Xbox 360 Review: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06

It is really sad to see all the EA Sports titles for the Xbox 360 come up short this season. And Tiger 06 is no exception. For basketball fans there is another game to consider, but not so for football and golf.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 on the Xbox 360 looks amazing. The game is truly breathtaking, especially in HD. The player models have never looked better. Tiger truly looks like Tiger. The modeling and textures for cloth are stunning for sure, but it is the vast courses that really are impressive. The only glitches are slight pop in of shadows, and some stuttering during the introductory flybys. This is barely noticeable, but the pop in is surprising when you think about what the hardware is capable of.

There is one major flaw in Tiger 06 on the 360 however. You can only play on six courses - down from 15 on current generation hardware - with only a limited selection of game play modes.

There are seven game modes including three for four players. You can at least play all of these modes over Xbox Live. Rivals mode, however, got left on the fringe.

The only reason I would recommend Tiger 06 for the 360 is if you do not own it on any other platform, and need your Tiger fix right now. The only reason I am enjoying this game is because it is the same great Tiger game play, just on a new console. EA would have to destroy even more of this game to make Tiger dull.

You could say that Tiger 06 is more challenging, and thus, makes up for the shortcomings. However, the only reason Tiger 06 is more challenging is because of the Xbox 360 controller’s button configuration. Once I learned how to use the Power button, the game got too easy too fast. The Black button on the Xbox controller seemed perfect, if not a little too easy, for Power. Now on the Left Bumper, getting Power is a challenge. It takes a while to get used to this change, and I am still not comfortable with it. Over time it will become second nature I am sure.

Switching the Shot Stick and the Shape Stick from the left to the right analog does not help at all. That is also the only thing you can change for the button configuration. The Xbox 360 controller is better for most every game, just not for Tiger. But as I said, when you get used to it, it feels just as easy.

If anything the game may be a little more challenging because the Shot Stick is more sensitive then on previous controllers. The slightly better ball physics of the Xbox 360 version also means the ball rolls, and stops, more.

Gaming on Xbox Live has never been as much fun as in Tiger 06. The online lobby system is pretty good. You won’t find anything that special but it is above par compared to the other 360 launch games.

The biggest setback in Tiger 06 is the lag and severe stuttering you will see during an Xbox Live match. Sometimes there is no lag at all, but most times you will see anywhere from dropped frames to jerky game play. This is a big disappointment and does not matter if only two players or a complete foursome are hitting the links.

Most of my complaints with Tiger 06 have nothing to do with the Xbox 360 version though.

This game severely needs an auto save feature. Every time you make a change or progress through the single player game you have to save. This involves selecting Yes, selecting the hard drive (or memory card) and then confirming that you indeed want to overwrite your save file. In short it goes like this: A, A, Up, A. That might look like a cheat code, but that is what you have to do every single time you save your game. It is painful, and quite frustrating.

Save mechanics in general need an overhaul in video games, and this is a prime example of how bad it can get.

I also find ‘My Skills’ out of place, found under ‘Game Face' in the main menu. But then ‘Game Face’ seems to be a catch-all for your single player settings. Renaming ‘Game Face’ to something like ‘Player Options’ might help with the confusion.

About the only high point, and refreshing aspect is how Tiger 06 handles training. It is not easy to add a training mode to a game and make it interesting these days. It usually comes off looking, and feeling, cheesy.

This time around you learn how to play Tiger through challenges such as chipping and putting, or a skins game against a PGA Golfer. Completing challenges opens more challenges, as well as unlocks players and courses. Mastering challenges unlocks Equipment Modifiers (more on these in a minute) and better gear at the Pro Shop.

By completing these challenges, as well as playing the game in general, you gain experience points that you can spend to improve your skills such as power boost, spin, and the ever-popular, luck.

Once you complete enough challenges you will unlock the Q-School Tournament at the TPC at Sawgrass course. Successfully placing fifth or better in this four-round event will gain you a PGA Tour card.

But that is not the end of the challenges by any means. It does however open up the main part of the single player game, allowing you to compete on the PGA Tour and go for the holy grail - winning the Grand Slam in a single year.

Other then the disguised training mode this is the same old Tiger. It is a shame that to this day EA will not make any attempt at taking this series to the next level.

One step in the right direction is Tour Mode, which debuts on the 360. Once activated you will see a gallery of people around the course. They will also follow you from hole to hole, yell, cheer, and berate you for that shank you hit into the pine straw. This is a wonderful addition and adds a lot to the perceived realism.

I could envision a TV-style telecast in Tiger, something similar to The Golf Channel or ESPN. Hopefully by Tiger 07 EA will have incorporated the ESPN license. They already have the dry commentary down (which is getting rather old by now), they just need to add the broadcast style graphics and we would have the complete package.

Tiger 06 is too easy because it has a few arcade-y elements. I fail to see the usefulness of the Gamebreaker. This works wonderfully in NBA Street, although that is because that is purely an arcade-style game. It makes no sense to me at all to put a Gamebreaker in Tiger. Compounding this problem is the fact that when you use a Gamebreaker you don’t get good results most of the time. If you can get better results without it, why is it in the game?

I also do not see the value of attaching Equipment Modifiers to your clothing, clubs, etc. This is not Hot Shots Golf, this is Tiger Woods PGA Tour. Give experience points to the player, but do away with the Equipment Modifiers. As a matter of fact, Equipment Modifiers do not exist (finally) in the current generation of Tiger 06 games. Yet they are back from the dead on the 360 for no apparent reason. Please EA, Equipment Modifiers make no sense at all in Tiger.

Then there is the handy Ideal Putt Camera. Please, enough with the arcade game play! At least the camera is elevated a bit higher then the current generation Tiger 06. This makes it less easy to align your shot to an element in the background.

You can turn off the Gamebreaker and Ideal Putt Camera, and forgo with the Equipment Modifiers but doing so would only hinder your chances, as others will not turn these options off. Tiger 06 has the same identity crisis on the 360 as it does on the current generation consoles.

It seems to me that EA desperately wants to make an arcade golf game. They need to separate the arcade out of the simulation from Tiger 06 to bring the series back into focus before starting to develop Tiger 07.

Lastly, the left and right sides of the game get cut off on a Standard Definition TV. This is more of a problem with some of the Xbox 360 titles, and manifests itself here in Tiger 06. The experience points icons get cut off, as do other screen overlay graphics. EA could have done a better job fitting the game to the “safe zone” of 4:3 aspect ration TV sets. Not everyone has a HDTV, y’know.

In the end, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 on the Xbox 360 looks amazing. Yes, I have said that twice now. The stunning visuals are its only saving grace. After all, the core game play is the same. Unfortunately that is not nearly enough reason to buy this game. This is a rental at best, even if you are a die-hard fan of the series.

If you own Tiger 06 on any other platform I cannot recommend the 360 version on looks alone, not to mention the hit in the features department. You could also save yourself $10 and buy Tiger 06 on the PS2/Xbox/GameCube and walk away with a more complete Tiger experience.

I only hope next year’s Tiger, as well as Madden and NBA Live, are full featured games and not ghosts of their former selves.

(** out of *****)

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