Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 07 REVIEW

Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 07 Review (Xbox 360)

My wife happily accepts my life as a gamer. She doesn’t necessarily understand it, but she accepts it. I’ll tell her that I’m heading downstairs to do some gaming, she’ll smirk in that oh-so-condescending way and say, “OK , honey, have fun with your friends.”

I know there’s nothing I can say to her to explain why a game is worth $60. Why a system is worth $600. Or why I need a thousand-dollar TV to play them on. And, she never asks me to. But - and maybe it’s just to justify it to myself - I always find myself trying to show her things that I think will impress her and kick on the light bulb as to why all of this time and money is worth it. They’re usually greeted with a pat on the shoulder and a “that’s nice, honey.”

Then I plugged Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 into the Xbox 360.

I’m playing a few holes at Pebble Beach on a Saturday afternoon in my gaming room. My wife makes her way downstairs to the laundry room to change a load of clothes. Before she heads back upstairs, I hear her say behind me, “Wow. It’s nice there today. Where are they playing this week?”

“Ha, ha”, I say with an eye roll.

“Seriously,” she says, “it looks really gorgeous there today.”

“You know it’s the game, right?”

“Shut up! It is not!”

She folded her arms and kind of watched for a minute.

“Wow. That’s cool.”

OK, so maybe it was a small victory, but my wife making that statement was a huge win for me and the other 30-something dads out there. She didn’t want to play. She didn’t want to talk animation or motion capture or any of the mechanics. But, at least in that moment, I think she could see why I play the games.

Does that effectively establish that Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 is pretty? It is. It’s probably the nicest-looking sports game on the 360 to this point. The courses are laid out in beautiful, lush detail. The character models are perfectly-rendered versions of their real-life counterparts. In fact, even the fictional characters from previous versions of the Tiger franchise take on a far more human form in this release. It's almost like seeing a cartoon being turned into a live-action movie.

But, as we all know, you can put gorgeous wrapping paper and a pretty gold bow on a piece of trash and you’ve still got nothing but a piece of trash. Fortunately, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 plays a game nearly as beautiful as it looks.

If you’re like most people, you’ll jump into Tiger by creating yourself or your default gaming personality in Tiger’s deep create-a-player mode. The GameFace technology that is in play on the 360 version of Tiger is rivaled by very few in the current console market. If you have the time and the artistic eye, you really can create a pretty accurate version of yourself or anyone else from 18-88. And, like gaming, you’ll actually find that you get better at it the more you use it. My first attempt at creating my doppelganger fell way off the mark, but by the second week, I had a pretty realistic version of myself, my dad and my wife all choppin’ up the links.

You can jump right into the tutorials from that point and it’s really a nice place to start. I know a lot of you gung-ho lifetime gamers see yourself as too good for the tutorials, but these actually play out pretty quickly and do give you a lot of information.

After you know the basics, you can start taking on various challenges used to boost your golfer’s abilities and earn cash to spend on gear and other unlockables. Some of the challenges are quite easy, while some of them you should find more challenging. They do take some time to get through, but I like the idea of earning my way to a better stat set. I also really like how the abilities are set in two stages: potential and realized potential. That’s a very realistic way to accrue abilities and I’m happy too see the Tiger team using it in this title. It fits golf.

When you feel like you have the chops to step up and start taking on some opponents, you can jump into the Tiger Challenge Mode. This is the same mode you’ve seen in previous releases, where you take on other golfers in match play contests. The beauty this year? It’s actually a bit of a challenge. In previous releases, I remember tearing through the competition from Day One. In Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07, I did beat my very first opponent (Mike Weir), but it was a battle the whole way.

One of the other big perks is that you can bounce freely between the modes. If you lose a challenge, you can head back and try to build up some stats for a little while before having a swing at another opponent. You can take on challengers in between rounds of Tour Events. It really leaves the flow of the game up to you.

I mentioned the PGA Tour Events, and unfortunately this is where I have to log my biggest complaint with the game. The events look great. I love the presence of the galleries and how much of a tournament feel they really built into the game. Sadly, the AI in the PGA tour events is awful. The competition plays to your level, rendering it next to impossible to ever truly being out of it. The better I played, the better the competition played. The worse I played... you get the idea. Maybe I’m in the minority here, but that is the last thing I want out of this mode. I’m not a programmer, so I won’t start to try to tell them how easy it should be to get this right, but I would think the scoring formula should be based on the course, condition, hole location, etc. My play should not be factored into the equation, and it clearly is in this case.

The controls in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 have been slightly revamped from previous versions and you should find them very easy to pick up and play, yet challenging. Now, based on your golfer’s abilities, the landing zone of your shot is displayed in the form of a big circle. This shot area, or True Aiming, gives you a rough idea of where your shot could land based on the quality of your swing. The better you get, the smaller the circle gets. It adds a slightly deeper level of difficulty as your move your way along the learning curve. I couldn’t help but think of how large my real-life aiming circle would be. Not pretty.

The left stick still handles the swinging with the right bumper providing the power boost; a feature that most people either love or hate. The right stick, this year, allows you to adjust the angle and tilt at which you are addressing the ball. It has basically the same effect as the dot on the golf ball that Tiger used to use, but it is a more realistic interface.

Once you have it all down in single-player, you’ll likely get your most long-term play on the Xbox 360 version of Tiger on Xbox Live. There’s a great variety of experience for up to four players in what has so far been a very lag-free and clean environment, which has not always been the history with EA Sports game on Xbox Live. You’ll even find daily tournaments to try your hand at. But, be warned, you'd better be shooting very low scores if you want a shot at these.

Maybe my wife will never understand what keeps me up late on the weekend. What keeps me in the basement till two in the morning with a drive-thru headset on talking and joking with a guy in California that I will likely never meet in person. I don’t think I completely understand it. But when she walked down those stairs that day and saw me playing Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07, I think it replaced the images of Pac-Man and Space Invaders that she kept in her head every time I headed down to play video games. Maybe it changed her mind a little bit.

What will you get out of the game?

A good game of golf. A beautiful title on the Xbox 360 that should be used to sell HDTVs. A fun and deep experience on Xbox Live. And in the end, isn’t that why we all play video games?

Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 07 Score
out of 10