Reviewed: April 5, 2007
Released: March 13, 2007
Wii Sports was not only a fantastic pack-in title; it sparks the imagination of gamers and game designers about the endless possibilities the Wii, and its unique control system. Arguably, none of the sports titles within the package were as polished or engaging as a standalone release, but anybody who played the bowling dreamt of the possibilities a dedicated bowling game (and one is one the way) could offer. Anybody who boxed on the Wii imagined what the next Fight Night would be like, and Tennis and Baseball would both certainly benefit from the Wii control scheme.
But what about golf? Golf is probably the focus of more attempts to recreate itself indoors than any other sport, and while they did pack in a taste of golf in Wii Sports it was only a taste. Even as we teed off the fifth hole we knew this sport could be done so much better, and less than a month after system launch Tecmo delivered their vision of the sport. And while Super Swing Golf had more color and content, you also had to suffer through sickly cute anime characters and a lot of boring story elements.
Well the master has arrived, and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 is ready to show us how to play golf on the Wii with a whole new control scheme, loads of mini-games, 18 courses, 35 pro and fantasy golfers, and 12 exciting ways to play the game of golf.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 strips away a few of the features from the other consoles – namely online play and ESPN feeds – but replaces them with plenty of bonus game modes and arcade-style party games that will have you popping this game into the Wii whenever friends come over. EA has done a great job of blending fantasy golf with serious simulation as you travel the world competing in the official PGA Tour.
You still get to create your own golfer and take them from the ranks of unknown amateur to somebody who might just be teeing off with Tiger himself. There is a full calendar of events that will have you traveling the world competing for rank and cash, and you can spend that cash on a pro shop full of clothing and accessories to enhance your style and stats. When you think you are reader, check out the Tiger Challenge that will have you going up against 18 top golfers.
Obviously, everybody wants to know just how good the swing mechanic is for Tiger Woods. Well, the True Swing system has never been more realistic (in theory), and even though there is a slight learning curve to the procedures of setting up and making a shot, the controls have never been more intuitive. You use the Wii-mote as a pointer with the new True Aiming system to aim your shot, either in top or 3D views of the hole. You can drag the target circle to where you want to hit the ball and the game will pick the club to get you there, or you can change your club and stance with the D-pad then press and hold the B button as you backswing the remote just like a real club then release and follow through.
My only quibble with the entire swing scheme is that your movements in relation to the onscreen character are not in synch, allowing you to achieve a full backswing with only partial movement on your part. This makes it hard to vary your distance with swing power alone, since you almost always take a full swing, but for golfers who play the max distance of their chosen club, it won’t even be an issue.
The True Swing system also tracks any subtle twists to your wrists that might create a hook or slice. This can lend itself to great strategy and great frustration when you think you swung straight and the ball curves into the lake. You can toggle this part of the swing system off if you find you cannot control your accuracy and every shot will fly straight and true.
My only issue with the swing system that kept me from total immersion was that my big hands could not both grip the controller like they would a real golf club. I ultimately had to play the game swinging entirely with one hand, which introduced all sorts of accuracy issues. Tiger Woods would definitely benefit from a golf club extension attached to the Wii-mote.
For those who just can’t come to…err…grips with the new swing system, you can plug in your nunchuk and use the analog stick to go back to the pre-Wii days of Tiger Woods. EA has made sure that anybody of any age and any skill set can play this game, and they can, so be prepared to fight off dear old dad on those rainy days when he can’t hit the real links.
Tiger Woods definitely has its serious side; with lengthy tournaments, PGA Tour based on the FedEx Cup, and a robust stat system that will have your virtual golfer increase their skills as your own golfing abilities improve. But then you have the fun parts of PGA Tour 07; those wonderful mini-games and arcade modes that are available from the onset. Skills 18, Battle Golf, One Ball, and Team One Ball are not only great ways to practice your swing techniques, but also great fun for up to four players.
Skillzone offers four of its own modes including my favorite, T-I-G-E-R, which is basically a version of Horse where one player takes a shot at the hole and everybody must get as close, or closer, with their matching shot or get a letter. Capture, Target, and Target2Target are the three other modes that have you testing your quick aim and accuracy in a variety of challenging and fun multiplayer game modes.
Tiger 07 was a gorgeous game on PS3 and 360 but it lost a lot in its transition to the Wii. Sure, it supports progressive scan and widescreen, but the dreary (realistic) colors just don’t work on this kid-centric system. And don’t even get me started on the totally illegible text used for menus and the EA Trax slide-in windows in the lower corner. Maybe the blurriness of a CRT is needed to make these words readable.
This is probably what PGA Tour 07 would have looked like on the GameCube, only with the extra horses under the hood on the Wii EA will have a hard time accounting for the numerous framerate drops that often dip below the standard 30fps. And with some shimmering and jaggy issues, Tiger is one game that oddly looks better close-up than from a distance.
Despite the overall quality and clarity issues, Tiger Woods does offer an overall gorgeous and realistic golf experience taking us to 18 championship courses that most of us will never see in real life beyond TV coverage. The character models and animation are excellent. Tecmo’s golf is certainly more colorful and charming, especially for the kids, but Tiger brings home the reality of these locations and the actual sport of golf.
After playing Tiger on the other systems I was pretty bored with most of the commentary by the time I played the Wii version. Most of David Feherty and Gary McCord’s chatter is the same stuff we’ve been hearing for 2-3 years now and is in much need of an update, although some of their insider taunts aimed at each other and even the player are quite funny.
Sound effects are spot-on for all the mechanics of golf including the clubs slicing up divots, whacking balls, the splash of water, and the tink as the ball drops in the cup. There are enough environmental effects like wind and birds to make you believe you are on the course, but this game is mostly a silent experience. I did enjoy the fact that you hear your club striking the ball on the Wii-mote speaker.
The EA Trax system is back with selected tunes for the menus and setup screens. I really don’t require music when I golf so I didn’t even notice it that much. It didn’t annoy me, so I guess that’s a good thing.
There is a whole lot of golf tucked away inside Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07. The career mode alone could take you weeks, if not months to complete, and then you have the Tiger Challenge and all sorts of fun mini-games to entertain you and your friends and family. This will likely become one of your favorite party games.
The lack of online play is forgivable this year since Nintendo hasn’t gotten all the kinks worked out of their online network, but hopefully things will be on track so we can play against golfers online in the 2008 version. Even without online play, there is enough quality golf to keep you busy for the better part of a year.
As with all debut titles on a new system, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 exhibits some growing pains as the developers learn to adapt to the new control scheme as well as the graphic’s engine. This is a great start that expands upon the very basic concepts that Wii Sports golf offered. And while many might argue that their “free” golf game controls better, there is no denying it lacks the structure and gameplay modes that Tiger delivers in full.