Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2006 from EA Sports is a mixed bag, with stuff for veterans and newcomers alike. It?s relatively easy to pick up and play, but it takes some time to master the controls and memorize the courses. There are new editions and tweaks, certain aspects of previous versions of the game have been dropped and/or added, but what we end up with is largely the same game as last year. This seems to be the principal problem with most sports games. Real changes are spread out over years, so with each new edition there are only a few new selections/modes included. Sports titles such as Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2006 build upon themselves over time, so most changes are somewhat subtle. Because of this, most of the time nothing stands out as truly revolutionary in the sports genre. This is not to say you should pass up Tiger Woods, as that decision may rest upon whether you like simulation or arcade sports titles.
The main changes in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2006 mostly come in the gameplay department. Putting, for example, has undergone the biggest alteration by far. Gone are the ?Caddy Tips? which would tell you exactly how to play the greens. ?Tiger Vision?, which basically made any putt a cakewalk no matter how long or difficult, has been given the boot as well. These options have been ousted in favor of a putting grid, with the intention of making said putting a more difficult feat. This makes the game truer to life, though, because misjudged putts are more commonplace. As a result, you?ll be paying more attention to the course descriptions and using the ?Ideal Putt Camera? more than ever before. You also must now pay attention to how the beads on the grid roll in order to tell you where to aim and how much force to use. While sim fans will like the added challenge, some arcade fans may be slightly turned off. A better move for EA would have been to make ?Caddy Tips? and ?Tiger Vision? an option for whoever wanted to use them. On a side note, a nice touch on winning putts is that now the camera shakes and blurs while the controller rumbles like a heartbeat. The shaking, blurring, and rumbling become even more intense on second attempts.
EA?s trademarked gamebreakers have been implemented into the Tiger Woods franchise as well. While not as absolute or as powerful as in other games like NBA and NFL Street, the gamebreakers still go a long way in helping with distance and accuracy. Any shot is made to be a little easier while still not becoming child?s play. Some strategy has been put into practice with the gamebreakers as well, with the option of using your full gamebreaker in order to drain your opponent?s gamebreaker meter. Its not chess, but it does add another level of gameplay.
Another significant modification is last year?s ?Legend Pursuit? mode changing into ?Rival? mode. Besides PGA Tour and the RTE (Real Time Event) calendar, you?ll be spending most of your time in Rival mode. In this mode you can challenge players and/or they can challenge you. Rival is set up somewhat like NFL 2K?s ?crib? feature. You navigate through a room or lobby in different eras chasing Tiger and other golfing legends such as Daily, Palmer, and Nicklaus. Most of the challenges are separated into categories such as approach, putting, long drive, alternate, bunker shots, skins, et cetera. The first few events you play in are very easy and are just there to get your feet wet. You can make bets on any match and up the ante by making the course harder to play. For instance, a challenge can be worth more money if the golfers aren?t allowed to use spin or the putting grid.
You still use the left analog to swing your club, but now the right analog stick is being used as well. EA calls it the ?Shape Stick?. You use the right analog to influence the flight and spin in ways like backspin, drawing, and fading the ball. How far you move the ball target to the left or right determines how much the ball fades to the right or draws to the left. Moving the target up and down can decide the hang time of a shot and so on.
The game face feature in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2006 is pretty much unchanged, primarily because it was so good in TW 2005. Make a character that resembles you, make a freak-of-nature, or create someone in-between. It?s all up to you. You mold your player?s hair (from Mohawks to dreadlocks), eyes (from lid definition to scars to moles), mouth (from crowns to laugh lines to lip size), body (from muscle tone to foot size to body mass), and so much more to your exact liking. You now get to buy apparel and equipment from different eras as well to add yet another layer of detail to your created character.
The graphics and texture resolutions are slightly better than TW 2005, but nothing has been overhauled visually. The animations are smooth, although not totally seamless. Again, like in previous TW games, there are a multitude of swing, positive celebration, and negative reaction animations to choose from. You can even make your own swing if you so desire. The courses are a bit more detailed, water reflections are nice, but there still is no crowd to see and Tiger Woods is still not at the level of TV quality presentation. In my opinion, it is inexcusable for EA to continue to leave out spectators. There has been a push for realism this year, so why not at the very least have a cardboard crowd. Put the pressure on us by making it feel like we are performing in front of an audience. Hopefully crowds will be added to the mix with the release of the next generation consoles. There is also a revamped interface, but the 2005 version was more user friendly. The menu adjustment just seems like change for the sake of change. EA should just stick with an interface that works, like they do to a certain extent with the Madden franchise.
On the audio side of Tiger Woods ?06, the game has taken a step backwards for the most part. While there are some licensed tracks in the game, they don?t show up in the EA Trax menu, so you?re stuck most of the time listening to generic music that sounds like it came out of a smooth criminal George Clooney movie. There are only 13 songs in the Trax, and for some inexplicable reason EA still refuses to support custom soundtracks in their sports titles.
Ball striking/swinging sounds very clear and crisp. The environmental noise is done very well, with sound effects such as crashing waves, crowd reactions, animals, overhead airplanes, and traffic. The sound effects truly enhance the atmosphere and feeling of the game, and make it feel as if you?re playing golf in the real world.
Some of the best announcing in any sports game can be found in the Tiger Woods series, year after year. The lovable (and loathsome) announcers are back and just as ruthless as ever. They will build you up on one hole and tear you down on the next. Another plus for the sound department is that the characters (both you and your opponents) actually talk. The down side is that your player only says about three lines in the entire game. A lot of your opponents? dialogue is supposed to be funny, as well, but rarely is. After only a short while playing the game, you?ll find yourself trying to skip their long, drawn-out speeches and actions, only to find you?ll be forced to watch these uninspired events almost all of the time.
The replay value is very high, as it always is with most sports titles. The main idea behind sports is repetition, so it only makes sense that Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2006 will make you want to keep coming back. With about 15 courses to choose from, and the different play modes such as stroke, skins, alternate, best ball, and stableford, the options you have available make for some great multiplayer fun. Games can get dicey when playing for in-game money though. A new game mode that adds a bit of replay value is called ?Skills 18?. It basically tests your accuracy by placing three different colored and sized hoops on the course. You get a certain amount of points based on which hoop you get the ball through. You can also get negative points, of course, by playing poorly. Nothing revolutionary, but fun nonetheless.
So, all-in-all, Tiger Woods PGA Tour ?06 is about what you would expect from Electronic Arts: Last year?s game, with a few more bells and whistles. The main object is always the same in the TW games; Earn money, to get better equipment and clothes, to get more sponsors, to earn more money. Lather, rinse, repeat. You get my point. If you are a hardcore golfing game fanatic, then you already know you will love this game. If you are a sports simulation fan, you?ll probably like the fact that EA doesn?t hold your hand as much with the new putting features. And if you?re a casual gamer or more of an arcade sports fan, you may want to rent Tiger Woods PGA Tour ?06, or maybe buy Tiger Woods PGA Tour ?05 instead.