Thursday, September 30, 2004
Every year I am impressed how much the Tiger Woods franchise continues to grow and expand. This year, even more gameplay and customization elements await you, creating the deepest golf game ever.
Much of the core gameplay remains the same. You still use the sensitivity of your analog stick to gauge the strength of your swing, adjusting right or left during the swing to manipulate your cut. However, those who have mastered the many available courses that make the return will have no problem jumping into the PGA career and immediately owning the world with a ridiculous handicap, even with the nine new courses. To counteract this problem, the new Tiger Proofing feature allows you to manipulate the geometry and hazards of certain holes of certain courses you unlock, to build a dramatically more challenging 18-hole course. Even though this is a manual way to compensate for the easiness of the normal mode, it is a priceless addition.
Last year's "Game Face" addition, which was the technical breakthrough that allowed you to literally sculpt your head and facial features returns with even more customizations. Deeper body shaping that was sorely missing from last year's version is now included in the Game Face II package. Unfortunately you can't import last year's model. You have to start over. It's almost just as well since it's a buttload of fun to sculpt yourself. However, it's interesting to have another person help you. Apparently my ears are smaller than I made them. Talk about a nice little self-esteem project.
For those of us (I am raising my hand) that do find the PGA season to be almost too easy, there is the Legends Tour where you can take on the likes of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Ben Hogan. This provides a greater challenge, and once you've learned the ropes, this becomes another engaging mode. There is also a regular "Tour" difficulty you can almost immediately unlock that helps bridge the challenge gap.
PGA Tour mode still has unlockable sponsorships, clothes, accessories, etc. It's enough content to choke a camel. It makes Tiger one of the most proportionately robust sports games ever. Not to mention Xbox Live subscribers can finally go head-to-head online.
David Feherty and Gary McCord never cease to amuse with their commentary. I fear making a stupid shot because David Feherty always has a snide remark up his sleeve. However, like in most sports games, many of the catch phrases are recycled from last year, but there is enough new dialogue to make it not seem too redundant.
One thing that is starting to bother me, however, is the putting game. There is no real helpful view to judge the slope and gradient to the hole besides Tiger Vision, which is basically cheating, telling you exactly where to hit the ball. I think this would be remedied if the graphics were more detailed, showing correct shadows and turf detail. Sure, you could use a grid system, but the better and more realistic solution would be to improve the detail of the putting surfaces mixed with different viewable angles.
That being said, the graphics haven't come very far. Aside from the great character models, the courses themselves are fairly behind the times and look a little barren. The fairway and main ground textures are pretty stretched and blurry. This hampers the enveloping experience a bit. If Madden is any indication, no graphical improvements are on the horizon. Pretty much all EA Sports games are due for a major facelift.
Tiger is still my favorite golf franchise and Tiger 2005 is still a worthy replacement of 2004. Although there is still work to be done, it's still amazing and addicting.
First Play: A-
Last Play: A-
Overall: 91% A-