Golf seems to be viral. I have seen my family infected one by one. I have seen my gamer friends fall similarly to Golf's videogame counter part. I, thus far, have remained immune. So I was naturally a little apprehensive about putting Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 into my beloved Xbox 360. Apparently 06 isn't a carrier.
I was immediately struck by how unstruck I was by the graphics. There are moments when they look very good. The golfers themselves look very nice. The backgrounds are good from afar but far from good. There are many times when the camera pulls back through the trees, giving you a real good close up of the branches. They look jagged and horrible. I would expect better on the Xbox or PS2, but especially from the 360.
I was a little worried I might not appreciate the intricacies of the gameplay. So I recruited help. My friend is a golf enthusiast on the courses and on the couch, so I thought he would be a natural. He was frustrated with Tiger Woods 06 immediately while I was kind of digging it. To me that says that the game is really more for the casual golf gamer than the franchise fans. This may work in Tiger's favor. People tend to be extra hungry for games at launch time and more apt to trying games that don't normally appeal to them. I admit I was a little excited to play Tiger Woods because it was something more for the 360. So new comers may be more receptive to 06 on the 360 than they would have been on the Xbox. The fans will probably get it just to have a Tiger game to play on their 360. The game will do well, but my friend, who should have been the easy sell, will not be buying a copy.
A major aspect we both felt was missing from the gameplay was a power meter. I can see why EA would omit this: Having to observe the stroke instead of a meter adds a realistic quality. But it also makes it hard. Power meters are universal. Hard on the meter is hard with any club. When you are trying to judge power off the back swing you have a different amount of swing for different clubs. The back swing on a putter is far smaller than a driver. It is cool to try to make games more realistic, but watching Tiger's back swing is a long way off from actually having a club in your hand. So, arguably, watching a virtual back swing isn't all that much more realistic than watching a power meter, and it makes the game frustrating.
To boost your swing you must tap the left bumper button in your back swing. This means that you have to hit the bumper with your finger while pulling back with your thumb on the analog stick all with your left hand. Obviously tapping the bumper can be a little jarring and that makes it real hard to keep your stick straight. If you don't keep the stick straight the shot will veer to the left or right. Meanwhile your right hand gets a nice little break. It would have made a lot more sense if they had you tap the right bumper and swing with the left stick. I had far too many shots go off wildly and of course they went the farthest, since I was tapping the fastest.
My time with Tiger Woods hasn't been completely devoid of joy. It is an easy game to sit down with when you just need a quick game fix. I could begin to see why people would get addicted. Unfortunately, even the quick fixes aren't that easy to come by because you must unlock everything in the game. It gets repetitive real fast having to play the same course over and over. My first online game was a little confusing since we were both stuck playing as identical Tigers. The match was timed and we both got caught watching it tick down as we believed it was the other's turn. If there were more things readily available in the multiplayer modes I would have given the game an extra star.
There are only six courses to unlock anyway. This is fewer weapons than the Xbox version. Seems silly, huh?
I have nothing but praise for Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06's create-a-player. It is truly amazing. I spent over an hour messing with it the first time alone. I have never seen so many options. Plus your creation will be rendered in lovely HD just as well as the prefab characters. I could write an entire review on this aspect alone. We were cracking up creating a character that finally answered the age old question: What if cavemen had meth and dressed like golfers?
I found the online play to be a little glitchy. The occasional hiccup isn't too bad though. Like I said earlier, it would be nice if there were more options available at the outset. Not everybody is interested in single player experiences, at least not before trying multiplayer. They still have to pay the sixty bucks. It would be cool if they didn't have to play the career mode to enjoy the full game online.
The announcers are pretty good. They are helpful and humorous. This seems to be praise I am giving often lately. Maybe developers have finally listened. For years the voice talents and what they are given to work with have been some of the biggest annoyances. Lately they have been highlights. Could be coincidence. I did play Magna Carta a week or two ago and it had some of the worst.
Overall I would have to say that Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 is a rental. While not a bad game, it doesn't quite meet my expectations for a next gen game. It's certainly not worth getting if you already have the last gen title, with more features. What it does do is plant a seed, or perhaps a virus. With more time to develop a 360-targeted Tiger Woods game next time around, I could see it shaping up to be an experience that I could spend some real time with. I'm even starting to wonder what I have been missing in the older games. I'll continue to play Tiger Woods because I have it. It just isn't going to become anything more than a time waster.