After hearing – and telling you – about the new browser based Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online, I figured, well, I better give it a go as well to see if it’s worth your while to sign up for a trial. And since I already had an EA Sports account from playing FIFA and NHL, I thought I’d put it to good use.
PGA Tour Online is an online browser-based gold game unlike any other, in that it’s heavily career-based, much like its console compadré. Your golfer starts off being borderline rubbish, but the more you play, and the better you play, the better he/she becomes. It’s stat-building the same as any other game, with upgrades to be added to your full-swing, pitch, putt, flop and chip in a selection of categories that improves your power and accuracy inthose areas, These are bought with in-game money that is won by meeting criteria whilst out on the course, such as hitting every fairway or green in regulation play without being caught in the rough or bunkers, scoring par or under, and sinking monster putts. It’s a great system that rewards regular players the chance to get better and better at their game.
The in-game avatar shop as at the time of writing was unavailable however, but in there you will also be able to use your money to buy new attire and clubs for your golfer as well as a variety of other customisation options that I could be blissfully unaware of that wasn’t mentioned in the “work-in-progress” holding screen.
There are also daily and weekly tournaments held for your golfer to earn extra cash and experience, and are tiered so that experienced players are locked out of events more suited towards beginners, so nobody ever feels outclassed going into an event, unless you’re a rank beginner going into an event that’s marked for Tour Pros. Entering these events, either in competitive play or just a practice across a full 18 holes on any of the game’s 7 courses so far, will earn you a score on the course, which goes on your player’s record. Keeping this score underneath the daily “cut” for a few days in a row will give your character multipliers in both money earned and experience.
The game plays almost as you’d expect any PC golf game to play, with the direction buttons to move the target, clicking to start the swingometer, clicking a second time to stop it at the desired power, and clicking a third time to determine how accurately you strike the desired are ao the ball. Spin can be applied to the ball before you start this process via the target to the bottom-right of the window. You can also go for the TrueSwing method by a simple press of the T button, which changes the swing method to one where holding the left mouse button will put you in shot mode, pulling towards you will swing back, and snapping it forwards again will take the shot. Both are par for the course for PC golf games and both are relatively easy to get to grips with. There is also in-game chat at the bottom left of the screen where you can interact with other players playing the same course as you. You can turn this on or off, depending on whether you want the chatbox to distract you from your game.
There is also a Street Fighter-esque mini-game between the front and back nines where you get to beat up on an SUV with a nine-iron… okay I’m joking about that, but come on, it’s the most joked-about feature of the game in light of the last few months’ relevations, I had to mention it!
The graphics are just.. wow. There are times when you’re playing this that makes you forget that this game is operated from a web browser. The graphics are super-smooth, and the overall presentation is just astounding, with a narrative at the beginning of every hole that has a handful of tips on how you should approach the hole. Your golfer is visually pleased with himself on scoring birdies and even on par, and I’ve seen a real Happy Gilmour-esque moment upon doing really bad on one particular hole.
One particular feature that I like is, if you’re running short on time and you have to leave your round early, you’re offered a quicksave between every hole so you can resume your session later, no matter what computer you’re operating on. This is really handy for those executive types that like to get a hole or 2 in between meetings and conference calls (and of course, real golf!).
Now, there’s been no mention of price plans yet or a date when this leaves beta and goes to final release, but I’d imagine that there’s monthly green fees for unlimited use, as opposed to pay-per-play, or a one off payment for unlimited usage. But nothing’s been confirmed yet and everything that’s been touted is just speculation.
Now, from what I’ve seen, and bearing in mind that I’m no golfer, or even a fan of the sport, I’m really tempted to drop money on this game. My only gripe for it is that the mandatory install (Unity Web Player, the graphics and audio handler) is incompatible with Google Chrome and I have to play through Internet Explorer, but that’s a small and petty reason to not like playing this game. The trial’s free, so why not give it a go if you’ve got a half an hour to kill?