Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07
When EA signed Tiger Woods to become the face of their PGA Tour franchise in 1999 it not only gave the series a shot in the arm but reinvigorated Golf games in general. It brought a new degree of control to console renditions that had been stuck with the same control system for over a decade. Shots were no longer determined by stopping a cursor on a power bar, but instead brought a refined analogue control. It let players to choose how much power to use by how far back they pulled on the analogue sticks and also allowed for draw or fade to be added on the fly. Now the latest edition is available on the Xbox 360 and it’s the best yet.
While it has never strayed from the same control system the series has gradually refined it with each new game. In TW ’07 players can now add height to their shots more accurately by tilting the right control stick before they strike the ball. The control issues from last years 360 debut are thankfully gone as the 360’s pad feels tailor-made for this game. Most importantly, power and spin have been assigned to the controllers ‘A’ button, making the mad tapping action for power boosts less ‘crampy’. Which is nice!
EA have now got more experience with the 360’s power and that certainly shows here. Last year’s game felt quite empty and looked as if it had been rushed to meet the 360’s launch date. Now every course has a superb level of detail not just on the course itself (all of which are blessed with hi-res textures and impressive grass effects) but in background details too. Buildings and foliage are properly modelled and the crowd now react to every shot you play. It’s actually quite hard to resist hitting a few balls at them just to see their reaction, something you’ll probably see regularly early on as this year’s Tiger is a bit harder to tame.
It may take you a while to get to grips with the difficulty level which seems to have been ramped up due to a number of refinements geared at making the game more realistic. Wind affects your shots more often and you now need to pay more attention to where your ball lies and adjust accordingly. Putting is also more difficult as the caddy tip, which used to tell you exactly where to aim, has been replaced by an ‘ideal line’ which only gives a rough idea of how to aim your putt. Early on this can be very frustrating as your putting can feel quite random (playing two shots in exactly the same way won’t always give you the same outcome) and you will find a lot of shots stopping short or flying right past the whole.
Everything gets easier as you play more though and it does get more enjoyable as you improve your golfer’s stats which are no longer bought by prize money. This year feels more like an RPG as skills like Driving Accuracy and Recovery are increased by playing those kind of shots more often; if you attempt a lot of long putts or find yourself hitting from the rough or a bunker, your putting and recovery skills increase accordingly. This means you have to put more effort into stat-raising but ultimately it is a lot more satisfying and you will see noticeable improvements as you progress.
If you’re worried about potential Xbox Live opponents simply stat-farming their way to online supremacy you don’t have to be as the stats are capped until you’ve completed events in the main game. Any skills you raise past your current level are saved as ‘untapped potential’ and automatically improve as your cap increases so you won’t lose any precious skill points in one area just because the rest aren’t high enough. When your skill cap increases there are plenty of training holes to practise on and you can now choose which skills to focus on. There has obviously been a lot of thought put into the stat-raising side of the game and it helps to make this game enjoyable and satisfying than any of its predecessors.
The EA game face, which for so long has been one of the best in-game character editors has been given a huge facelift (no pun intended), with a massive range of stats that can be tweaked to create scarily realistic avatars of yourselves and friends. Couple this with the superb animation on your golfer and for the first time you really will believe you are ‘in the game’.
Not only is this the best-looking Tiger Woods yet it is also the best to play with more game modes than ever before and some fun new multiplayer variations that are fun against friends or online. Menus are easier to traverse and EA have even reduced EA Trax to a selection of fittingly easy listening tunes that don’t intrude on play like previous games.
Tiger Woods 07 is not only the pinnacle of Golfing on consoles or PC but is one of the best sports titles around. The 360 houses the best version and unless EA do something special with the upcoming Wii or PS3 versions it looks like that will be the case for another year at least.