Well, well, well, "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11" is rated "E" for "comic mischief." What could possibly be comically mischievous about Tiger Woods, hmmm?
First, let's say this: "Tiger" again gives us the best sports game of the year (so far). If you're a casual gamer, you can play as Tiger or as other pros and have fun.
If you're a serious gamer, you can create a golfer from scratch and slowly improve your game, earn better clubs, and topple the golfing world.
But there's definitely some shenanigans going on with Tiger's game franchise, no matter how pretty, intuitive and smooth it is.
Shenanigan No. 1: If you rent "Tiger," or play a borrowed or used copy, you can't golf against other gamers online for free. Instead, you have to spend $10 for an online "Tiger" code.
EA is instituting that fee with its sports games this year. If the airline industry was saved from the recession by baggage fees, EA and others could be buoyed by online fees.
Top Ten New Games
Here are the Top 10 best-selling video games, according to retailer Amazon. Games are listed by title, company, gaming system, and rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board. Most games are priced $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $50 for Wii; $40 for PSP; $30 for DS and PS 2.
1. "God of War III" (Sony) for PS 3; rated "M" (blood, gore, intense violence, nudity, sexual themes, strong language)
2. "3D Dot Game Heroes" (Atlus) for PS 3; rated "E 10+" (mild cartoon violence)
3. "Super Mario Galaxy 2" (Nintendo) for Wii; rated "E" (mild cartoon violence)
4. "Red Dead Redemption" (Rockstar Games) for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3; rated "M" (blood, intense violence, nudity, strong language, strong sexual content, use of drugs)
5. "New Super Mario Bros. Wii" (Nintendo) for Wii; rated "E" (comic mischief)
6. "Red Dead Redemption" for PS 3
7. "Just Dance" (Ubisoft) for Wii; rated "E 10+" (lyrics, mild suggestive themes)
8. "Mario Kart Wii (with Wii Wheel)" (Nintendo) for Wii; rated "E"
9. "Wii Fit Plus with Balance Board" (Nintendo) for Wii; rated "E" (mild cartoon violence)
10. "Wii Sports Resort" (Nintendo) for Wii; rated "E"
(Ratings: "E" for "Everyone"; "T" for "Teen"; "M" for "Mature 17+")
However, game companies must proceed at the peril of their reputations. More Americans now hate airlines. Likewise, some gamers are so furious about extra fees, they're threatening to skip EA sports games out of spite.
Personally, what repulses me is, once again, the online "Tiger" store. I'm quite good enough at "Tiger" to earn points to buy better clubs and balls. But if you stink, you can spend hundreds of real dollars, buying virtual clubs to swing in the game.
I'm not sure who to be more repulsed with, EA or cheating gamers. But I'm repulsed, I tell ya.
Shenanigan No. 2: To make "Tiger" more realistic (uh-oh), the game takes away a targeting reticule for you to point at, during drives and approaches. That makes the create-a-golfer mode (which is already tediously slow in the beginning) harder.
Shenanigan No. 3: The game always comes with magical mojo, which you earn, to let you golf sharper. But now, mojo is limited, and if you use mojo too much or poorly, your top-tier abilities dry up. How "Dungeons and Dragons" - to limit magic is to pile a false construct upon a false construct.
Shenanigan No. 4: "Tiger" adds the Ryder Cup, and with it, team-based playing online, where teams of 12 can compete. (Plus, there are new courses.)
These are major alterations. But if you don't like the crazy ones, you can use the game's options systems to reconfigure "Tiger" back to several old-style "Tiger" modes. That's good.
I, for one, hate the new TrueAim mode so much (the camera angle stays behind your shoulder instead of flying with the ball in the air), I didn't toy with TrueAim longer than one minute before turning it off. But maybe some hardcore golfers like it.
What's most noticeable? The skies over courses seem duskier this year. Ominous, even. What could be going on in Tiger Woods' life to cause such menacing clouds to hang over his head, hmmm?
("Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11" retails for $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $50 for Wii - Plays great. Looks great. Challenging. Rated "E" for comic mischief. Four stars out of four.)
Doug Elfman is an award-winning entertainment columnist who lives in Las Vegas. He blogs at www.lvrj.com/columnists/Doug_Elfman.html.