Reviewed: November 7, 2006
Released: October 12, 2006
If there’s one name that is synonymous with the sport of golf in this millennium, it would be Tiger Woods. Once a child prodigy on the greens – Tiger quickly grew from the tyke whose innate talents were featured on shows like the Mike Douglass and That’s Incredible!, to becoming a veritable tour de force on the PGA circuit at the very young age of 21. Since, Tiger has set records for being one of the highest paid athletes in the history of professional sports.
So naturally, if there’s one name that is synonymous with golfing videogames it is that very same man, Tiger Woods. EA Sports and Tiger Woods have been gracing consoles with one of the most universally accessible representations of the sport for nearly half a decade now, and the series has progressively gotten better and bigger with each coming year.
So, as we wind down with the last of the current generation of titles, EA Sports has decided to bring Tiger back for one last hurrah on our beloved PS2. And what a hurrah it is, featuring all of the best parts of the prior years’ releases – Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 is a virtual best-of this generation’s number one golfing series.
So how does one write about the gameplay aspects of a tried-and-true sports franchise like Tiger Woods PGA Tour? It’s more difficult than it sounds once you really start to think about the evolution of sports games over the years.
The big-ticket football, baseball and basketball franchises see the need to add significant gameplay gimmicks, or tweak with their control schemes (passing cones, trick sticks, etc), to keep gamers coming back year after year. Golf, like tennis, is a different animal altogether – a one-man sport which is so pure, so untainted, that once the developers nail the fundamentals of the swing (which EA did years ago when it ousted the button presses and introduced analog control) there isn’t much sense messing with the formula.
So the fundamental gameplay of Tiger Woods PGA Tour has not changed much over the years – and anyone who has played a round of golf on EA’s series will agree that the gameplay really does not need to change. But how do you keep gamers coming back then? Content – the only way to really add to a game like Woods is to add more content, more stuff, for the gamers to do. And Woods 07 definitely serves up a metric ton of stuff in their new golf game.
I am not kidding when I say that I could not possibly scratch the surface of all the gameplay modes and variants available in Woods 07 – this review would simply go on too long. Let’s just say that EA has thrown in the kitchen sink with Woods 07, and the old days of sitting around deliberating between Stroke play and Skins play are over.
In fact, just to give you an idea of how long the list of play modes is, I can personally list off Battle Golf, One Ball, Four Ball, Bloodsome, Greensome, Skills 18, Stableford, Alternate Shot and Best-Ball, and I still have not touched on all of them. Considering the game also features your traditional Skins, Stroke and Tournament play – as well as an incredibly involved Team Tour mode – the sheer number of options available to the gamer is astounding. Best of all, most of these gameplay modes are significantly different from the other in the list – really making the game feel fresh throughout.
But the content doesn’t stop there – EA has nearly doubled the amount of courses over last years’ release, now featuring 21 courses in total. All of the old favorites are present and accounted for, as well as new additions like Firestone Country Club, Glen Abbey, Princeville, Spyglass Hill, St Andrews, and Bandon Dunes. Considering that each of these courses feature a full 18 holes of golf, it literally takes weeks for the common gamer to play through all the courses.
So what is this Team Tour mode, you ask? Well, it reminds me a lot of the Create-A-Baller mode from the NBA Street series; build a character from the ground up, hop around the globe accepting challenges from the local golf pros, then choose whether or not to recruit any fallen opponents onto your own squad. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. Before long, you will have assembled a all-star cast of golfers for team-on-team play.
The Team Tour mode wouldn’t have been half as fun if the famous Tiger Woods Character Editor was not present. For the past three years running, the Tiger Woods series has delivered the most detailed Character Editor found in gaming. With sliders used to control each and every external aspect of the human body, there are millions – probably billions even – of options for creating the look your virtual duffer. Likewise, certain elements of your golfer’s swing and stance can be tweaked to create unique character traits and movement on the course.
The character editor is so deep, I would not be surprised if some gamers have as much fun making their own stable of hideous ogres and beautiful vixens as they do actually playing golf. The editor is pretty much a game in and of itself.
As for the controls, the analog swing is back and still as intuitive as ever. This time you have the option of choosing the old one-stick “standard” system (Woods 05 and before) or the newer two-stick “alternate” system (from Woods 06). Either system works equally as well, and it really boils down to personal preference.
The gamer has also been given the freedom to choose between the old and new schemes with respect to the putting game, but the differences there are a bit more substantial. The old “standard” method with the putting line shown on screen (again Woods 05 and before) is a bit more difficult for judging mid-range putts. However, the “alternate” method with the grid overlay can be downright hypnotizing what with the thousands of beads moving at varying speeds right and left to represent the lie of the green. Regardless, putting is the hardest part of the sport – especially in real life – so I can’t knock the developers too much for making the putting a difficult task.
The game features 21 real-world PGA pros, including Annika Sorenstam and Natalie Gulbis of the LPGA, as well as 30 faux-pros that you will encounter in the Team Tour Mode. Still, most players will have fun simply taking their own designed player onto the plethora of links scattered around the virtual globe.
After three years of playing the Links and Woods games on my Xbox, I am always shocked at how lackluster the PS2 versions of the Woods games come across. The general lack of texturing is a real letdown, what texturing is entirely too patterned to look even the least bit realistic. For instance, the roughs often come across looking like your gym teacher’s hair plugs, with tufts of grass lined up in perfectly defined grids as far as the eye can see.
And while the game touts all-new Universal Capture (UCAP) technology – which is supposed to accurately reflect the character expressions and emotions – I would be hard pressed to notice a difference from the previous years’ character visuals.
Still, the name of the game is golf, and the Woods 07’s visuals nail the swing mechanics and ball movement to a tee (excuse the pun). The fluid animations are extremely realistic, and everything from the way the club makes contact to the way the ball launches (including the cute little divot you throw) looks spot-on.
All in all, the visuals get the job done – and nice little additions like background flora and frolicking fauna (I swear I saw a deer, …um…greeting…another deer in the background on one hole, but that’s another story…) really add to the realism. It’s only too bad the grass looks so drab.
For a game that prides itself on being quiet, Woods 07 does a stand-up job of bringing that aura of silence to the home screen. Yes, I am intentionally being a bit facetious, but the game does do a good job of capturing the hush-hush tension of the golfing spectacle. From the whispering announcers, to the gasps and groans of the surrounding crowd – the game makes you feel like you are sitting right there on the green.
The background scenery is filled with chirping birds, buzzing bugs, whizzing vehicles, and the wind sounds...well...windy. A quiet game – by design.
If there’s one place the Tiger Woods 07 fails, it is that long-term hardcore fans of the Woods series are not going to find anything really, truly new with this newest release. It honestly is EA Sports’ last-hurrah for this generation of consoles, and they tossed in nearly every feature, control tweak, gameplay gimmick, course list, golfer roster – every everything – from the past five years of the series. It’s a compilation rather than an innovation, and some might not be as impressed as someone who is newer to the series.
Still, with the incredibly deep Team Tour mode, and the plethora of gameplay variations – both online and off – Woods 07 is one heck of a package that will have any golf fan playing well into the next generation of consoles.
It is pretty obvious that EA has pretty much shifted their focus onto developing and innovating for the new generation of consoles, and simply decided to throw some “best-of” material out to the older systems.
While this would normally be seen as a cop-out by the gaming crowd, it is actually not a bad deal for those gamers who really want to chronicle the current generation of material. Why keep five years worth of discs’ lying around when you can have it all in one neat package?
Tiger Woods 07 is a perfect example of where content is key. The mechanics of the game haven’t changed much over the years – nor have they had to. But by simply giving gamers a ton of cool stuff to do within their existing framework, the game really takes off.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 is a very solid package and definitely worth every penny of the asking price. This game will have golfers hitting the greens for many months to come. And for us gamers who cannot afford to shell out the 600-plus buckskins for the new PS3, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 is the perfect prescription for the poor-boy blues.