Last month EA gave us our first good look at next iteration of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06, but at the time we were only treated to a preview of the new dual analog shot shaping mechanics. In layman's terms, one of the big new features of the game is using the right analog stick to pinpoint where the club strikes the ball, thus influencing its fade, draw, backspin, or topspin. Good news for Tiger fans: that's not the half of it. At EA's Hot Summer Night event we learned the team has been diligently working to give Tiger 06 a well-deserved facelift in a number of areas.
Let's get right into it and unveil one of the longest awaited changes: putting. Yes, finally playing the green is as important as it is in the real game. In the past, Tiger players putt by marking a distance, essentially choosing their power of swing, and judging the green's curves. Reading the greens wasn't done with a traditional grid overlay, but instead by a dotted visual line that appeared between your ball's lie and the hole. In Tiger 06 this is all amended; the grid is back and reading the greens is just a little closer to the real thing. No, you can't rest your head on the green, take a whiff of the fresh cuts and see all the curves, but you will have a grid. It uses the popular "water on the surface" method to give you visual feedback; glowing "drops" of light will flow down the lines of the grid, making it much easier to understand the play of the green. Additionally, the distance of the ball is determined by the power of your analog swing, not by some set marked distance. As part of that, you use a few different strength putters (e.g. 30ft., 50ft.) to keep things somewhat intuitive. This change is a welcome one and we're looking forward to putting it through more motions, but in our short time with Tiger 06 we were already getting scores that more properly reflected a true round.
New mechanics aside, what would Tiger 06 really be without some new courses, players and mode overhauls? There's more than expected when it comes to additions in these areas. A total of 15 courses will be at your disposal. Beyond the usual lot, the legendary St. Andrews which has been a staple for years (side note: it won't feature any course tweaks from the too-recent British Open), there will be seven new licensed courses which include the following: TPC Sawgrass, Reflection Bay, Cog Hill Golf Club, Pumpkin Ridge GC, Sahalee CC, and Doral Golf Golf Resort. These courses are complimented by 15 PGA Tour players including Tiger, Vijay, DiMarco, Weir, and others, as well as 12 new fantasy characters.
Importantly, the new franchise-like Rivals mode takes precedence over this list of locales. It will bring them all into play and stand as the meat and potatoes of the single-player experience. You'll create your character and start off everything in a clubhouse, which is fully rendered in 3D. Admittedly (by EA's staff), the style was inspired by other popular franchise modes, but it's definitely fitting; whether you want to visit the pro shop or accept challenges it feels a lot smarter than navigating a globe or picture gallery of challengers. One of the most interesting things about it is that you'll be going back in time to face off with Hogan or Arnold, for examples, in their prime. You won't quite be playing old courses (though we hope we can someday), but you will actually wear old-school garb, use those tough wooden clubs, and the like. It's visually refreshing, but how it flows with the overall experience remains to be seen.
Another important point to take note of is that you no longer just earn cash and buy things. You earn cash, but you also earn experience points to level up your created golfer. So, your skins earnings can be dedicated to a flashy new pair of shoes instead of having to worry about spending money on swing power or recovery.
With the front-end visuals overhauled and some big changes being made, we were pleasantly surprised to see the Tiger 06 team wasn't resting on its laurels. Hopefully these upgrades, additions, and tweaks will be enough to keep longtime Tiger fanatics satisfied. The title is being released for GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox in late September. After that, it will eventually launch reworked for Xbox 360, but EA isn't saying much yet.
We'll have more in the coming months.
©2005, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved