reviews\ Apr 11, 2005 at 8:00 pm

Tiger Woods PGA Tour - PSP - Review

Ok, I have to confide in you with my dark secret: I am probably the only videogame golfer that has never played any of the Tiger Woods games. Wow, it feels good to finally get that off my chest. Yes, despite my love for playing golf via videogames (not so much in real-life), I have never played what has been heralded as probably the best series available. The EA Tiger Woods series is to golf what Madden is to football. Solid and dependable. I have played all kinds of other brand names since I first played "Pebble Beach" on the old NES. When I knew I was going to get the PSP, the game I wanted before any others was this one - EA Sports Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005. Good call.

Knowing how amazing the PSP was likely to be, I have been eagerly awaiting this game almost as much as the system, itself. It was worth the wait. Though I have played Mario Golf (old and new) since the GameBoy first came out, the closest I have ever gotten to having a good, realistic (my Outlaw Golf doesn't count!) golfing game was the original Microsoft Golf (amazingly clever title). I still have it somewhere. The PSP version of "TW" is as amazing as I had hoped it would be. I wanted "The" game to have for the new gadget, and this truly is a must-have if you like videogaming golf. 

From what I have read about the older versions, this is not much different, which is a good thing. I have seen screenshots of the latest GBA and DS versions, and the difference is night and day. TW is sharp, engaging and addictive. From the first time you load it up, you know you're in for a treat. It looks great, and plays just as solid. 

You can play as Tiger if you want to be great right from the start. Your skills reflect someone of that stature. However, I chose to create my own player based on myself. More than just pick out hair color and a swanky outfit, you get to sink into deep detail such as eyes, cheek structure and et cetera. The detail in which you can go was more than I chose to do. So, I put together a reasonable-looking "me" and jumped into some gaming. As you play, your amount of money (provided at the start) can grow as you succeed. Use this money for new clubs, apparel and whatever you want. Things are very expensive, however. It takes a lot of green to get better at making it to the ....  green. But, as my friend did, you can play as Tiger for a while and his skills help your bank much faster. That's kind of cheating, and I like to do it the right way (for a while, anyway!!). I found it odd that playing as someone else adds to your character's account.

There are various modes of play, which is typical of all such games. Stroke play, tutorials, Match play, et cetera. You can play single and multiplayer. If you know about the system itself, you know that is has wireless capability. Sport-gaming like this is ideal for the PSP. Unlike the chains (aka "Cable") that tether you to one another with the GBA, the PSP allows you to play against a buddy from pretty far apart. In fact, that was one of the first things I got to mess with, and it was flawless the one night we tried it. Maybe we just had good luck, but we did not suffer a single glitch, and it was idiot-proof to find and connect with each other. Aside from us being too eager and getting crazy trying to select the same items and the same times (odd watching someone scrolling your screen and selecting things on your machine), we were up and running in a game of "Bingo, Bango, Bongo" in no time. BBB places you head-to-head playing holes with various accomplishments awarding you a Bingo, Bango and/or Bongo. Such as the longest drive on that hole will grant you a win. Same with putting and et cetera. I won the match of that, then we went on to play a full 2-player match. It took a long time, but we had a great time. Again, from across the room from each other .... with feet up or pacing around the room. I was even able to leave the room we were in and play as I went down the hall to get a soda. I never lost my connection, and this was in a office building.

Pebble Beach, Bay Hill, Sherwood Country Club and a bunch of other (some have to be unlocked - like "Tiger's Dream" course) courses are available to select. There are realistic factors in the gameplay such as weather (rains kick up with little notice) and wind. Your shots are controlled with the analog "stick," which we PSP gamers already call "The Nub." You have to push down, then back UP quick and straight for a solid shot. If you get too comfy and let your fingers relax too much (as is easy to do), you will hook your shot. You have to be disciplined and keep close attention to your finger position and movement. Minute details like that make a huge difference and adds to the challenge of the game. Just as in real golf, a solid swing is vital. Get sloppy and you will pay for it -  in the sand. Your shot can be "tweaked" once in the air by manipulating the "R" shoulder button. It will add some spin and "zip" to your shot. You can make a chip shot on the green practically stop where it hits (no roll!) by using a button with some backspin.

As I played and my finances allowed, I have amassed some better equipment, though am still far away from the best clubs and accessories. I do have a "lucky" pair of sunglasses and bracelet. I don't notice much improvement, but I wanted to buy something!! 

The audio is excellent. The voices are subtle and not too repetitive. Some sports games seem to have five phrases total that keep getting repeated over and over, but this has a nice, deeper vocabulary and set of dialog. The crowd noises can sometimes get mumbly and generic as if they belong to "Game X" - but it's not too bad. 

The graphics, from the opening load, are mind-boggling for such a small device. I imagine such stupor will wane as more games come out, but for right now - I am in awe of how nice the game looks. Just sit back and watch it run a Demo - it's like watching a mini-match on TV. Even far away objects have enough detail to look nice. They could get away with blurring a lot more of it, but they were stingy with blurring, and boldly animated things that some games take as a way to cut back. 

It's a great game, and if you're a PSP owner that likes golf, you have to have this one. I have other games for the unit, but TW never stays out for long. I find myself needing to do better on certain courses and the burning desire to win more money to get a new "lucky hat!!" This is a keeper and now one of the best hand-held games I have ever played on any system. I'll still play my 2004 Mario Golf from time to time, but this is realistic golf and I can't imagine it getting any better than this. EA has definitely scored an Eagle with this one.  

Review Scoring Details for Tiger Woods PGA Tour

Gameplay: 8.5
The tutorial is great, but the game is not so difficult to learn that you need to refer to it, often. The load screens are very long, and a terrible annoyance at first. But, when you think of what is being rendered in a small space, you have to grade it on a curve. Yes, it's darn slow, but what you're waiting for is detail beyond what you'd expect to see in something running on media the size of a pack of matches.  

Graphics: 9.0 
"It's the little things." This game is on a small system, but delivers grand canyon quality. Some of the rough and fairways look a bit too surreal, but the important things such as trees and traps are easy to spot and factor in. The characters you can build go way beyond anything that interests me, personally. But, if you need the player to look like a picture of yourself, you have that chance.   

Sound: 9.0
The sound is great and realistic. The music suits the mood of the scene - be it tranquil and subdued, or a transition into something else. Chirping birds and appropriate commentary add to the experience. Such options can be tweaked to your preferences, but I was pleased leaving it in with the defaults. That's rare, for me.    

Difficulty: Medium
Pro video-game golfer or not, this is easy to pick up and do well with. The greens and putting were the biggest problem for me. To this day, I still have not figured out the right combination to do well - consistently. My putting, in other games, has always been decent, but it's the worst part of my game, here. I think the green-grid makes it harder than it helps.  

Concept: 8.5 
The Tiger Woods brand has been around for several years now, so it's not new to anyone. I have read about previous versions on various platforms, and do not detect many differences - aside from the wireless gaming items and clever games they built to enhance the head to head play. Otherwise, it's golf. Golf is ... golf

Multiplayer: 9.0 
Playing wirelessly against an opponent is a (new) thrill. We had no problems "seeing" each other's systems and jumping right into playing. Our only complaint was we were trying to do the same thing at the same time!! Example: I would be selecting a course while my friend was doing the same - without any communication. We were both used to situations where one player, usually "Player 1," had control over picking the setup - and were not prepared for dual control.  We were so jazzed up about playing it this way, we were just being sloppy. Once we started an actual game, things worked perfectly smooth and without a hitch.

Overall: 8.5
I totally love this game. I could rate it higher if not for some terribly slow load times and putting problems. But, if you move the controls precisely, and push buttons as needed to enhance your shot, you are rewarded with great results. I have seen games where you can do everything right, yet the AI randomly drops your ball wherever it wants. In fact, when you nail a solid, perfect shot, the game automatically shifts the visuals to slow-mo "montage" and makes it look like a highlight reel from the 6 o'clock news - all in real-time. It's a neat effect to witness. Kind of like a vanity-shot. And yes ... you can do instant replay over and over to see just how good it was!! Hey, golf is hard, so when you do well, you want to share it with the world (even if you're alone!). Currently in the circuit, Tiger isn't playing as well as in the past; but it's good to know that not only can EA deliver a quality game like this, they can do it in for a small-screened powerhouse in the PSP. Tiger Woods PGA 2005 is definitely an Eagle of a game.


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