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


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.