By Todd Zuniga 04/13/2007 With the latest Tiger title, EA looked hard at who is buying its games, and discovered that -- surprise! -- it's the same crowd that has a MySpace account and bounces around YouTube. Enter Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08's new Gamernet, EA's attempt to bring connectivity and user-created content to the golf game.
Here's how it works: when you do something special like drop within inches of the pin from a mile away, bounce a shot off the clubhouse onto the cart path onto the fairway, plunk eight spectators with one whizzing drive, or blow through a back nine with a 26, you can record it. Not only can you save it, you can post it on Gamernet so others can try to tie or topple your effort. Both the challenge's author and the challenger can earn points that'll move them up the community leaderboard. And if a challenge isn't getting any play, EA will be able to add and subtract challenges server-side.
[Click the image above to check out all Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 screens.]
Beyond taking on one-off challenges, or trying to score the day's best round of 18, players will find that the system is tailor made for those who want to play online, but lead busy lives. Challenging a friend to a round of golf when you have mismatched schedules is no longer an issue. You play your 18, upload it; they download it and have a go. And it's not just them playing your score. They'll see you take the shot before they take their own. "Being connected doesn't mean being connected at the same time anymore," says senior producer Michael Taramykin.
An integral part of this new system is the GameFace technology. Before, you'd have to nip and tuck your way to someone who maybe-sort-of looks like you. Now you can upload your picture through the internet (or use the Xbox cam or EyeToy), place a few dots, and end up with a replica of yourself. Don't get too excited, though: snapping a picture of your heiny won't fly -- unless it has two eyes, a nose and a mouth. EA has the tech in place to keep things kosher (but then again, YouTube was created to trade family movies).
Beyond the new Gamernet and GameFace tech, the game is visually impressive. Trees look lifelike, and the grass is no longer a green texture sitting on a flat surface. Plus, the few spectators in Tiger 07 have been replaced by a gallery of folks. That means more people to hit! Nothing beats firing a shot into the onlookers -- except maybe challenging the world to beat your feat.