It's that time of year again: winter is looming, the lure of the TV's warming glow grows stronger, and your copy of Tiger 2004
is completely played out. This is where EA's yearly installment comes in to play with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005
, a title that has been refined and expanded to make it the best of its kind yet. The team has certainly used the past year to polish up what was already an addictive golf videogame, but much like with 2004
most of the advancements come in the form of features and not necessarily gameplay enhancements.
The end result with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005 is ultimately the game last year's version was trying to be. And that's a good thing.
Tiger 2005 is all about personalization and customization. The developers spent a great deal of efforts on the feature set to set new standards in this area. So, Tiger doesn't really play like a whole new game, but it does offer a lot of important trimmings. GameFace II, the second iteration of the franchise's acclaimed create-a-character tool, has advanced to be one of the most impressive creation tools in the industry. You can get closer to making you or whatever crazy character you can cook up in your mind than ever before. A set of basic inputs and a randomization button make it easy for beginners, but the advanced options are completely out of control. You can adjust skull structures, lip sizes, skin tone, and tons of other things to a degree you never could before. The hair options are really the only bottleneck in the process; if you don't have one of the haircuts defined it can be really hard to be satisfied if you're trying to create yourself. But, it's still an incredible tool that surpasses all of the competition, including many of EA's other projects.
So, the experience is still very centered on creating a more intimate connection with players and GameFace II excels brilliantly at this. Everything is still centered on the Pro Shop, too, which has 1500 new items and a total of about 2500. It's a really ridiculous amount, but as you play the courses, earning cash and rewards, the Pro Shop is another place you'll spend a lot of your time. Thankfully, it has a clever search tool so you can sort through what's new and available with little hassle. And, as if wearing a pink copter-topped hat, a bag over your head and a bathing suit on the course weren't personal enough, you can also enjoy the Create-a-Swing tool. You can actually custom tailor your swing animation; just like Furyk has his own quirky swing in real life, there's a good chance you do to and now you can try to recreate it in Tiger 2005.
This ability to personalize your character guarantees a strong bond with the gameplay and drastically increases replayability. This is one thing we still love about Tiger.
TigerProofing is also all the rage in 2005. Just as EA proclaimed that GameFace was the business in 2004, it's pretty much the same for TigerProofing with this year's update. In a nutshell, you earn tokens to purchase the right to "TigerProof" any, and eventually all, of the courses in the game. TigerProofing is changing the amount, type, color, and speed of a fairway. Or, sinking sand traps to lower points, or making them wetter. It can be about creating a psychedelic version of Harbour Town's famous closing hole at Hilton Head, letting you turn the greens orange and patterning the fairways with money symbols. It can also be very serious -- taking the pristine holes of Couer d'Alene and trashing them with low upkeep and raising the rough. You get new courses by altering all of the holes as you see fit. That's TigerProofing and it lets you really extend the replay value because if you do something like knock the fairway percentage of a course down drastically, you'll be playing out of the rough a ton. Now that we've had our fill of it, it's clear just how important of an addition it is. It's an intuitive experience that yields endless possibilities for replay, which goes hand-in-hand with the aforementioned GameFace II improvements and highly expanded Pro Shop.
All of these new and improved features are like the most important clubs in your bag -- without them there's just not much of a reason to play at all. If that analogy holds true at all, then your bag would be My Legend Pursuit. It replaces the World Tour mode of last year with something more attractive and robust. Instead of trying to travel the world, you spend your time in pursuit of facing big legends like Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, and, of course, Tiger, a legend in his own time. Within the pursuit for them you face off against the likes of other popular modern golfers as well as EA's fictional characters, like Billy Bear. It's just presented better than last year and you win Legend Coins, which you can spend on purchasing courses for TigerProofing. So, just like last year, the rewards flow constantly as you dig into the single-player experience. The PGA Tour is still on the bill for winning big cash, too, along with the real-time calendar. And, there's Legend Scenarios, similar to last year's scenarios set, which offer a range of challenges.
These are the big pieces of the features set that really give Tiger 2005 a new feel. Even better, it all results in a larger drive to play a game that's really similar to what it was at its core last year.
When it comes to gameplay improvements, Tiger Woods PGA Tour, the franchise as a whole, faces the sticky situation in that it's not like Madden where there are so many nuances to team A.I., animations, etc., that you notice a big difference each year. Electronic Arts has developed a gameplay and control system that it's pretty happy with. Tiger 2005 offers up nine completely new courses to bring something new to players, but there have been a few gameplay changes too. Changes that can make a difference.
Tiger Vision is one of the more talked-about new features. You can earn up to three, as you would more accurate caddy tips, by increasing your putting attributes for your character. Basically, you just hold down the TigerVision button and you have around 10 seconds to perfectly line up your putt marker with the indicated perfect spot -- if you get it, you'll sink even the most impossible of putts with a full swing. Indeed, this adds a new gameplay element that can sway the game like a gamebreaker does in NBA Street Vol. 2, but it seems a little forced. Wasn't putting, and the gameplay as a whole, a little too easy because of things like the power boost, post-hit spin control, and maxing out attributes? You can even win Trophy Balls for longest put when you use Tiger Vision. This seems a little unbalanced. Thankfully, it's totally in your control not to use it or you can flip it off in the menu (and we recommend you do if games are getting too easy for you).
This is a perfect time to mention Tour Mode difficulty. Not PGA Tour Mode. Yes, last year you may remember our complaints that Tiger 2004 didn't offer much of a solution for real golfers or those who wanted to play something a little more realistic. Well, with Tiger 2005 EA has answered our cries. In just a short amount of time of playing the game, you'll unlock Tour Mode. One thing this fixes is that with last year's version, swinging became very much about where you aimed and how much power you could put behind it -- not about how good your swing was on the analog stick. Now you have to be very careful swing slowly, with control and precision, and you really have to think harder about distances and getting out of the rough. Oddly enough, the mode will let you use power boost and spin control, but if you're playing Tour Mode, you should really turn all this off as well as Tiger Vision. Play the real courses and you'll be rewarded with a much more real experience. This is a very nice addition; it could still use some customization -- like a slider that let's you choose how loose the swing accuracy is -- but in general it's a well-implemented option for simulation style play. We're very happy about this inclusion.
Another thing that adds to the realism (and you can take advantage of this in regular modes) is the Ball-in-Stance function -- you can push the ball to the front or back of your stance. Yes, it's another real-life inspired gameplay addition that adds a lot to the game for sticklers of the age-old game. Even at great distances, you'll have more control over the height and ultimate bounce of your ball. You can still use Flop, Punch and the like for swing types, but Ball-in-Stance isn't quite as drastic and your clubs aren't limited.
Overall, the gameplay has not changed a lot. This is probably the only genuine complaint we could file, and even then it's not really a complaint. It's more a concerned observation. Tiger 2005 plays a lot like last year's version with some nice solutions for simulation golfers like Tour Mode, but the mechanics at its heart are basically the same. Putting still lacks flexibility to really read the green, too. Maybe it's our history with PC simulations like Links, but the ability to read the green with the grid adds a lot. Sure, you don't have a grid in real life, but at least you can dip your head down and see the rolls and tilts between you and the hole. Tiger 2005 still hasn't expanded on important gameplay elements like this. Of course, if you're fine with the current system, you've no need to worry.
So, most of your reasons to pick up Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005 for your collection have to resonate from the new features: customization, personalization, TigerProofing, new skillzones, and the really deep GameFace II and Pro Shop. In our opinion, they're at least very good reasons. 2005 is still a blast to play and all the new courses and aforementioned features make it playable for many, many months to come. That's not even counting the replay value of online play for PS2 or Xbox, which offers daily online tournaments, mini-games, player-versus-player wagers, and all kind of impressive stuff.
Graphics & Sound
There haven't been any big advancements in visuals, but this year's version is definitely sharper and features some lighting advancements. We booted up a 5:00am tee-off at Harbour Town to be blown away about the fantastic sense of atmosphere cast by the early morning haze, sun glare, and beautiful skies. Tiger 2005 still has some truly awesome artists at its disposal and it shows. In other words, the franchise shows it's dated in some ways, but it's still the best-looking golf game out there. There's some slowdown on the SkillZone courses, but nothing too distracting.
On the other side of the spectrum, the game sound great. Commentary is fresh and entertaining as always. It's interesting in that playing on Tour Difficulty finally lets you hear some of those bytes you didn't hear like, "Hmm, that one could have used a little more club." Playing Tiger as much as you're likely to, there's no escaping redundancy, but it's more than sufficient.
The soundtrack from BT is also a perfect fit as far as we're concerned. There's a fine compilation of chill techno beats and atmospheric compositions that play perfectly over the menus and SkillZone matches. You can use custom soundtracks, but only on Xbox.
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