It's been fewer than seven months since EA Sports rolled out Tiger Woods PGA Tour at the US launch of the PSP. It was a fine translation of the Tiger Woods experience, though it was marred by some exceptionally poor load times. This is the main issue addressed in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06, though the game also features a number of new courses and a few somewhat arbitrary adjustments. If you've not yet picked up a PSP golf game yet, this is the one to get. Its value to someone who picked up EA's first PSP offering, however, isn't quite as clear-cut.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 for consoles introduced some of the most radical changes the gameplay in EA's golf franchise has seen, and some of those changes have trickled down to the PSP version. Putting has been tweaked, making it more challenging, though not to the point of frustration. The actual mechanics aren't that much different--just the amount of assistance the game is willing to dole out. The caddie tip, which formerly told you exactly where you needed to aim to sink your shot, is gone. You still have the putting grid, which does a fine job of placing the contours of the green into perspective, and you can press the X button to view the ideal path your ball would take to the hole. Whether you're on the tee, the fairway, or the putting green, the analog swing mechanic is prevalent throughout, and it's now accompanied by a power meter on the side of the screen, which is useful for determining the actual power of your swing (whereas before you just had to eyeball it). All told, these changes represent fine-tuning, not a complete reinvention of the Tiger Woods gameplay style.
In addition to these mechanical changes, Tiger Woods 06 revamps the structure of the single-player game. The legend tour and legend challenges have been rolled up into the new rivals mode, which has you facing off in a variety of events against a series of increasingly challenging real-world golf pros until you finally make your way up to Tiger himself. Despite the new coat of paint, the actual contents are mostly familiar territory. You'll compete in head-to-head match games, full-on 18-hole tournaments, and plenty of skill-specific challenges. The only new challenge type is the putting frenzy, where you're given a limited amount of time to sink a number of putts from random locations on a single green. Frankly, the putting frenzy seems to be a bit of a novelty that takes a more prominent role in the rivals mode than one might have liked. It's not a disastrous move, but it's still irritating.
Tiger 06 also introduces an almost entirely new lineup of real-world and fantasy golf courses to play on. PGA Tour standards Pebble Beach, St. Andrews, and TPC at Sawgrass are the only returning links from Tiger Woods PGA Tour, with the other nine courses taking you from Lake Tahoe to Scotland. A good variety of scenery is provided, and the number of new courses helps strengthen the game's case for those who already have Tiger for the PSP.
But, as mentioned above, the biggest draw in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 is its significantly improved load times. The actual load times have been shortened up, and the number of places where load times used to appear has been reduced. Shaving off five seconds from a load time here or there may not seem like much, but the net effect is that the whole pacing of the game has been quickened quite a bit.
The rest of the game's technical underpinnings have been otherwise unaffected, though. From the course designs, to your golfer's animations, the game still has a consistently great, realistic look, with a frame rate that wavers only on rare occasion. The GameFace character-customization system works about as well as it has in the past, letting you create your own unique golfer, though it's admittedly rather difficult to create a custom golfer that isn't just a little weird-looking.
Like in many other recent EA Trax games, the soundtrack in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 has seen a significant increase in overall quality. Music is generally relegated to the menus, and an unfortunate decision has been made to have a rather bland Dave Matthews track play every single time you load up the game. However, more-interesting down-tempo tracks from Thievery Corporation, David Holmes, and Supreme Beings of Leisure lend the game an authentically hip, laid-back atmosphere.
More than anything else, the release of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 so soon after the first Tiger game for the PSP seems like a direct response to complaints about that game's load times. Simply addressing this technical issue probably would have been good enough, but the inclusion of a font of courses not found in Tiger Woods PGA Tour makes the game that much easier to recommend.