reviews\ Sep 30, 2004 at 8:00 pm

Tiger Woods PGA TOUR

Tiger Woods once dominated the PGA golf tour, shredding opponents and courses ‘til they begged the Nike god for mercy.  Once.  Now, with Tiger faulting and coming back down to Earth, Vijay Singh has taken on the role as Tiger-killer and has vaulted past Mr. Woods to become the number one golfer in the world with one of the best seasons ever. 


Like Tiger, Tiger Woods PGA Tour has dominated the video golf market on the Xbox and most other consoles.  But last year, Microsoft released Links 2004, which, in this reviewer’s opinion (which is always right), looked better and clearly outplayed Tiger on the course but not in the features department.  Without any major competitors this year (It’s very likely that Links 2005 will not happen -2006?  ‘Nother story…), Tiger is once again top cat on the virtual links even though this year’s round merely shoots par by simply adding features instead of tinkering with gameplay.   


Speak softly and carry a big stick


If you haven’t played Tiger Woods PGA Tour or any other golf game, you’ve missed out on one of gaming’s best genres.  Tiger institutes a natural swing system, using the analog thumbstick to move the club by pulling it straight down and pushing it straight back up.  Move the thumbstick back a bit and the digital duffer will move his club back a bit.  The smoother and straighter you swing the thumbstick, the straighter and further the ball will travel.  It’s a simple interface that allows just about anyone to step up to the tee and let ‘er rip.  The game is complete with a variety of shots, including punches, chips, and flops, and draws and fades are possible by moving the thumbstick diagonally.


Tiger 2004 was a step up in the game, particularly in the features department.  Game Face revolutionized customization in create-a-player features so substantially that it could have held up as a game on its own.  Unfortunately, playing on the course was a different story – it took pro golf and made it as easy as a miniature golf course without the windmills and clowns.  Tiger 2005 is basically Tiger 2004 juiced up – more features, including an incredibly deep Game Face II mode, but still the same simplicity on the links. 


The single-player mode has become The Legend Tour, a mode pitting a gamer’s created player against a series (a long series) of challenges to earn money and status.  These challenges include simple scenarios (such as complete five par-5s in under 18 strokes), playing match play events against some EA-created and professional players, and full tournaments against a field of competitors.  By completing objectives, golfers will earn moolah to spend on attributes, equipment, and more bling than you can shake a nine-iron at.  The dynamic Game Face feature allows EA to really throw a motley crue of competitors at you each with their own personality and look.  The Legend Tour is full of challenges and should keep gamers busy for a long time, even though some of the objectives may become a little repetitive. 


Unfortunately the same problems that plague the actual gameplay in 2004 are still hanging around the clubhouse in 2005.  The game is too easy – I’ll say it.  Let’s put it this way… it took a grand total of four holes for me to get my first eagle (2-under par), and only two rounds to get a hole-in-one.  My first tourney I finished at 44 under while second place was 6-under.  This was all done with a brand new character – barely upgraded at all.  Even when the Tour difficulty is unlocked, the game is still easier than a ‘gimme’ putt.  Golf is supposed to be a difficult game – I enjoy it being difficult.  I go to golf courses to drink beer and throw clubs after missing a four-footer – not to shoot a 65 without breaking a sweat. 


What makes Tiger so simple is its forgiveness.  It is more difficult to miss the fairway than make it, and chips almost always come within 3 feet if they don’t hole out.  In contrast, Links 2004 challenges the gamer to really adhere to the idea of golf – so many things have to be done right just to hit the ball straight.  Tiger 2005 is obviously aimed at the casual ‘I just want to be good’ gamer.  Obviously this strategy is going to appeal to some people, but for those who want to concentrate on the feeling of real golf, I whole-heartedly recommend Links 2004.  Outdated or not, the game is still a challenge to me now after several hours of gameplay, and birdies feel earned, not standard. 


New additions to the gameplay include stance adjustment and Tiger Vision.  Adjusting your stance is great for adjusting the trajectory of your shot and the roll of the ball once it hits the ground.  Standing forward hits the ball higher like a flop shot, and standing back acts more like a line drive punch shot.  Tiger Vision makes a simple putting game even simpler by showing where to putt the ball EXACTLY.  Tiger will crouch down and do his hands over the bill of his cap thing, ‘zoning in’ on where to putt.  It’s only available a few times per round, but takes any sort of challenge out of the game.


The real treat in Tiger 2005 is the create-a-player mode.  Game Face II rules… in fact my non-gaming roommate plans on spending an afternoon just making up characters.  It is so much fun to make characters, that it could really stand alone on its own… imagine incorporating this technology to The Sims or other game, and you have yourself a billion-unit selling game.  Nearly every facet of a golfer can be customized, nose slope, eye angle, even ear size.  New additions to Game Face include adding wrinkles, laugh lines, and eye bags.  Characters also have age models.  Want a teen phenom?  Want a haggard legend?  Start ‘em off young or start ‘em off old… you make the choice.  Creating a female for the game does have that “Weird Science” feel to it and gets a little creepy, but who can resist the temptation to doll up a lady? 


“I’m not only a member of hair club for men, I’m also President!”


In addition to creating the player model, gamers can also play dress-up with an amazing amount of apparel and equipment options.  What’s more, an easy painting tool allows golfers to create their own logos and stick them on shirts or use them as tattoo templates.  I can’t say what my logo said here (this is a family site) but let’s just say your imagination is your only limitation.  The Pro Shop also syncs with the Xbox internal clock, putting certain items on sale from day to day.  There’s also an online pro shop which will hopefully have some unique items. 


New this year is the Create-a-Swing feature.  This feature is an in-depth customizer that, you guessed it, customizes a golf swing.  The knee flex, wrist position, and hand positions can be changed at various points of the swing, for a variety of results.  Make your swing chunky or silky, it’s up to you. 


Much has been ballyhooed about Tiger Proofing.  Tiger Proofing permits gamers to become their own golf course designer… sort of.  This feature allows players to customize a pre-existing course, one hole at a time.  Fairways can be narrowed, greens can be shrunk, rough can be extended.  In addition, gamers can decide the color of the grass, mow patterns, and place logos certain places.  It is far from a golf course creator, and is really just a course modifier, but does have its merits.


Tiger Woods goes online this year, which may be the main attraction for Xbox owners to upgrade to 2005.  Thanks to EA lifting their Xbox Live embargo, gamers can engage in rounds of golf online and participate in EA sponsored tourneys.  The online tournaments aren’t actually live – each day a new round with different parameters (weather, number of holes, etc.) appears and gamers play the round – alone.  The scores are posted and winners take home some cash (virtual, not real).  The big letdown in online play?  Only two players can hit the links together, not four.


“Who cares if I’m number two in the world.  I have my own video game and a super fine fiancée!”


Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005 is a good golf game.  Great?… not really.  Gamers who have played 2004 won’t get much from 2005.  Are the few new features, notably Tiger Proofing, worth fifty bucks?  No.  Are the Game Face II and Create-a-Swing features worth fifty bucks?  Maybe.  There are tons of unlockables and plenty of things to do in the game, but nothing too different from last year’s version.  As an arcade style golfing game, nothing really comes close.  However, if you’re looking for a golf simulation, it’s better to pull Links 2004 out of the bag. 


Review Scoring Details


Gameplay: 8.7

The gameplay has stuttered from last year’s version.  Instead of leaps forward refining gameplay, 2005 plays almost identically to 2004 (I say almost identically, but off the record I can’t tell a difference at all), which many fans of 2004 may feel shafted by.  The game is still WAY too easy, in my opinion. 


Graphics: 9.0

Almost all nine points go to the playable character models, which once again are the best in any game, hands down.  Sure, some games may have some nifty cinematics, but no other game has the depth and quality of Game Face II.  Unfortunately, the courses just don’t match up to the Links series.  While the main portions of the courses look great (particularly the fantasy courses), the backgrounds look plain… golf is a spectacle of beauty, and Tiger 2005 just doesn’t capture that aspect. 


Sound: 6.5

The soundtrack from BT is very good.  But if I have to listen to Outkast’s “The Way You Move” one more time, I’m going to shoot myself in the face.  The commentary is hit and miss – approach from 120 yards out and land the rock within 4 feet and the announcer may say, “He won’t be too happy with this one…”  It happens more often than it should, but it’s hard to get angry at a man with a Scottish accent.  The environmental sounds need a lot of work as well. 


Difficulty: Easy

I wish I could say ‘Easy to learn, difficult to master’, but that just isn’t the case.  It’s easy to learn, but I shouldn’t be able to get an Eagle on my fourth hole, or a hole in one on my second round.  If my real life golf game was as good as my Tiger game, I’d be sponsored by Nike and American Express and dating some Swedish supermodel just like Tiger. 


Concept: 7.5

Tiger Woods 2005 is like Tiger Woods 2004.  There… I said it.  It’s still the same game engine, graphics, and experience with more bells and whistles.  Tiger Proofing is a good addition, but it’s really only the beginning of something bigger, hopefully in 2006.  Game Face II is just a better version of Game Face I, and nothing has really been done to the difficulty of the game.  Unless you really (and I mean really) want to add crow’s feet or wrinkles to a created player or take your game online, the game is not much more than Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 and 1/2. 


Multiplayer: 8.5

There’s nothing like getting four guys or girls together to hit 18 in the living room.  My friends and I love to gamble on video golf (I suggest you try it to) adding pressure to long putts or decisive approach shots.  Online, the game simply isn’t deep enough yet, just a way for buddies to pass time.


Overall: 8.7

Tiger Woods 2005 is a good arcade golf game with plenty to do.  Casual hackers will love the instant playability and the diverse selection of character models.  Gamers looking to replace their golf simulation will probably be sorely disappointed with the effortless gameplay.  Shooting a round in the mid 40’s is definitely possible in this game.  It looks as though EA designed the game to attract new fans to the series, rather than respect veterans of the series.  Final decision – If you’ve never played Links 2004 (or thought it was too hard) and didn’t buy Tiger 2004, pick up 2005.  It’s solid.  If you’re a Links fan, stay a Links fan.  If you own Tiger 2004, pick up Tiger 2005 if you LOVED last year’s and want to challenge some gamers online. 



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