• A few weeks back, Electronic Arts released the latest in it’s critically acclaimed Tiger Woods series. The new Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 is EA’s second version for the Xbox 360 with some major new additions in what is seemingly an effort to make up for its lackluster effort from last year. I had a chance to spend some time going through this newest offering and see if the work they put into Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 paid off.

    For this years version, EA added a considerable amount of new content including six brand new courses, four additional pro golfers, new game modes, a new Training Facility to help build your golfers skills and more. In addition to all of this, EA also worked to improve some of the features found in earlier versions of Tiger Woods like swing controls, aiming and, of course, visuals. In total, the game contains twelve licensed courses, fifteen licensed golfers, 11 game modes, 10 mini-games, and both PGA Tour Season and Tiger Challenge modes to go through in Career gameplay. Oh, did I forget to mention that you can also play online in Xbox LIVE too?

    The first thing any fan of sports-genre video games looks for is realism. A successful sports game should look, feel and play like the real thing. For the most part, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 does this well. All of the courses look great, from Pinehurst #2’s pristinely manicured Tifway Bermuda fairways to the deep-well sand bunkers of St. Andrews. With trees that gently sway back and forth in the breeze, sky and cloud effects that are just awesome and a horizon that appears to go on forever, it would seem that this was an area where EA focused a great deal of their attention. Even with all of this detail, load time between holes is outstanding. In my un-scientific tests, I found that each load took less than five seconds to complete. As Yoda would say, Impressed, I am.

    Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07

    While character animations are fluid and realistic, the same can not always be said for their physical appearance. EA utilized what they refer to as Universal Capture (UCAP) technology in order to render golfers that look true to their real-life counterparts. This technology is used on five of the fifteen licensed golfers in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 and works wonderfully. However, the other 10 golfers, along with any gamer created golfer, have a tendency to look a bit plastic. In fact, some look sort of creepy. Take Annika Sorenstam for instance. While the real life Annika is a pretty good looking woman, in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07, she looks disturbingly like G4’s Adam Sessler with a ponytail and, you know, other female features.

    The saving grace for character creation is the pro shop which offers up a decent selection of gear to make your golfer your own unique persona. There’s a sizable collection of clothing and accessory choices to choose from as well as clubs, grips and golf balls, each with its own “skill boost” attribute. Of course most of these items are locked when you first begin the game, but as you progress more and more become available for purchase.

    The next step to creating a realistic golf title is the all important golf swing. Anyone who has ever played golf for real knows just how finicky this aspect of your game can be. This is reflected well using the enhanced Dual Analog Swing found in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07. In older golf video games, all players usually had to do was execute a series of button presses while watching some form of “swing meter”, timing the presses to coincide within designated areas of the meter. In contrast, using the left stick creates a margin of error that the “click-timing” method of old never could. Players need to pull straight back on the stick to begin the backswing and then push straight forward for impact and follow through. Pull back or push forward at an angle and expect it to be reflected in your golf shot with either a hook or slice. Just as important is your timing. If you start your follow through before completing your backswing, the power behind the shot will be negatively affected. While this works great when you find yourself between clubs and need to shorten your swing, doing it from the tee box results in some very lame drives. Although using the analog stick for this has been done in previous golf titles, EA seems to have tweaked it quite a bit making for a very small margin of error. This can prove to be quite the challenge when you need to get your ball through a very tight area.

    Additionally, EA integrated the right stick to allow you to adjust the angle of the face of your club allowing for more or less loft. I love this feature since it offers even more flexibility when trying to execute a particularly difficult shot. Plus, adjusting the face of your club will greatly affect distance and accuracy of your shot, as it would in a real game. Couple this with the ability to still choose between your type of shot (i.e. punch, flop, pitch, etc) and you end up with the best overall control I’ve seen.
    *Yes, whenever I refer to opening the face of a golf club I too am reminded of Homer Simpson’s classic golf line: “Mmmm. Open face club sandwedge!”

    Another part of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 that impressed me was the way your golfer builds up his or her skills during their career. Your golfer’s overall skill is broken down into several categories including Power, Driving Accuracy, Putting, Luck, etc. You can increase the levels in these categories by making good shots during gameplay or by participating in drills at the Training Facility. However, your ability to utilize these talents is kept in check by the Skill Limiter bar which appears on your “My Skills Screen” within the game. Talents in categories that go beyond the Skill Limiter become Unrealized Potential that can only be taken advantage of once you raise your Skill Limiter by winning Tiger Challenges or finishing PGA Tour events. This works well in my opinion by making gamers work and succeed in order for their golfer’s skills to improve.

    Since golf is a game where silence is golden, you might not expect the sound effects in video golf to matter all that much. Au contraire! EA did a great job with gallery noise that reacts appropriately to good or bad shots and stellar environmental effects. As an example, when I was first playing the game I heard the sound of an airplane overhead. I quickly dismissed it as coming from outside the house until I realized that all of the windows in the room were closed. At this point I muted the sound on the television and the plane went away. The effect was fantastic. Of course the commentary provided by David Feherty and Gary McCord is second to none which each taking turns throwing barbs at the golfers and each other

    As I mentioned earlier, the game features a boatload of gameplay modes that should keep gamers busy for a long time. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 supports up to four players offline and on Xbox LIVE including teams of two on two. While playing the game online I saw no real issues with lag or connectivity to speak of. In fact, load times at each hole matched that of offline play making for a round that moves along at a very comfortable pace.

    Unfortunately, there are a few weak spots in the game that are a little too much to ignore and mostly have to do with some very quirky camera issues. When you’re the active golfer, the camera stays consistently in the same spot behind you in the tee box. However, when an opponent is active, the camera attempts to capture the action from different angles. This sometimes results in an obstructed view when the camera gets itself behind a nearby tree or building. Another irritating situation that can occur is on the green when you are facing a long putt. At times, the camera will lock into a fixed position with a view that doesn’t cover enough area to include the hole. When this happens, you have no way of knowing whether you drained the putt except to listen to the crowd’s reaction or the announcer’s commentary. I for one like to see if I read a break properly so this bothered me quite a bit when it would happen. I also noticed that occasionally, a CPU opponent will freeze in their finish position which is a bit strange to see when the gallery is applauding and moving down the fairway toward the green. For the record, I consider these issues to be only minor annoyances, but they still forced me to ask myself, “Why would EA go through all of the hard work to put together such a deep and good looking game and still let some of these simple issues get through?” I guess nothing is perfect.

    Overall I would have to say that Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 is a very good game and certainly a title I would recommend to golf fans. Graphically, the game looks great (aside from the exceptions mentioned earlier) and the controls are fantastic. There are an exceptional amount of gameplay options to keep the title fresh and online play is great.

    With that being said, I’m going to head over to the nineteenth hole for an adult beverage and a sandwich. I’ll see you all when you get there.

    Score: 8/10

    About The Author