by Patrick Evans
Please note: Due to the inherent differences between the Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii versions of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2007, these games will be reviewed separately.
Like the real life Tiger Woods, the videogame counterpart published by Electronic Arts is an established front-runner. And just like real life Tiger, the competition is simply left in the dust when it comes to trying to produce a top-notch golfing game. This is nothing new; TW has been on top since PGA Tour 2002 came out and hasnt looked back since. Another thing that hasnt changed in the past five or six releases? The core gameplay since Tiger went to the analog swing way back when has remained virtually unchanged. Players looking for another great round of golf from Tiger Woods will hardly be disappointed, but aside from a couple new gameplay types anyone looking for innovation will see this title as a little stale.
And what are these new gameplay modes you ask? Well, instead of having players chasing legends like Jack Nicholas or Arnold Palmer, the final objective is Tiger and his crew of top golfers. Note: I quote top golfers because Anika Sorenstam, who hasnt made any sort of an impact on the PGA Tour, is on this supposed top team. Sure, shes got a short game, but Tigers formidable squad should all hit at least as long as Vijay too. Anyway, in order to challenge Tiger, you have to compete against other golfers around the world in different types of matches.
Building up a created golfer to take on Tiger is, again, nothing new. The new spin on an old model is that you are also building up your own all-star team in this all new Team Tour. After beating Big Mo and his buddy in Fourball or John Daly in a straight up Match Game you can select them for your team whenever you want. Whats even cooler is the fact that the EA original characters like Big Mo or Erica Von Severin can earn experience and develop into stronger golfers. We found this to only be a temporary measure, however, since just about any pro player is heads and shoulders above any of the EA originals. Still, having the option to keep around old favorites like Pops Masterson or Hamish McGregor is nice. Juiced up characters that you may have from previous Team Tours can also join the team, allowing players to create the ultimate dream-team from scratch.
While having the freedoms above may keep the game fresh for a while, its the variety in game modes that really keeps things going in 07. Elimination mode puts one squad against one another in match play, but the catch is that when a player loses a hole they are eliminated from the match altogether. Greensome and Bloodsome both involve two players on a team sharing the same ball, but the difference is who gets to choose what ball is selected off the drive. In Greensome, you get to pick your own ball based on the two drives of you and your teammate. Bloodsome is the opposite of that, giving players the opportunity to pick their opponents ball instead. Finally, One-Ball gives only, you guessed it, one ball to two opposing golfer. These golfers then alternate shots, trying to put their opponent in a difficult position for their next shot while still hitting within half the distance remaining and avoiding water hazards.
These game modes sound confusing the first time you read about them or try them out on the course, but they really go a long way in making Tiger a much more compelling title. Instead of simply going through the motions of Tee Off-Approach-Putt, players are not introduced to a little strategy. Greensome gives a player a little room for error if they want to smash a huge drive because they have a partner that can take a safer shot to guarantee them the fairway. Alternatively, in Bloodsome that room for error is eliminated since your opponent picks between the two drives. One-Ball sounds more strategic than it really is since it always comes down to which golfer putts better, but the suspense of watching your opponent attempt that putt for the whole is still gripping stuff. Including games types such as these in combination with the team aspect really gives players reason to manage their team wisely and pay attention to the strengths and weaknesses of everyone in their employ.
Players that blaze through the Team Tour and are still hungry for a little action on the links will get their fill in the returning PGA Tour Mode. That lack of innovation that I spoke of earlier is here in spades. Instead of employing the upcoming FedEx Tour Points system (like the next-gen versions will), EA dropped the same boring line of tournaments that we have seen for three or four years now. The only reason for anyone to take a look at the Tour is to try and secure all of the Tracking Tiger Trophy Balls that require you to lead the money list or achieve a streak in cuts made.
When youve been looking at the same graphics engine for the past four or five years, things start to look their age. The graphics engine that still beats just about everything else out there looks just fine, but aging graphics is the standard trend for all of EAs current-gen titles. We all understand that the focus for much of the development out there is on the upcoming Xbox 360 and PS3 release, so getting any sort of innovation should be considered a gift. This gift comes in the form of a refined GameFace mode, where the analog sticks have replaced many of those annoying slider bars in creating your custom golfers features. Analog controls hasten the process and allow those who would skip certain facial features and whatnot to fulfill their dream of becoming a stud golfer by streamlining everything. These little tweaks are a small improvement to be sure, but an improvement nonetheless.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2007 should be seen as the greatest game in a long line of excellent golf titles. This game is the culmination of six years of genre dominance. The new team game modes are fresh and fun, while the structure of the Team Tour is a perfect blend of team management and in-game strategy. It might not look as pretty as the upcoming Xbox 360 version or rock anyones world with drastically new gameplay, but this game gets everything right where it counts.
By Patrick Evans
CCC Staff Writer
TW PGA Tour 07 promises to be for swingers only. by Patrick Evans
Ah, I can hear it now. "Back in our day, all we had to do was pull the stick back and push it forward. We were shooting 46s with our eyes closed! You young whipper-snappers are spoiled with your 'True-aiming' and motion captured Tiger."
This, of course, is the wretched complaining of the many veterans of Tiger Woods, most of us since '02 or older, finally getting what we have been asking for, what seems like years.
Last year's offering of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2006 was a total fluff-ball. Like the hot girl at prom, '06 was quite the looker but was pretty dumb in terms of overall options and depth, especially compared to their content-packed brothers on the current-gen. In teaching the world that, if you complain long and hard enough, game developers will finally get around to answering you.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. This innovation that EA has finally added is the "True Aiming" system. Instead of knowing precisely where your shot is going, assuming you make solid contact with the ball and adjust for wind and lie, '07 will now provide every shot with a range for where the ball will land. In coming off the tee, for instance, even hitting the perfect ball could result in landing in the rough as the range of the shot may take it to the first cut. The range of the shot will vary based on lie, statistics, and equipment, so investing in situations that you find yourself in most often will ensure success on the links. While there was a taste of this in previous games, with low stat players having a difficult time sticking it close to the pin like the big boys, True Aiming ensures that every shot will count no matter if you are just starting a custom character or playing as Woods himself.
The Redwood Shores studio didn't just stop with the swing innovation, however. True to the nature of a EA Sports series, '07 doubles its content from last year. Additions to the course listing include Firestone Country Club, Princeville, Spyglass Hill, Glen Abby, Bandon Dunes, and St. Andrews, bolstering the number of courses to 12. The roster of players has been bolstered to 15 as well, including Tour favorites Vijay Singh, big-man John Daly, and LPGA all-star Annika Sorenstam. All these options are supplemented with an enhanced online multiplayer with five new game modes, online tournaments with stat-tracking, and league leaders.
Armchair golfers across the world will enjoy online play, but many will certainly be in it for the solo-action. Tiger is taking a NASCAR-esque approach to a season mode, with each tournament earning FedEx points in the overall standings. On the practice course, you can enhance your skills for that big day against Tiger in the final group of the tourney.
Improving on '06 in a multitude of areas already, '07 will also enhance the on-the-course experience visually as well as mechanically. Full galleries and cheering sections will populate the course, reacting to every shot just like the crowds on television. Featured at E3, the advanced UCAP technology makes Tiger look ridiculously real (just check the screens if you don't believe us). Unfortunately, only Tiger is getting the uber-upgrade, but if they include the hecklers that plagued Sergio Garcia last year then I think we can call it even.
Normally, it wouldn't seem appropriate to be too excited about an EA Sports release as, more times than not, they feel light on improvements. The Redwood Shores studio has us thinking otherwise with '07, though. It would have been nice to see more golfers getting the UCAP upgrade, but if the gameplay comes anywhere near expectations, all should be forgiven. At that point, we wouldn't simply be playing a stripped down version of this year's current-gen release (Madden '06, I'm looking at you).
- All-New Team Tour ModeTiger Woods has assembled a team of champions and its up to you to take them down. Master your skills, recruit an unstoppable squad, and set your sights on a showdown against Team Tiger Woods.
- The Most PGA TOUR PlayersFeaturing 21 of the worlds top players, including Tiger Woods, John Daly, Vijay Singh, and Annika Sorenstam, the most decorated golfer on the LPGA Tour.
- 21 Championship and Fantasy CoursesNew licensed courses include The Four Seasons Resort Aviara, The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, Riviera Country Club, The National, and The K Club, home of The Ryder Cup 2006.
- Show Your GameFaceThe innovative character creation tool is revamped with deeper modifications, more apparel, equipment licenses, and specialty items.
- Become the Worlds BestChallenge up to three players in online tournaments complete with money lists, full stat tracking, league leaders, and more.
- All-New ESPN IntegrationGet the latest sports updates and breaking news from the always-on ESPN ticker, ESPN Radio, and ESPNEWS.
Mini-Game ChallengesWork on your game or take
on a friend with Elimination mode, Battle Golf,
Bloodsome, One-Ball, and more.
CCC Staff Writer