With the exception of FIFA soccer, which is already making its fourth go-around, Tiger Woods is one of the most prolific series on the PlayStation Portable, having now made three appearances. Tiger Woods 06 was a big leap over the PSP's first Tiger Woods game, fixing many of the original's more glaring faults. Though there were still plenty of areas to address, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 isn't much of an improvement over its predecessor and almost feels like a companion game rather than a completely new iteration.
http://image.com.com/gamespot/images/2006/263/933950_20060921_embed007.jpgTake your golfer through a full season, including the FedEx Cup.
Tiger Woods 07 features a scant two PSP-exclusive minigames, one new and one from last year. The returning game is putting frenzy, a timed challenge where you try and drain as many putts as possible. If you didn't play it last year, the minigame is entertaining for a few minutes. The new game is a timed event that tests your driving accuracy, called shooting gallery. In shooting gallery, a large, billboard-sized target is divided into 15 squares and placed in front of your golfer. It's your job to drive the ball into the squares with the highest point values. There are bonus squares, surprise boxes, and even targets that deduct points if you hit them. It's more fun than putting frenzy, but it, too, gets old after a short time.
New this year is a PGA Tour mode where you'll take your golfer from a nobody to a household name. The season is laid out on a calendar with tournaments on the weekends and practice modes sprinkled amongst weekdays. Practice events are useful to get you acclimated to the gameplay and to earn attribute boosts for your golfer. Sometimes you'll need to beat a certain score on the par threes at Cog Hill, sink putts in putting frenzy, smash targets at the shooting gallery, and even beat pro golfers in head-to-head challenges. Most tournaments are one-day affairs, but the major tourneys take place over the course of two days. A few of them have specific entry requirements such as only allowing the top 30 money winners or only players ranked in the top 10. The season culminates in September with the PGA's new postseason, the FedEx Cup. There are 11 PGA pros, down from 21 on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of the game. Most of the more well-known players like Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Mike Weir, John Daly, and Retief Goosen are here, but neither of the two LPGA golfers from the console versions made the cut. Tiger Woods 07 includes 12 courses, including a few noteworthy additions: Bethpage Black, Pinehurst No. 2, Pasatiempo, and Cog Hill.
From a gameplay standpoint Tiger Woods 07 is virtually indistinguishable from Tiger Woods 06, and for the most part, this is a good thing. Swinging your club is performed by pulling down on the analog stick to start your backswing and then pushing forward to swing the club. A handy meter in the corner of the screen tells you if you're pushing or pulling the analog stick during your swing. You rarely feel like you're doing either, but if you find yourself consistently going left, making a conscious effort to move the stick up and to the right a little bit more will improve your results. A little extra power can be coaxed out of shots by hitting the right shoulder button during your swing, and you can put spin on your ball while it's in the air by rapidly pressing the right shoulder button and moving the analog stick in the direction you want to spin the ball.
http://image.com.com/gamespot/images/2006/263/933950_20060921_embed004.jpgIn spite of all the visual aids, putting is maddening.
It's when you hit the greens that the gameplay gets rough. Even with the putting grid, moving beads, ideal putt cam, and available camera angle from the pin, it's very difficult to judge a green's undulations. Should you manage to get a good read on the green, chances are high that the PSP's inaccurate analog stick will betray you. Even with the power meter showing how hard you're swinging, it's impossible to consistently hit anything other than 100 percent, resulting in a lot of putts left short (if you choose the conservative distance) or putts rolling off the green (if you're aggressive and you miss). The best solution is to aim short and power up your putt by pounding on the right shoulder button during your backswing. After a couple of hours, the putting system becomes manageable, but even then it's far from intuitive. You know the putting is broken when the CPU misses a 12-inch "gimme putt" for you. A simple, timing-based system using the face buttons similar to that used in Hot Shots Golf would be a welcome option. Other than that, the game tends to take into account that it's on a handheld, so it's rather forgiving. Tournament scores seem to be a bit higher than on the consoles, you can skip CPU players' entire turns, and if you can't finish a round and you don't want to put your PSP in sleep mode, you can save midround. Load times are very reasonable, but they don't feel significantly improved over 06.
If you grow tired of playing solo, you can play locally against someone who has his or her own copy of the game via ad hoc, or you can head online for a greater challenge. There are ranked and unranked rounds of stroke play, as well as alternate game modes such as match play, skins, shooting gallery, and bingo bango bongo. One of the most enjoyable ways to play the game, bingo bango bongo is a three-round test of your speed and skill. To win, you'll need to get the longest drive (bingo), be the first on the green (bango), and drain your putt first (bongo). If this doesn't sound frantic enough, the winner of each round gets to remove a club from their opponent's bag, forcing them to really scramble to keep up. Outside of people pausing the game at inopportune moments, our online experience was quite positive--probably one of the more pleasurable online PSP experiences we've had. There's a small amount of ESPN integration, but it's limited to a ticker that runs across the bottom of the screen and brief ESPN Radio SportsCenter updates every 20 minutes. Both of these features are only available if you're in an online lobby.
http://image.com.com/gamespot/images/2006/263/933950_20060921_embed005.jpgAll of the golfers look fantastic, but really, when was the last time John Daly was this slim?
Year in and year out, one of the series' more addicting aspects is creating a golfer and making that golfer the greatest on the planet. The excellent character-creation mode is back and is as deep as it's ever been, though still nowhere near as involved as on consoles. There are subtle changes to the process this year, but by and large it's the same as in Tiger Woods 06. If realism's what you want, it's a breeze to make a golfer that's darn-near close to your spitting image, and you're limited only by your imagination when it comes to making zany, off-the-wall characters. Should you grow tired of your golfer's appearance, you can go back and change it at any time, or you can change the golfer's clothes, adding watches, rings, and necklaces as part of the makeover. After completing a round or challenge, you're given points for individual attributes, based on your performance. These points can then be used to upgrade your golfer's power, accuracy, putting, short game, luck, and more. You'll also earn money for your wins, letting you purchase new clothes and equipment. As was the case last year, your gear and clothing come with equipment modifiers, giving your stats a slight boost.
As is the case with so many other aspects of the game, Tiger's graphics are virtually identical to last year. The courses look nice and are very colorful, though they're nowhere near as detailed as on consoles. Occasionally it will be difficult to see hazards, and the low-res textures make it tough to tell the difference between fairways and the rough, or fairways and greens. Golfers look realistic and have a wide array of animations that make them feel more lifelike, such as celebrating great shots to individualized swings. The camera is easy to manage and for the most part does a nice job straddling the fine line between being useful and stylish--but not all of the time. On short-iron shots, the camera rises to match the height of the ball, making it difficult to gauge where it's going to land. It eventually pans down, but by then you don't have much time to put enough spin on your shot. It also gets in extremely tight on the ball after you've putted. Because of this, you can't see the path the ball took, and it's tough to judge what you did wrong on missed putts.
http://image.com.com/gamespot/images/2006/263/933950_20060921_embed003.jpgThe meters on the left side of the screen help compensate for the PSP's imprecise analog stick.
Most of Tiger Woods 07's audio sounds good--or as good as can be expected from a golf game. Crowds aren't as dynamic on the PSP as they are on consoles, but they are lively and react with enthusiasm to a great shot. David Feherty and Gary McCord are back and seemingly have nothing new to say. The commentary plays it too straight in a game that's otherwise full of personality. Negative comments appear to have been toned down a bit, but the duo still drink Haterade and just love to rub it in after a poor shot. For the most part, their commentary is accurate, though they'll occasionally praise you for hitting the ball in the rough and chastise you for what ends up being a perfectly good shot. Should you choose to forgo the announcers, there are lots of ambient sounds to listen to. You'll hear birds chirping, planes flying overhead, and on Pebble Beach, the sea crashing into the cliffs. You can create your own custom soundtrack by placing MP3 files into the PSP's music folder, however, you can't listen to them during a round and the playback is quite choppy while menus load.
If you haven't yet played a Tiger Woods game on the PSP, this is a great place to start. There are plenty of courses, a deep season mode, and the online play is some of the best on the PSP. But it still feels like EA could have done more with Tiger Woods 07. It's disappointing that putting is still so frustrating, and the inclusion of just two minigames is a letdown. Team tour mode and all the great fictional golfers found on the console versions are missed, as well. If you've already spent a good deal of time with 06, you might want to pass on 07 since it doesn't bring enough new content to the table to justify the $40 price tag.