknowledged the plethora of EA saves elsewhere on our memory card and promised us a few extra dollars to help build our character's stats. However as we would soon learn, what we really needed was a pre-rolled golfer...

Release the beast!*

For those unfamiliar with Tiger Woods, the game took a serious step in the direction of genre leadership with its 2002 edition, which introduced a brilliant analogue stick-based control scheme. With this, players could thwack the ball in an altogether organic manner, which had far more in common with golf than trying to hit a power meter with a button press. And thanks to all sorts of tweakable options - different stroke types, a pre-shot power boost, in-air spin control and bendable shots, etc etc - players could make their way around courses from Pebble Beach to St. Andrews without dropping too many shots and, most crucially, playing a game that resembled the real thing in look and feel.

As you might expect, 2004 tries to make as few changes to the core formula as possible. You can still choose from drive, approach, punch and chip shots and the like, and this year EA has also thrown in a little chip 'n' run shot that can be pulled off from just off the green. This one uses a heavily angled club to guide the ball gently a couple of feet into the air, producing an effect somewhere between chipping and putting - ideal for making progress on difficult green surfaces whilst retaining some of the precision of a true putt. The game also includes seven new courses, bringing the total up to 19, and four of them have been designed especially for the game.

Elsewhere though, changes have mostly been made off the course. There's a new Create-A-Golfer feature which lets you design your man, instead of just picking the image of one of the game's existing golfers as in previous iterations, and of course you can still edge your statistics gradually towards the lofty heights of Tiger by spending hard-earned tournament winnings on individual skills, from driving and approach shots to putting and even luck. There's also a big Shop for purchasing clubs, clothing and other bits and bobs, and EA won't let us screen-cap that for you yet, so either it's quite integral or it isn't finished yet.


If you're wondering how the new chip 'n' run affects gameplay, whether the commentary has improved, how the single player game is structured, what the new courses are like and what we think of the online play though, we're sorry but we can't help you! In their infinite wisdom, EA somehow managed to ship pretty much every journo in the UK copies of the PS2 and Xbox Tiger which crash in precisely the same location - six lessons into the obligatory, unskippable tutorial. Just as the chip shot rolls to a halt, in fact.

This obviously renders these preview versions largely useless, but EA has promised to send out reviewable code (read: mostly finished versions to help beat magazine lead times) within the next couple of weeks. We'll be sure to let you know how Tiger 2004 shapes up in real depth either when we get our hands on them, or when we've got assuredly finished code in for review. Until then, you can delight in some of the shots from EA's recent camp trip to San Francisco in our Xbox gallery.

*Actual golf club advertising once witnessed on Eurosports. Hippo Clubs! Release the beast!

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