In 1997, Tiger Woods won his first major championship, which happened to be the most prestigious championship in the golf world, The Masters. He began a stride of winning more championships by a wider spread than any other professional golfer the world has ever seen. Nine years later, and Tiger’s popularity has not yet begun to wane. He’s still playing in tournaments, still endorsing products, and the videogame series with his namesake is now in its fourth incarnation. But with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2006 on the Xbox 360, we’ve finally reached the next -eneration of console golfing simulation. Or have we?Obviously, the word of the day for games in a console’s launch line-up is graphics. A new generation means new shader techniques, improved polygon counts, anti-aliasing, and in this case, higher definition. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 looks great in 1080i, offering the best looking golf game around. But take away the expensive high definition TV set, and most gamers already experienced with the series will be significantly less impressed. The courses and environments have gone through a notable visual upgrade, offering great looking shadows and lighting on top of the already beautifully modeled courses, but the player models leave much to be desired. Most of them look like their Xbox or GameCube counterparts, with a slight texture upgrade. It’s no where near the kind of visual leaps we’ve seen in other sports franchises, such as NBA Live or Madden 06. Still, the visuals are improved, if not as breathtaking as we’d expect from a next generation game.
In golf, a “cut” refers to a shot where the ball moves from left to right during flight. In videogames, it refers to what EA has done with every game in their 360 lineup. Yes, Tiger Woods 06 was another victim of the feature loss in EA’s next-generation sports lineup. If you’ve played the game on the Xbox or PlayStation 2, you may have remembered the fourteen different and beautiful courses, tons of game modes, and intuitive controls. Well, in making the leap across the generational gap, the game lost the very things that made the series great. The fourteen courses were cut down to six, providing golfers with scenery from Pebble Beach, Riviera Country Club, TPC at Sawgrass, Turnberry, Pinehurst, and Carnoustie. Though these are excellent and challenging courses, it leaves much to be desired when compared to what is available in current-generation versions.
The game modes suffered the same fate, taking the various modes from the previous iterations and mashing them into one Career Mode. The idea of career is to take an amateur golfer and raise him through the ranks to become a major-winning PGA Tour Pro. The concept of Career Mode seems great, but it should have been offered alongside the other game modes, instead of replacing them entirely. Removing the option of going through the game the old way along with playing some mini-games along the way has removes a lot of the fun from the series. Another major problem with the Career Mode is the sheer repetitiveness of it. You’ll often end up playing the same courses over and over again, which, at the end of a 72-hole marathon, can exhaust any drive you may have previously had to keep playing the game.
Golf is a game of patience and attitude. Perhaps if EA had the right patience and attitude regarding Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 on the Xbox 360, it would have been the best golf game we’d seen to date. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a mere shadow of its current-generation brethren. Improved graphics are always great, but at the cost of features and fun, it just isn’t worth it. At ten dollars more than the PS2, GameCube and Xbox versions of Tiger Woods, there’s almost no reason to pick up Tiger Woods on the 360. It’s not a bad game by any means, but it managed to be overshadowed by itself.