With companies focusing their energy and resources on next-gen consoles rather than on the current generation of systems, there hasn't been a whole lot to look forward to with this year's crop of sports games. Rather than add radical new gameplay ideas or revamped visuals, developers seem to be content to simply toss in a few new minigames or subtle control changes, and then send their games off to the factory. Such is the case with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07. It has more courses, golfers, and play modes than last year, but ultimately, little has changed.
There's certainly no shortage of ways to occupy yourself with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07. You can select from a number of different match and scoring modes, including stroke play, match play, skins, practice, stableford, alternate shot, best-ball, and four-ball. New this year are bloodsome and greensome matches, both of which are team-based best-ball events. After you and your teammate hit your shots in greensome, you get to pick which ball you're going to play; in bloodsome, your opponent will choose which lie you'll use. One-ball is another new game, where you and your opponent share the same ball and alternate shots. The strategy in one-ball lies in trying to set your opponent up with difficult shots so that you're the one left with a makeable putt. If you're the one who drains the putt, you win the hole. Before each shot, a large blue ring that represents the target area appears on the course. This is the area in which your shot must land, or else it's a "betrayal," and you'll lose a turn. For example, on a par four you may be able to put the ball on the green with your second shot, but that will leave your opponent with a putt--and that's not good. You can, however, shoot the ball into a sand trap that surrounds the green, thereby forcing your opponent to be the one who has to put the ball on the green. This play mode is great for learning how to recover from bad shots, but it can be frustrating to play against the tenacious CPU and is best played against another person.
Most of the new events this year are designed around multiplayer play, though you can play most of them against the CPU in team tour. Team tour replaces last year's ridiculous time traveling rivals mode. Now, rather than going back through time to play golf, you'll travel the world, taking on fictitious golfers and PGA professionals. As the name implies, team tour revolves around team play and not just the exploits of your created golfer. As you win events in team tour, you're able to add vanquished foes to your team and replace less talented team members with better golfers. You can upgrade your teammates' abilities after wins, though you lose all upgrades if you drop the person from your squad. This is also the best place to upgrade your golfer before heading out on tour.
If your interests lie in more traditional golf, the PGA Tour season offers plenty of challenge in its 29 multiday events. If you like to jump right into a game, never coming up for air until you've either beaten or grown tired of it, the real-time event calendar will help you pace yourself. These challenges open up in real-time and range from chipping contests to skins play and are a great way to beef up your character if you have only a few minutes to play.
If you grow tired of playing solo, you can head online for a greater challenge. There are daily tournaments, ranked and unranked rounds, as well as alternate game modes, such as best ball, battle golf, three-hole minigolf, skins, one-ball, four-ball, and alternate shot. For the most part, everything ran smoothly when playing online, but it took a little while to get used to it because the swing was slower. The only problem we encountered was on the Xbox, where chips and putts that clearly didn't go in the hole were counted as if they had. There's a small amount of ESPN integration, but it's limited to a ticker that runs across the bottom of the screen, short text news stories, and brief ESPN Radio SportsCenter updates every 20 minutes. Unlike in NBA Live, where you could hear updates and view the ticker while playing offline games, these features are available only if you're in an online lobby.
The thing that makes these game modes so addictive year in and year out is the ability to create a golfer and make him the greatest golfer on the planet. Tiger's unrivaled character creation mode is back and is as deep as ever. There are subtle changes to the process this year, but by and large, it's the same as in Tiger Woods 06. If realism's what you want, it's a breeze to create a golfer in your spitting image, and you're limited only by your imagination when it comes to making zany, off-the-wall characters. Should you grow tired of your golfer's appearance, you can go back and change it at any time, or simply purchase the brown paper bag from the pro shop and stick it on his noggin. You can also customize your player's swing, making it as smooth or as ugly as you like. After completing a round or challenge, you're given points for individual attributes, based on your performance. These points can then be used to upgrade your golfer's power, accuracy, putting, short game, luck, and more. You'll also earn money for your wins, which allows you to purchase new clothes and equipment. As was the case last year, you can outfit your gear and clothing with equipment modifiers, giving your stats a slight boost. Once again, there's no course designer--still a glaring omission after all these years. You can put together your "dream course," using holes from any of the 21 courses in the game, but this doesn't make up for not having a true course editor.
If you just want to stick to the pros, there are 21 professional golfers (and 50 total) in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07. The list includes the likes of Tiger Woods, Stuart Appleby, John Daly, Jim Furyk, Retief Goosen, Vijay Singh, and Mike Weir, among others. For the first time, there are two LPGA golfers to pick from--Natalie Gulbis and Annika Sorenstam. Also numbering 21 is the number of courses, both real and fantasy, in the game. A number of courses return from last year, but there are some noteworthy additions--Aviara, Riviera, The National, The K Club, and the ocean course at Kiawah Island.
As for how the game plays--it's as enjoyable as ever, but you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between Tiger Woods 06 and Tiger Woods 07. In fact, it can best be described as a mix between the 05 and 06 releases because you can now use the swing and putting mechanics from either year. Swinging your club uses the tried-and-true method of pulling down and then pushing up on the left analog stick. With the standard control scheme, you can add a draw or a fade by moving the left analog stick down at an angle during your swing. The alternate swing controls take advantage of both analog sticks by requiring you to push the right analog stick left to add a draw or fade, but you still perform your swing with the left stick. Both methods work equally well, but it's nice to have the option of an alternate scheme if last year's didn't jive with you. The standard control scheme for putting works just as it did last year. An overlay is placed on the green, and you'll need to read the slope by how fast the white dots move along the grid. The ideal putt-cam that shows you the ideal putting line is back, though it appears to be facing downward a bit more this year, making it more difficult to "cheese" by lining up your putt with objects in the background. The alternate putt method is similar to Tiger Woods 05. You're shown the path the ball would travel if you hit it without any adjustments. Your caddy will give you precise directions for how far to the left or right you need to aim and how much power you'll need to use. You can also use the ideal putt-cam here, but it doesn't show your best line when zooming toward the hole. As is the case with the swing controls, both putting methods work just fine. The clumsily implemented gamebreakers from last year are thankfully nowhere to be found.
With fans of the series pouring so much time into each Tiger Woods release, cries for a more challenging experience grow louder every year. Reactive Tiger proofing that made courses more challenging on the fly, based on your performance, is no longer in the game--instead it's up to you to challenge yourself. A host of sliders are available for you to tailor the game exactly as you like. You can change the swing difficulty, the speed and hardness of the greens and fairways, the length of the rough, wind strength, and AI skill levels, and you can even turn off visual aids, such as club distance, wind and lie indicators, and the swing aid. If you're looking for a more realistic experience, you can disable spin, power boost, and the putting aids. Another way to make the game more challenging is to jump straight into the PGA Tour, rather than powering up your golfer in team tour or real-time event challenges.
It's difficult to point out exactly how--but the game looks slightly better this year. The PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions both hold their own, with the Xbox looking slightly better thanks to 480p support. Both the created characters and the professional golfers look fantastic. The golfers each have a unique swing, which makes them not only look different but also play different. The team tour mode is a great way to experience this because you're often playing with as many as four different golfers in one round. Courses also look better than ever. Vibrant colors, crisp visuals, and little touches, such as flocks of birds flying over the green or waves breaking along the shore, make each course beautiful. From a technical standpoint, the frame rate remains steady and the camera is rarely a problem.
Most of the audio in Tiger Woods 07 sounds good--or as good as can be expected from a golf game. The crowds are lively and react with enthusiasm to a great shot. Just like on TV, you can hear individual fans in the gallery shout out things like "I love this game!" and just like on TV, this quickly gets old. David Feherty and Gary McCord are back and seemingly have nothing new to say. The commentary plays it too straight in a game that's otherwise full of personality. Their negative comments appear to have been toned down a bit, but the duo still drinks "Haterade" and just loves to rub it in after a poor shot. For the most part, their observations are accurate, though they'll occasionally praise you for hitting the ball in the rough and chastise you for what ends up being a perfectly good shot. Should you choose to forgo the announcers, there are lots of ambient noises to listen to instead. You'll hear birds chirping, planes flying overhead, animals roaring in the jungle (on the Predator course), and on Pebble Beach, the sea crashing into the cliffs. The Xbox version does not support custom soundtracks, which is disappointing because the included soundtrack is nothing to write home about.
Tiger Woods 07 is a heck of game, but it's so similar to last year's version that the question "Does this game really need to be a yearly release?" should be asked. You get a few new golfers and courses, as well as a few more control and difficulty options, but the whole package is roughly the equivalent of an expansion disc. If you own Tiger Woods 06, there's little reason to pick up Tiger Woods 07, unless you're just dying for new content, minimal as it may be. That said, if you've never played a Tiger Woods game before, or you've been away from the series for a few years, Tiger Woods 07 is well worth a purchase.