Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 Review
As one of the top-rated sports franchises out there, Tiger Woods PGA Tour has been going strong for quite some time now. It's no surprise that we see another installment right around the launch of the PS3, as the 2001 Tiger was released in the first month of the PS2's existence. The franchise focuses on realism and breathtaking course visuals to immerse the player in a faithful recreation of hitting the links. The question is, does Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 add and enhance enough to make it stand out from previous versions? Or does this one just rehash the same ol', same ol'?
In terms of visuals, 07 looks better than ever. There's a great deal of brilliance in each and every course, as they're loaded down with colorful autumn leaves, flocks of birds, healthy-looking green grass, and a breathtaking blue sky. The texturing in some areas - the rocky terrain, for example - is certainly lacking, though, and there's some graininess when we get up close and personal. Still, there are fine player animations, solid character detail, and in general, plenty of graphical appeal. When you're striving for a stronger sense of realism, as EA clearly is with this installment, the strength of these visuals are a welcome bonus.
The sound isn't quite as impressive, mostly because the announcement by David Feherty and Gary McCord is very much uninspired and repetitive. Throughout the game, you'll have to deal with their standard and clichéd responses to both good and bad shots, but at least the voices are clear. The rest of the game sounds excellent, with a surprisingly good assortment of soundtracks that even add a bit of drama to the gameplay. The narration during tutorials and training is also of high quality, and the gallery during every tournament sounds just right; cheerful and borderline boisterous in response to great shots, quiet and subdued for poor shots. All in all, the sound works well for the game, but they should've really done something about the so-called "color men."
What can you do in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07? No, what can't you do? There are many different match and scoring modes, including practice, match play, skins (for money, baby!), stableford, alternate shot, four-ball, best-ball, and the gameplay staple, stroke play. The developers have also added battle golf, which can be highly addictive thanks to the little twist on match play: with every hole you win, you can remove a club from your opponent's bag. It's awfully entertaining to watch someone attempt to make a putt with a driver. But the other games can be equally fun, depending on what sort of competition you crave.
One-ball is also new, but it's a little bizarre. You and your opponent use the same ball and alternate shots when playing a hole. Of course, the strategy here is to set yourself up with easy shots while forcing your opponent to play tough shots. Match play, best-ball, and of course, stroke play will take up a great deal of your time as well, simply because golf fans can appreciate and enjoy these alternatives to typical tournament play. But the core of the gameplay really revolves around the character creation and customization. From the get-go, you can input yourself into the game and start training for what you hope will be a long and lucrative career.
Obviously, when you first head out to the course to play with your freshly created golfer, you won't be Mr. Woods. No, you're going to have to build and train through hard work and perseverance, just like the pros, and you'll notice this the instant you see the option, "Train My Golfer." You will have plenty of attributes to improve (power, power boost, driving accuracy, recovery, ball striking, approach, and spin), and by undertaking a series of challenges, you can increase those skills. By participating in the likes of T-I-G-E-R (like "H-O-R-S-E," b-ball fans), 21, or race-against-the-clock minigames that test your mettle with the controls, you can easily begin building up your character.
In addition to training, you can pick up some nifty equipment to help your stats, like new clubs and even jewelry. For cosmetic appeal, you can purchase all kinds of clothing from the pro shop, including shirts, pants, shoes, and hats. And when you're finally done honing everything to your heart's desire, you can embark on the Tiger Challenge (the replacement for Team Tour Mode), which is where you'll be pitted against many fictitious golfers like Pops Masterson, Big Mo, and finally, the Tiger lays in wait at the end. You certainly need to win a few of these matches before entering any of the professional events, because along with your training, this aspect of your development is crucial for ultimate success. As you can see, it's a learning process, as it should be.
But now lets get to the controls. They continue to use the analog to dictate the swing; pulling back on the left analog stick starts the swing and brings the club back, pushing it forward completes the motion. The key is to time when you push forward after bringing the club back, and to ensure you're pushing directly forward for a straight shot. However, you can add spin by using the L1 and X buttons, execute fades and draws by angling the analog in a particular direction, and even add a power boost. But unless you can get the timing and accuracy down, you won't have a chance at succeeding. It's very different than the 3-point shot system in a game like Hot Shots Golf, and in our opinion, doesn't work nearly as well. While that's more of a subjective criticism, we really can't stand just how far off you will be if you're even a millimeter off on the analog. It's something that just annoys us no end, and that's that.
We also would've liked better control over the camera, especially when putting. And when driving, we finally have the "true aiming" system, which allows the player to set a circular target on the course, and a well-struck ball should land in or very near that target. Unfortunately, this doesn't work so well when selecting different shots and clubs because that target doesn't seem to compensate for the change. If you choose a Punch or Flop shot, for example, regardless of your club, it won't go as far as a regular Full shot. Until you fully understand how everything all works together, you might get a bit frustrated at the aiming system. Not to mention the learning curve of the swing mechanic for those who aren't familiar.
But hey, going online can pit you against other beginners or experts, so you can adjust with Internet buddies rather than computer AI. Online tournaments can certainly allow you to get a better grasp on the gameplay, and although there aren't too many people playing, this game has a decent following. Therefore, you can expect more to show up with time, and as is, many PS3 titles have performed admirably on the Network. Tiger is no exception, as there is basically zero lag and numerous gameplay options, many of which are even accessible for novices. So if you have the means, the online aspect can and very likely will add a great deal to the experience.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 is a full and mostly realistic golf experience from front to back. We still can't understand why they keep that option where you can actually change the direction of the ball in mid-flight (how does that fit in with the rest of the presentation?), but it's only a minor complaint. And it's still fun, anyway. There are plenty of things to do, and if you find yourself getting bored, you're simply not a golf fan. There are the ever-present control issues with that swing system, the announcers failed to deliver anything that didn't grate, there is no course editor to speak of, and training can seem like a chore, but all that can't cripple an excellent sports title.
Featuring 12 courses (not that great, considering the last-gen version of this game included 21) 15 professional golfers (Jim Furyk, Justin Leonard, John Daly, Vijay Singh, and of course, Tiger Woods), and so many gameplay modes and options your eyes will bleed, the game just begs for attention from golf fanatics. They didn't manage to fix a couple age-old problems and we're still not quite there yet in terms of next-gen-quality visuals, but none of that hurts the game too much. Overall, you're looking at a worthwhile title for any gamer, and a must-try for any golf fan.
12/9/2006 Ben Dutka