Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online Adds Facebook Connect

In the latest effort by big game developer Electronic Arts to become more social, the beta rendition of its Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online has just added Facebook Connect. Already containing the social elements seen in many free online games, this latest addition has taken what community it contained prior and paired it to Facebook’s.

For an online game Tiger Woods Online is surprising good looking and has a fairly quick load time, with a quality you might have seen towards the end of the PlayStation 2’s lifespan. Of course, this is all only surface value, so upon diving deeper, we discovered that the game play wasn’t too shabby either.

Basic play is simple enough: Players choose from single player, multiplayer, or tournament modes, pick a course (which are all real golf courses), and choose which character they wish to use. The controls are fairly intuitive too, using the position of the mouse and three clicks – one to start the shot, a second to choose power, and a third for precision – on a small power meter at the bottom of the screen. All three are based on timing, and the better it is, the better the shot. Rinse and repeat until you make a hole.

It’s best to practice in single player, but once you’ve gotten a pretty good feel for your digital clubs, you may want to try multiplayer and tournament play. The former is interesting, because it has a very massively multiplayer feel — you watch other golfers shots (live) in the form of multicolored arches while you chat with them. Tournaments, on the other hand, can be daily or weekly with one and four rounds respectively. It is all done asynchronously with scores posted on a leaderboard and in-game cash prizes for the winners.

If you’re not too good at the game yet though, don’t worry, as playing matches earns users experience, which, in turn, determines their skill level in the game. This means that tournaments offered will always be limited to the player’s experience level.

Assuming the player does win some digital coin (as a side note, this can be earned through normal play as well), they can visit the Pro Shop to and purchase virtual goods that augment their avatar’s ability as well as provide a little social expression. Unfortunately, the beta version does not currently have this feature available. However, the player can at least visit a separate “Swing Trainer” to learn new skills and swing types.

This feature is noted under the “My Golfer” section of the game’s site, and conveniently, the home of the Facebook Connect link-up. Without doing more than a simple button press, users sync their EA and Facebook accounts, thus granting players the ability to not only post achievements earned to their Facebook stream, but also invite Facebook friends to join them.

This actually leads to a pretty cool social feature, in its own right, called “Fans.” It comes off as, basically, a friends list, but rather than just a location to show who’s online and where they are playing, more fans also equals more experience earned when you play. Moreover, you can even “Favorite” them to become a fan of theirs. Once done, you can sponsor them for a chance to earn extra cash, thus truly creating a social two-way street.

For a beta version, Tiger Woods Online makes for a pretty fun and relaxing experience. Its simple and intuitive controls don’t need much in the ways of instruction, and for an online game, it was surprisingly high quality in the visual department. Frankly, if you like golfing, and you like free games, then Tiger Woods Online is worth a try.