First Impressions: Be just like Tiger ? except without the money and hot Swedish wife.
You would be forgiven for losing interest in the Tiger Woods series thanks to last year's Xbox 360 edition, which was a sub-par stripped-down version that was obviously rushed out the door for the newly launched console. Fortunately, EA is trying to make up for that disappointment with the upcoming Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07.
For starters, everything about the game is being doubled. There are now 12 courses with the addition of St. Andrews (home of the British Open), Bandon Dunes in Oregon, the Firestone Country Club, Glen Abbey in Ontario, Princeville in Hawaii, and Spyglass Hill by Pebble Beach. The number of golfers has jumped to 20, with Annika Sorenstam, Colin Montgomerie, Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Michael Campbell and Steve Elkington among the new faces. The crowds have been tripled in size and are much more animated; they will turn their heads to watch the ball, walk with the player as he strolls down the fairway, and even react accordingly when they get bonked with an errant shot. Given the lack of variety in the previous edition, these changes alone are welcome news.
Luckily, it doesn't stop there. The graphics are taking a true next-gen leap with accurately recreated courses featuring much improved grass textures, foliage and water effects. Most notable, however, is the use of the new Universal Capture or UCAP system which creates a stunningly realistic rendering of Tiger; in fact, at first glance you might think you're looking at a photograph. Adding to the effect is how his facial expressions and subtle body movements have been accurately animated with incredible detail and realism. It looks fantastic, making Tiger the most detailed and realistic video game character yet. Unfortunately, he's the only player who will benefit from the UCAP rendering but we'll likely see the technology extended to the other players (and other EA sports games) in the future.
Gameplay will also be given a realistic boost thanks to the new True Aiming system. Instead of the old point-and-shoot method, you will now move a large aiming circle on the course, the size of which varies depending on your club and player's skill level. Since your shot will land anywhere within the circle, you want it to be as small as possible to increase your accuracy; using short clubs like wedges will help tighten the circle as opposed to woods and long irons. The new system should help make gameplay a bit more challenging and realistic, since you will never know exactly where your ball will land, just like in real golf.
Your swing still uses the back-forward motion on the left stick but the ball control functions have changed. This year, the fade or draw functions have moved back to the left stick, while the right stick will be used to add or subtract loft. The power-up and in-flight spin systems return but the Gamebreaker is thankfully toasted. On the green, the putt cam remains but will be turned off by default. To help enhance the feeling you're on a real course, the HUD has been cleaned up considerably with minimal information to provide you with an unobstructed view of the beautiful scenery.
The game will also use the PGA's new and controversial FedEx Cup format, where the golf season is split into a ?regular season? and ?playoffs?. The video game will scale things down to a more manageable 20 ?regular season? tournaments, where the top 30 players will be eligible to play the final four ?playoff? tournaments, but is otherwise identical to the real thing. Golf purists hate it, decrying the very idea as a blatant attempt to grab TV dollars but you have to admit it does add an interesting twist to the game. Like it or not, it's here to stay (at least for the time being) and gamers will get to experience it first hand.
To help you win the Cup, you will need to spend time in Tiger's huge Practice Facility, which is a special course stretching 300 by 400 yards with six greens with six pins each, 13 Skill Zone targets, and plenty of bunkers, trees and water. Unlike previous editions where you purchased upgraded attributes, this time you will have to take a more realistic approach and use the Practice Facility to complete several Training Challenges in order to increase your skills like power and accuracy. This is where you can also play all of the fun Skill Zone mini-games of previous versions, along with new mini-games Target to Target (which, like the name suggests, has you trying to hit a target), Seven (a two-player game where you earn points based on how close you get to the pin; the first player to get seven points wins) and 21 (like Seven, but for putting). Like before, the mini-games should provide a fun distraction from the standard golf game and help hone your skills as well.