Who says golf is an old man's game? Despite the staid reputation of the sport, golf has, in recent years, come a long way toward becoming a sport that younger golfers can relate to and follow with interest. The most obvious hook is through the emergence of young stars such as Michelle Wie and Tiger Woods. A more subtle but no less effective method for improving golf's profile is in the PGA Tour's intention to liven up the PGA Tour formula this season with the FedEx Cup. How the FedEx Cup is played out, and how it will translate to the game, will form the basis for this year's Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 game, a work-in-progress of which we got a chance to check out at a recent EA press event.
If you aren't familiar with the FedEx Cup system, it's easiest to compare it to the current championship points system found in NASCAR. As players enter events throughout the regular season (roughly January to August), they will earn points based on their performance. For the final four events of the season, the field of players will be cut to the top 30 points earners. These 30 players will then battle it out for points to see who will win the FedEx Cup (and the associated monetary rewards, naturally). And though we haven't seen the points system in the PSP game (or on any platform yet), we do know that Tiger 07 is going to use a points-and-cash system that should be quite similar to the system found on next year's PGA Tour (the first FedEx Cup championship will begin in 2007).
But why change a system that's worked for many years in the real world (and to a lesser degree, in the video games as well)? First of all, it gives the players an incentive to play more events throughout the season, as they try to earn points to make it to the Cup qualifier. Second, it gives the fans plenty of reason to tune in to more events during the season, not just during the four Majors. Finally, it means that the final four events on the tour will undoubtedly be an exciting race.
In Tiger 07 for PSP, this new playoff format is the foundation of this year's single-player game. In fact, after you've created your virtual golfer--once again using the game-face feature set--you'll find that the monthly calendar will be your hub when deciding which events to play on a day-to-day basis. Along with weekly tournament events to enter, you'll have opportunities to improve your skill in putting, power, chipping, and so on by taking part in one-off events. Successfully complete these events and you'll add skill points to various attributes--a significant change from last year's game, which had you spending cash earned from tournaments for new attribute points. Instead, cash will be spent only on new items in the pro shop, such as clubs, accessories, gloves, and clothing.
The format of the tournament might be changing significantly but, from a gameplay standpoint, this is still the Tiger Woods you're used to. Swinging your club is still as easy as pulling back on the analog stick and then pushing forward. To shoot straight, simply move the stick directly back and then forward; to fade or draw the ball, you simply trace an angled line with the analog stick. New for this year is a power meter on the left-hand side of the screen, which will give you an indication of how hard you're striking the ball based on the amount of backswing you use, as well as some feedback for how straight you hit the ball after you've made contact. If you shank the ball, a small gauge below the power meter will let you know whether you put it too far right or left, so you can hopefully make a correction for your next shot.
When on the putting green, Tiger feels very similar to last year's console game. Obviously you still swing the putter with the analog stick but, as in the console versions, there are now specific power "zones" you can swing within to give you a general idea of how hard far your ball will travel once you make contact. Should you be facing a steep uphill putt, for example, you'll want to make sure you choose a "zone" that's well beyond the actual hole in order to get your ball up the hill. Conversely, if you're putting downhill, you're best to hit the ball lightly, or you'll overshoot the hole by a country mile. When we played the game, it took us a few tries to get our putting game back in order--the sensitivity of the PSP's analog stick always takes some adjustment--but in all, things feel very comparable to last year.
Another new addition for Tiger 07 is a fun minigame called shooting alley, which has you line up your created golfer in front of three rows of plate-glass windows. Each window pane has a different point value, and the idea is to rack up as many points as you can within the time limit. There is a degree of skill involved here--some window panes are more valuable than others, and some even have special bonuses, such as crashing all adjacent panes, or offering big points boosts. In all, shooting alley seems to be a fun, fast-paced alternative to playing a traditional 18.
Tiger 07 for PSP will feature 12 courses, including a few new additions: Central Park and Pasatiempo, both of which were featured in Tiger 06 for the PS2 and Xbox. Other courses found in the game include Cog Hill, Pinehurst #2, Spyglass Hill, and the fictional Highlands course. A few new PGA Tour pros will also find their way into the game, including Ian Poulter, John Daly, and more. Perhaps best of all, the development team for the game has managed to once again decrease course load times in the game, which is always nice.
Big changes are ahead for the 2007 PGA Tour, and it looks like the biggest of those changes will be reflected in Tiger 07 as well. We look forward to bringing you more on all versions of Tiger 07 in the coming months leading up to its October release, so stay tuned.