Golf is a funny old game. It features a group of men (or women) who carry a certain amount of finesse, as they swing a stick at a ball and hit it as close to a small hole as they can. Ok, well maybe that’s a slightly vague outlook on the game. Anyone who has actually picked up a golf club and had a round will agree that it is seriously addictive. After the first couple of loose swings, you’ll want a lesson. Once you’ve had your lesson you’ll find yourself going down your local golf range and smashing balls as far as you can, wishing you were the next Tiger Woods or Vijay Singh. So when it comes to transferring this addictive sport into a computer game, it really does need to carry the same elements of skill, beauty and variation.
EA Sports latest Tiger Woods title, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 (TW06) delivers on two of those aspects. If you’ve played previous Tiger Woods Titles on the PC, you’ll come to expect more of the same from sequels — with the revolutionary swing stick motion, and the gorgeous environments. TW06 on the PC is great, but can get a bit easy. You find yourself hitting -30 rounds in a tournament; with the second place CPU hitting just -3. EA have picked up on that, and have tweaked the gameplay of TW06 on the Xbox 360, making it a lot tougher and more realistic in terms of scores.
Putting is one aspect of the game that is exceptionally difficult to get right for the first few tries. Judging the greens lie and distance is tricky, and can sometimes get frustrating as you fly past the hole 4 times because you misjudged the power. However once you’ve mastered it, it becomes easier. It never gets too easy though. That’s one aspect of this game that really is great. The level of skill required to continuously get good under 65 par rounds is immense, much like it is in real life. You’ll be hitting every shot dead straight, but as soon as you get too cocky and stop concentrating, you’ll hit the water, killing your score. That’s not to say this game is too difficult, far from it. It does require you to continually concentrate on every shot, just like golf in the real world.
Gameface on TW06 on the 360 is pretty much the same as any other Tiger Woods Gameface. There is a massive amount of customisation available, ensuring that you create a character that no-one else will ever have. The possibilities are endless, whether you want long haired, big nosed giants or short stubby lard butts — there really is a huge amount of customisation available, which is to be expected from EA these days.
Controls on TW06 is pretty similar, with the left analogue controlling the swing, but this time you’re able to use the right analogue stick to control the spin, trajectory and height of the ball, adding loft over trees by simply pulling back on the right analogue as you swing back.
Another aspect of TW06 on the 360 that has changed is the attributes section. In previous Tiger Woods titles, when you win games, you get awarded cash which can then be converted into attribute points to improve putting etc. This time, whenever you do a good shot, whether it be a straight drive, a nice chip on, a hole-in-one, etc, you get awarded skill points. These skill points can then be combined to add to your overall attributes. For example, if you get a good chip-on from the edge of the rough right next to the pin, you’ll get a little symbol come up in the corner. When you finish a round, you will be rewarded skill points for that shot (and any others that are good). You could be rewarded 1000 skill points for accuracy, and 500 for concentration.. You can then combine those skill points together to add a bar on your chipping skill, which might cost 1500 skill points. Each skill point is in relation to the attribute. So you can hit a long drive and get power skill points, and then cash them in to get a putting attribute.
The single-player career mode is also different to the PC version. In the PC version, you had to play rookie games, build up your skill and then go through Q-School and Pro tournaments to become the number one golfer. TW06 on the 360 offers you small “scenario” missions to start with. These scenario tasks include chipping closer to the pin than the CPU over 3 shots. If you get it in the hole, you “master” the task, and get rewarded with different additions to your clubs to improve your characters shots. Get it closest, but not in, and you’ll unlock the next task and earn yourself a few skill points. After a certain amount of various tasks, you’ll then have 4 rounds of Q-School, and once you’ve qualified through that, you’ll be able to compete in major tournaments against the worlds best pros, improving your character as you go along.
If you just want a quick round of golf, then there are a variety of game modes available, from match-play to skins, keeping your busy for a period of time, and satisfying your golfing hunger, at least for a little while.
Graphically, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 on the 360 is amazing. Each and every grass blade seems to be carefully carved, and move brilliantly. The trees and water look fantastic, and really do make each course on TW06 look real. Even the characters look superb, with picture perfect likenesses to their real life counterparts. A nice addition to the 360 version is the addition of visible crowds. Each course will have a huge amount of crowd watching your shots, and if you slice a shot into the crowd, they will all react and run. Hit one of them, and they drop to the floor. Sometimes, you’ll hit one in the arm, and they’ll drop to the ground like they’ve been shot in the head with a shotgun — but it’s still a nice touch.
Xbox Live on TW06 is shocking. I’ve played a lot of 360 titles already, and this is the first title so far that I’ve seen suffer with frame-rate problems online. There is a nice variation on different online events, including ranked and non-ranked games, tournaments and wagers, but the serious slow-down on every shot you play makes online play slow, and laborious.
Another major gripe with the 360 version of TW is the lack of variation. There are just six courses on TW06 on the 360, which is tiny compared to the fifteen on the PC version. There are also only nine licensed PGA Pros on the game, again a small amount compared to the sixteen on the PC version. It’s a shame that this game falls short on one aspect of EA’s titles that usually shines. The game plays great, it looks amazing, and is a great challenge, but the lack of courses makes the game short-lived and can sometimes get a bit dull. That being said, this game is still great, and if you love golf Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 is definitely work trying.