I’ve been away from the Tiger Woods Franchise for a little over a year now. In fact, the last version I played was Tiger Woods 09, and suffice it to say,  I loved that game. So I was pretty excited to get my hands on the latest release of the series. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 is a very nice update to very good golf series. Lets jump right in with the changes to this years version of the game.

One of the newest editions to the game is a feature called True-Aim. True-Aim adds a level of difficulty to the game that can be quite frustrating at first. If you choose to use this feature, it will remove the accuracy circle, and give you a camera angle that is closer to what you might see watching the game on your television. I have a feeling that many people will be using the feature as it adds a level a realism to the game, and makes you concentrate more as you play, rather utilizing the previous “grip it and rip it” approach. If you’re going to experiment with True-Aim, I recommend going through the tutorial mode first. Not only will you gain XP (which I’ll get into in a second) but it will give you a chance to try out the feature while you train.

The next thing that I noticed almost immediately, was that there is no more money. In previous versions, as you made some good shots, you got virtual money, and with it, you could buy better equipment. The new system is similar to the way money worked in the past, except it’s XP that you gain and spend this time around. And the added bonus of XP is that it also levels your golfer. The higher your level, the better the equipment is. Simple Eh? The one thing you lose without having money, is the ability to put virtual wagers on your online matches. I for one already miss that. Want a quick headstart on your XP? Invite a bunch of friends to play the beta. You’ll get 25 XP for each invite. I did this to a bunch of people, and racked up some serious XP very fast.

Another new feature is Focus. This feature is pretty cool. Every-time you use your super tiger skills like putt preview, power up your shot, etc, it eat away at your focus. So my advice here is to use this sparingly, because once you use it all up, you’ll have to rely on your own skills to get by. I personally only use this for putt preview, as it allows you to see more than one putt preview for a given hole.

Finally, there is the Ryder Cup. This allows you to play either the United States or European side of the tournament. You can even play the Ryder Cup online making it a tournament of 24 players. One of the major flaws in this feature, is that you are forced to watch all the other golfers play. You cannot just skip over them. This can get quite annoying if you are just looking to play a casual game. I know casual and tournament don’t belong in the same sentence, but we’re talking about a video game here.

You have your choice of swing. You can use the analog stick, to do your fluid swing just like in years past, or you can click on the right analog stick to bring up the Three-Click swing approach. I personally like the Three-Click swing, as you have much more control. But the normal swing can be enjoyable too.

The Graphics look very good. I think they are much improved from what I have seen in previous versions. The customization for your golfer has been slightly tweaked, nothing that is too noticeable, but I thought the Photo Game Face portion had become a tad easier to use once you get your photos uploaded (more on that later).

The Career Mode is basically the same as in past versions of the game. You can add a Photo Game Face to your player, which lets you put yourself into the game. Once I was able to upload my picture, making the game face was pretty easy.

Warning, rant incoming: This one is on EA, and not the game itself. If you login to EA’s website to upload your photos for the Game Face, it might take you a while to find out where you can do it. I know it took me quite some time. You have to go into My Player Hub, then press on the Tools Tab. It was not the most intuitive thing I have seen. Okay. I can look past that. But not this next part. The biggest problem was when I tried to upload the graphic itself. The site would continuously say “Photo Game Face does not currently support Macintosh.” I am a web developer by trade, and use Windows where I work, I use a Mac for leisure. Coming from a development background, I was quite upset that this feature could not be used on the Mac. It is written in Flash. Last I checked that works on a Mac. This is just laziness on the developers part, and I cannot think of a reason this feature could not support the Mac. Ok, I’m done blowing off steam. Like I said, this has nothing to do with this game per se, but it is part of the overall experience.

Online features in Tiger Woods 11 are the same for the most part. They have not be upgraded significantly. The biggest addition online this year was the Ryder Cup tournament. You will notice that when you un-package your game, that you will be given an specific online code to play online. This is a unique number that cannot be re-used. This means that if you sell your game or buy one pre-owned, you will not be able to play online, unless you make a purchase on the PlayStation Store. I don’t like this, and I have a feeling that it’s only going to get worse. The use-game market is quite large and we know that the game makers don’t like it. From a business perspective, the extra revenue that can be made is great, but from a customer viewpoint, I don’t like it. We buy the game used and because of that we get less features? Not a fan. What’s next? Used cars only coming with three tires and one headlight?

There is also a plethora of downloadable content that can be purchased if you don’t mind forking over even more cash. Don’t want to gain your XP by grinding it out? You can simply buy it on the PlayStation Store then. But with the average cost of $2.99 USD, this can get quite expensive. If that’s your thing though, by all means, go for it.

Overall, I liked this game a lot. It is still a ton of fun to play, and it allows you to pit yourself against some of the worlds best golfers in a virtual arena. Plus, the new XP system means you will spend hours trying to level your golfer up if you decide to go the traditional route. Despite the occasional bug here and there (nothing we haven’t see in the past, such as camera angles, and an invisible branch knocking down your ball), Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 is a very good addition to the franchise.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 was developed by EA Tiburon and published by EA Sports for the Xbox 360 (XBLA) and PlayStation 3 (PSN) as well as versions for the Nintendo Wii and IPhone OS. The game released in the United States on June 8, 2010 with a retail price of $59.99 USD. The copy used in this review was provided to Ripten for review purposes. The game was played for several hours across single player with varying difficulty levels and multiplayer modes for the purpose of this review.