Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005
EA Sports games aren’t easy to review. Every year they reappear, just like the Pirelli-calendar (yum yum), the rumours about David Beckham’s extramarital escapades or the coming of Santa Claus. And every year the minor improvements and refinements are just enough to warrant yet another purchase. Same goes for Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005, once again the best golf simulation on the planet, yet as commonplace as making fun of George W. Bush Jr (not as if thát’s hard anyway).
When you start Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005 (Jezus Christ, what a name, let’s just stick to TW 2005 shall we?) for the first time, you’re “welcomed” by EA’s new and improved GameFace 2 mechanism. With it you have to create your own character. There are about 100 body-traits you can alter and each one has multiple options. Take a beard for example (1 trait), about 10 possibilities. Getting everything right the way you want already takes about 30 minutes. I can imagine fans of The Sims 2 going out of their mind now, but I can only describe it as being annoying. Adding a few standard characters wouldn’t have hurt.
Also obligatory, yet less irritating, are the tutorials. They explain the game very thoroughly in a clear fashion, but the onlaught of swings can cause confusion, especially with newbies. Once you’ve completed your lessons, you are free to do what you want. Once again you’ll be overwhelmed by the amount of modes and options. Here’s a small grab from the offer: Legend Tour, Legend Scenarios, Pro Tour Season, Traditional Games, Realtime Events… I think you get the picture. More than enough to keep you busy until Tiger Woods 2006 (and rest assured, that game is going to come allright).
New this year are the Online Mode (although I ask myself whether Europeans will actually use it) and Tiger Proofing. “Tiger What?!?” I hear you say? Well, Tiger Proofing lets you customize all the golftracks in the game. You want some more “rough” or “bunkers” in the game to provide extra challenge? Easy peasy! Making the holes easier is also possible, but be warned, you won’t earn as much prize money on an easy track. In fact you can compare Tiger Proofing with FIFA’s “Off-the-ball”-system. Great for the fans, but hardly a single soul who uses it…
But hey, next up: gameplay, because that’s what this game is all about. As always this part is exemplary. After a while TW 2005 can get quite addictive, mostly due to the well-known “Analog Swing”-controls. Just pull back the left analog stick to gain power (backswing) and push it forward as accurately as you can to hit the ball (downswing). It just feels right, but takes some practice to really master it, something that can take a while because of the very high difficulty level. But even when you land your ball “on the green”, your worries aren’t over yet. Putting the ball is the hardest part in Tiger Woods 2005. Luckily EA came forth with a solution for this problem, in the form of Tiger Vision. This new feature makes putting a real sinch. Just press R1 before you hit the ball and place the yellow marker on the blue dot. Afterwards you just release the stick and 9 out of 10 times the ball is in. Unfortunately you can only use Tiger Vision a few times in each game.
On the other hand, the other elements of the game aren’t all that great. The environments are well designed, but they are lifeless and don’t actually feature an abundance of detail. The characters aren’t much better. The average models are not what we have come to expect from EA Sports. Just look at FIFA 2005 and NHL 2005 for instance. Well, of course you can whine that a game like this doesn’t need fantastic graphics, but I can’t raise the score, now can I (Well sure I can, but I won’t). Sound isn’t great either. Mostly, silence is all you hear and the few musical interludes are just plain aggrevating. Fortunately the commentators do a good job, but after barely 10 holes you can hear repitition in their voices. Technically TW 2005 just doesn’t have what it takes to stand out.
Nonetheless, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005 once again is the best golf game, no doubt about that. True fans should already be queing in their local games shop, because they will enjoy it for months. Tiger Vision and the brand-new Online Mode are good additions to an already excellent sports game, but as for the rest, TW 2005 is almost identical to its predecessors. But why only 74%? Well, casual gamers won’t enjoy this a lot. The steep learning curve and high difficulty are real deterrents and they lower the score accordingly. If you don’t mind these cons, be my guest and add 10% to the score if you like, but I refuse to do it.