Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07
The world's most famous golfer, Tiger Woods, readies himself at the 18th tee at Pebble Beach. The sun's oppressive heat batters down across the whole of the course as it has done so all afternoon and the watching crowd are silent in anticipation. The golfing magician takes a moment to judge the direction of the wind, try a few practice swings. Finally, he stands adjacent to the ball and settles himself ready to do what he does best. The course is quiet but for a couple of tweeting birds and the slight breeze. Tiger begins to raise his club slowly, carefully... but suddenly flings it forward as if struck by an uncontrollable spasm in his forearm, striking the ball terribly and watching it fly approximately 50 yards onto a dirty great patch of rough ground. Oh dear, Eldrick. What happened?
Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf 2007 is the first time that Nintendo Wii owners have been able to play golf 'proper' on their machines. Wii Sports' golf was a deliberately no-frills affair and with EA being the videogaming Daddy's in a lot of sporting simulation, you'd expect no less than a satisfying and thorough experience. Thorough it is, but whether it's satisfying is another question entirely. Promotional trailers show real life golfers marvelling at the innovation and responsiveness of the Wii Remote replicating on-screen the gesture of swinging a golf club, but behind the perfect world of advertising are a number of control issues that, for a while, threaten to ruin the whole experience.
First is a problem that occasionally cropped up in Wii Sports golf, too. Unless you're careful about 'resetting' the position of the Wii Remote prior to a swing, the resulting thwack might occur prematurely and completely out of your control. Whilst this might not be a problem if by some fluke you happen to be just about the right predetermined distance from the pin, when the upset rears its ugly head at the tail end of an important, pant-wettingly tense round of golf, no one, least of all EA, will be there to appreciate the extent of your anger.
Another in-game oddity that only aids to confuse golf's most crucial element (that's swinging the club if you hadn't already guessed) is the fact that your real life arm movements aren't directly related to the on-screen character. This means that even at the times when a half swing would generate more than enough power to knock the little white ball towards the area where you want it to land, your character will still wind the club up to an area above and behind his or her head, looking like he/she is preparing to strike the ball through the window of a pretty house that sits precariously behind the green.
This niggle makes putting in particular a bit of a nightmare. To help the ball travel a long distance along the perfectly smooth surface of the green, the game recommends that you draw your arms back just far as you would for a full swing, even though the correct technique (and common sense approach) to putting dictates that any such gesture is a foolhardy way of doing things, pure and simple. To help slightly, an indication of the power behind your swing is displayed as a percentage of the potential distance that the club is capable of thwacking your ball at full capacity, but needless to say, the action still feels awkward and forces you to rely on guesswork rather than any real element of skill.
And other than the stupid 'hold a D-pad directional button and shake the Wii remote' feature to add spin to the ball as it soars, the control method works just fine. In fact, those willing to persevere with the frustrations that the title will inevitably throw their way every now and again will find Tiger Woods everything and more they'd expect the Wii version to bring them. If not always as reliable, the swinging action of the Wii remote is certainly more engaging than the tugging back and forth of the analogue stick, that's for sure.
If the sound of all that hasn't put you off, its likely that you'll enjoy what the rest of what Tiger Woods has to offer. There are a full 18 courses to master in a number of modes. The most familiar is Tiger Challenge in which the aim is to work your way up through the ranks (competing in a number of challenges) towards golfing supremecy until you are worthy enough to take on Mr. Woods himself. Thanks to the comprehensive body-tweaking options of the Game Face mode, you, yourself, can be that person. Alternatively you could slave away to model a character looking like they hit every branch of the ugly tree on their way down to Earth. Unfortunately, ghoulish faces don't upset the opposition, but they definitely make any round of golf (let's face it, not the most exciting of sports every second of the way along) that bit more entertaining.
The other main mode is the PGA Tour in which challenging the world, earning megabucks and honing your skills is the name of the game. Throw in a plethora of multiplayer games including battle golf, T-I-G-E-R and the devilish one-ball (players use one ball between them, must hit it at least half the remaining distance to the pin to avoid forfeiting a turn, but must somehow play so that sinking a putt is achievable when their shot comes around). It's an EA game with yearly updates and the huge wealth of options that players now expect from the franchise, so you're not likely to be disappointed on that front.
Aesthetically, the title is a bit of a mixed bag. The character models, particularly their faces, are nicely detailed and smoothly animated, demonstrating plentiful (often over the top it has to be said) levels of both positive and negative emotion depending on how the events surrounding the preceding hole have unfolded. Sadly, the same can't be said for the game's environments, in particular the background scenery. Trees almost look 2D when you're standing in front of their low-resolution blocky-ness and certain animals seen grazing under the cover of coppice surroundings are cardboard cut outs with about four frames of animation each. And if there's anything else that's going to spoil what is supposed to be an immersive round of golf, it's likely to be the visible joins between chunks of the sky. It's like something out of The Truman Show, except unlike Truman Burbank it won't take you nearly thirty years of your life to realise that something really doesn't look quite as it should.
When all is said and done in regards to Tiger Woods' first outing on the Wii, it's obvious that the control method is going to be the main focus of attention. And while the title's misgivings are obstacles that anyone interested enough in the sport will learn over time to overcome, as a beacon towards accessibility to gaming for non-games players, they'll no doubt serve to hinder rather than endear their experiences. You can of course plug in the nunchuck attachment to participate via traditional means, but that would only serve to defeat the object of buying Tiger Woods for Wii in the first place and not the same game on any of the other formats. Undoubtedly next year's edition will be tweaked to iron out any of this season's problems, but for now Tiger Woods' offering on Nintendo's little white box of tricks is decidedly under par.