Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 07 Review (PS2)
I’ve been golfing for the better part of the last 20 years. I stop short of calling myself a golfer, because what I do on the links is an insult to those who do. I’m a duffer; a hacker at best. My rounds are usually comprised of one or two good shots surrounded by 100-plus bad ones. Not much style, very little technique, and a whole lot of colorful language.
My game is frustrating. After 20 years, I’ve made only marginal improvements. I still lift my head up. I still try to kill the ball when a three-quarter swing would have done the trick. And I still take every hazard in front of me like a challenge to my manhood. However, even with all of those factors, I keep coming back. One nice drive or a good green read that helps me bury a long putt. Heck, a cute beer cart girl will do it. It brings me back round after round and year after year.
The Tiger Woods franchise from EA Sports is also back again with their annual golf release titled, appropriately enough, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07. Like a brand new shiny white ball to replace the scuffed-up range ball with the big “smile” in it that we wore last year’s release into. I teed it up on the PS2 to have a whack at it.
While I have been playing this franchise since it was originally branded by young Mr. Eldrick and before, this was my first voyage back to the PS2 since Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003. However, I can safely say that that release was the most fun I’d ever had with Tiger. Through strange circumstances, I ended up having my older brother cohabitating with me for about a month and a half that yea,r and we played that game every single day. Hour after hour and late into the night, we had epic battles. There’s always been something about the PS2 controller that just felt right with this game. It never translated as cleanly to the Xbox for me, so the return was a welcomed one.
Upon firing it up, the first thing you will notice is that the game really hasn’t changed that much. Not just since last year, but also really in the last four or five years. There’s long been an argument that golf titles belong on the PC, because you there’s not much to add from years to year. The game is really better served merely being updated. That’s really where we are with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07. They’ve slapped the “NEW” label on a lot of elements, but the core of the game is largely unchanged.
So, instead of spending a lot of times on Golf 101, let’s concentrate on what is new, what works, and what doesn’t work, shall we?
The basics of the Tiger series remain the same. The controls are near-perfect on the PS2. You have the a couple different swing methods this year, but the standard is the old reliable left analog swing that handles the power, timing, hook and fade all right there on your thumb. When using the standard control, the right thumbstick will determine where you strike the ball. And, unlike my real golf game, it doesn’t default to topping it. Those who prefer a more sim-like golf experience will still be bothered by the button mashing that allows you to hit power shots, change spin in the air, and give your shot a little boost in flight. Yes, it may be a little corny, but it does give you something to do with your hands while the ball is in flight.
The modes of play have remained largely the same, but the focus has been shifted from last year’s “Rivals Mode” to the new “Team Tour”. If you’re like me, you don’t think of golf as a team sport, per se, and I think that may really rub some people the wrong way. Golf is more about individual rivalries. Many would even argue that, at the center of it all, golf is about you against the course, nothing else. Team Tour has you building up a team through time to eventually challenge Tiger and his team in their quest for world domination. The mode itself is OK; but the concept just doesn’t work.
That’s not to say all of the new modes don’t work. I actually had a lot of fun in some of the new modes, my personal favorites being Greensome, Bloodsome, and One Ball. Greensome and Bloodsome are basically best-ball matches like you would play with your buddies on a Saturday afternoon at some charity scramble. Your team all tees off and that’s when the fun begins. In Greensome, your team then chooses which ball to play and all shoot from there. In Bloodsome, my personal favorite, especially when playing with buddies, your opponents choose which ball you’ll use. If they had had Bloodsome on the old Sega Genesis PGA Tour game, I, most likely, would not have not gotten enough credits to finish college. My group of 30-something buddies had a blast with it now, I can only imagine what would have happened if we added beer and nearly limitless time on our hands.
One Ball is a lot of fun, as well. It actually adds a level of strategy to golf. You and an opponent alternate shots on the same ball trying to be the person who sinks the shot. The trick is, the ball has to travel at least half the distance to the pin on each shot or you are penalized. You’ll find yourself thinking a couple shots ahead trying to find the perfect spot to make your move.
Along with the new modes, you will still find the PGA Tour Season, Skills Competitions, and the Real Time Event Mode back from previous releases. All of these modes can be used to build up the skills and the bankroll of your created golfer.
And, speaking of created golfers, Game Face is back, presenting PS2 users with arguably the best create-a-player feature in this generation of consoles. It’s still not perfect, but it is very good. Not only can you customize your face and body, but also you can even do your best to replicate your actual swing with the custom swing builder. Try as I might, I wasn’t able to accurately replicated my spastic hack, but I did it justice.
Visually, we’re looking at pretty much the same game that we have been for years. The courses, which you’ll find more than 20 this year, are laid out perfectly, but the level of detail leaves something to be desired. There is no visual sense of depth to the game. When you got into the brush, it doesn’t really look like you’re in the brush. I would love to see the ball not just behave like you’re hitting out of a thick thatch, I want to see it. I understand that there are limits on the old generation and you’re pushing it as is, but there’s so much more that can be done here.
It also wouldn’t hurt to use the visuals to enhance the feel of the game and especially big moments. Where is the gallery? Why does it always appear that I am alone on the course? There’s more to be done.
The biggest complaint that still holds true is the very rapid learning curve that you’ll find in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07. While they attempted to address this with some difficulty adjustments, it’s still too easy to shoot in the 50’s on some of the easier courses with very little time in. Some of the new courses appear to be geared towards making the game a bigger challenge, but that’s achieved through tougher greens and less safe fairway spots. Golf is about mechanics and the Tiger Woods series is a little too forgiving in that department. Hazards and bad lies will barely slow you down. That’s why the best challengers are human opponents who have logged the same number of hours with the game that you have.
As I sat on a beat-up old sofa in the winter of 2002 logging hour after hour on Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003, I had no idea what the future would hold for the series. I had no idea that I would be playing Tiger still in 2006. More importantly, I had no idea I’d be basically playing the same game. But, like my real game, it only takes a few moments each round to make it all worthwhile. That one good shot that makes you hungry to come back for more. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 is a lot like its predecessors. "A lot" may even be a huge understatement. It is basically the same game at the core. But, it's also a lot of fun, and a solid game that will provide an ample amount of play for your money. I can, without a doubt, say that the more people you have huddled around the PS2, the more fun you’ll have. And, like they say, a bad day of golf is still better than a good day at work.