EA's Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 should practically be a household name by now. After all, the franchise been available on home consoles for over a half-decade. However, for Sony's PlayStation Portable, it's only been around for less than a year. It was right there to launch the PSP and this hasty release date was, perhaps, the main reason for its good, but not great, level of quality and playability.
Six months later, there is different story to tell. Tiger 06 for the PSP has been developed alongside the consoles to mirror the experience as best as possible. Where major problems with load times existed in the previous edition, we're happy to report that Tiger 06 has been properly tweaked to be an on-the-go game. In fact, load times, which were one of its biggest stumbling blocks, are now below 10 seconds; it makes playing Tiger way more feasible and, most importantly, enjoyable.
This, fortunately, is only the opening verse to the new story that EA has spun. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 has been designed to be an extension of what you'll get with the home consoles. Essentially, everything has been scaled down to fit on the disc. It's affected the amount of options and modes, as well as the control. The issues are both minor and noticeably problematic. The good news is that EA must have accounted for this and realized they need to make up for it. So, Tiger 06 comes with some new multiplayer bonus modes and wi-fi play.
Getting into specifics, let's lay out exactly what this sequel has to offer. It's got a dozen courses and most of the standard modes you'd expect. Putting Frenzy is something new, where you try to beat the clock and sink preset putts for points. It's a bit of a ho-hum addition given that putting is problematic, but we'll get into that in a moment. Nonetheless, it's something else to do on the road and mix things up, and for that we're not complaining. Likewise, Tiger PSP comes with all the main trimmings: Quick Play, Rivals mode, and the ever popular Game Face. Rivals mode has been trimmed down to about 15 challenges, but each of them have six events; meaning, there's something like 90 things to do that will earn you rewards for the pro shop and your character stats. For a handheld, that's an incredible amount of things to do. You'll be involved in face-offs, special challenges like Putting Frenzy, long drive contests, and others. However, if you're taking notes, you lose out on the multi-era spanning club house mode, which is what drives single-player for the home versions. Again, considering this is a handheld, it's a better choice to keep the experience focused in our opinion. Game Face is another area that still retains some of its glory, but not all. You just don't have quite as many options as the console versions, and load times can be a bit trying too; having said that, creating virtual Fran Mirabella III was still attainable. It's fairly uncanny what you can do with Game Face, and most of those options are retained. There are also some cool PSP-only things like getting passwords to use on your PS2 build to unlock pro shop items.
So, EA's got you pretty covered with it comes to delivering a robust handheld golf experience. But, if you're a discerning gamer, you'll know it's the mechanics and technical workings of it all that makes playing more than just a passing event. EA heard the cries from gamers and added in a graphic swing meter, so it's much easier to gauge where you are in the range of your swing. This is a hugely important addition, and it goes a long way to make the experience more intuitive. It's not perfect, as you still lack the amount of swing-through that the console or PC versions have, but it's a big help. The PSP version does not have dual analog swinging, obviously, so you still control spins by tapping the R-trigger; fades/draws are still on the analog stick. This all still presents some problems because Sony's PSP stick is inherently limited in sensitivity. Adding power or a spin is no problem, but a fade/draw, pushing the stick from one diagonal to another, is relatively difficult and unreliable. EA's dual analog system would have worked great to fix this, but since it doesn't have an extra stick there probably weren't many options. After considering it, though, something like using the R-trigger as a "shift" function on the use of the analog stick may have helped; this would allow you to aim your ball striking point before you swing (just like in the console versions). This might make pulling off a fade/draw more reliable, because otherwise it's difficult to feel the swing.
These sensitivity issues boil over into the putting. EA opted to use the same dual analog, grid style of putting that the console versions use, only without the dual sticks. Referencing our previous comment, a "shift" function to allow you mark a striking point would have helped. We couldn't even count the number of shots that missed the hole by mere centimeters, which on the console versions you could have adjusted for with the right analog, placing frontspin on the ball, and thus adding a small distance. This isn't the only obstacle when it comes to putting, though. Because of the stick's insensitivity it's really difficult and counterintuitive to swing at specific percentage of power. For example, if the hole is 89% of your putt swing away from you, it's likely the meter will go all the way to 100% unless you've practiced enough to know you have to swing forward around the 70% mark to end up at 89%. Make sense? Maybe not, but that's the point. Because the club doesn't truly swing with your stick, it has some momentum to it and thus the meter was created in the first place. It helps, but in a way it's just simply inferior to button clicking to sink shots.
This general theme is something that Tiger Woods for PSP will always face. Without the precision of the controls that consoles offer, it will always play second fiddle. It's unlikely EA would ever devise or adapt to a control style similar to Hot Shots, but without some adaptations gamers will always have issues to contend with by playing Tiger on the go.
It's important not to confuse these points with the fact that Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 on PSP is still a great game. In fact, most Tiger fans are going to love it. You get to take the franchise on the road for the first time, and pretty much enjoy it on the level that you do with the consoles. This, very likely, was EA's goal and they've certainly met it, especially by fixing the load times, implementing the visual meter, and keeping it multiplayer friendly with wi-fi and party modes. There's a few kinks that still need to be addressed, like the inability to load two created character profiles on one PSP (so your friend can't make themselves), but since sharing a PSP is probably a pretty rare situation, it's pretty minor. There are some other signs that development was rushed, too, but they are minor. If you're browsing the pro shop, there's just some items that don't have graphics that reflect what they are, which is slightly frustrating. As well, we encountered a few weird graphical dropouts, and even a blue screen moment at the end of a match (although it managed to totally recover without a restart).
What that leaves Tiger fanatics with is a remarkable portable edition that still needs to find its groove and work out some minor kinks. If you don't think you're going to get in enough Tiger at home, this is a must-have for your PSP collection. Hopefully future versions move to separate the franchise a little more from what it's done with the home versions. Thus, better targeting it as a standalone PSP iteration, instead of a slimmed down adaptation of the same game you can get in its full glory.
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