Just picked up Tiger Woods 2002 for PlayStation 2. Let me tell you, this is the best golf game I have ever played. I had to force myself to put GTA3 back in last night for a little while because I don't want to have to relearn Staunton Island, but otherwise it's been golf, golf, golf for three nights. Some highlights...
- Every golf game I've ever played has a "swing meter" so you can pretty much judge the distance by the getting the percent right. Not this game. No swing meter at all. You have to judge the amount of backswing to gauge the distance properly. It's not much more difficult, but it adds a touch of realism to this game compared to previous versions. You also don't have the same kind of "spin control" that allowed you to steer the ball in TW2001, which I liked but don't miss at all.
Also, the putting has changed almost comletely. In TW2001 you could exaggerate the contour of the green to read the putt, which was, I feel, the strongest part of the gameplay of TW2001. On TW2002, the greens don't change, but the image is improved greatly so you an read the green anyway. Plus a caddy gives you pointers on where to aim, but there is not grid or anything so you have to eyeball it. You stroke the ball consistently for distance but have the ability to push or pull your putt depending on how you move the analog stick.
- Improved game play options from TW2001. I didn't play TW2001 all that much by myself because the "career" mode, was very lackluster. Not so on TW2002. First you learn the basic skills by driving, chipping, putting, etc. It seems like it's just to get you used to the controls and no swing meter, but you actually earn your "Bronze" tour card. There are 26 levels and 17 "challenges" you have to pass to move up to "Silver" it seems. And there appear to be actual tournaments in the higher-level tours, which I never found out if there were on TW2001 because the 1-player mode was so average.
The levels I have passed so far consisted of playing 4 holes in 2 under par, which I had to try about 4 or 5 times to pass, and making 3 "clutch" putts, which I passed at the "Silver" level on the first try. The third level (and they're not actually called "levels" but I can't think of what they're really called) is to play 5 holes in 2 under par. I have probably tried to pass this level two dozen times without success, which both pisses me off and fires me up about the game. Nothing's worse than passing *everything* on the first try, right?
The "challenges" are 1-on-1 match play rounds against another golfer. I am 2-for-2 in winning challenges so far. The best thing about the "career" mode is that you start off with no skills whatsoever and just a little cash to purchase some rudimentary abilities. Winning the first two challenges netted me over $90k to buy me some skills and at this point all my abilities are only in the 40s out of 100. The higher you get in ability, the more it costs to improve, so you don't win three challenges then have max skills. You also earn bonus money for things like driving the green in 2 on a par 5, greens in regulation, sand saves, and the like. You also earn cash for passing the task-levels, with increased payouts for passing the Gold and Silver levels versus the Bronze level. There are also "Trophy Balls" you can get by, for example, driving the ball 350+ yards or making a 55+ foot putt. But, you have to use *your* golfer to earn the trophy balls, so while I hit a 358-yd. dirve last night playing with Tiger (which you can do on the task-levels but not on the challenges) I'm still outta luck because *my* golfer couldn't hit the ball 350 yards with an aluminum baseball bat yet. And, you unlock other golfers and courses as you pass each challenges, including a course called "Tiger's Dream 18" which you unlock 1 hole at a time.
In summary, if you are thinking about buying a golf game, buy Tiger Woods 2002. The replay value is very high whether playing solo or multiple player games, the graphics are super-tight, and the career mode seems to be very challenging with different types of play to focus on depending on whether you want to play a full 18-hole match or just trying to get to the next task-level thingy. There are also more courses (including fantasy ones) and golfers to play against than in TW2001. It's the best, most realistic, golf game for a console I've ever played.