Tiger Woods 2005 Review
By Cliff O'Neill -- Reviews Editor
Platform: Playstation 2
Just because Tiger Woods hasn't had the greatest year on the golf course doesn't mean his virtual game has suffered as a result. In fact, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005 boasts a fair number of improvements and additions over the 2004 version, including the ability to customize golf courses. Called Tiger Proofing, this new feature does for course design what GameFace did for character creation last year. Speaking of which, Tiger Woods 2005 further expands character modification with GameFace II, placing even more customization at your fingertips. The tightened gameplay, varied modes, online play, and inclusion of legendary golfers only sweeten the deal.
Presentation/Graphics : 85
Since debuting on the PS2, the Tiger Woods series has continually received upgrades to its graphics, be it in the form of new camera angles, flashier special effects, or better animations and character models. This year is no different, though the improvements are minimal. The models and animations for the golfers are the best yet, with detailed textures, smooth motions, and emotive gestures bringing each golfer closer to life than ever before. New camera work and extra special effects round out the noticeable graphical improvements, while a dependable frame rate keeps things running smoothly.
Unfortunately, the courses have not received as much tender loving care as the golfers, and there are actually fewer this year (14 in all)--albeit the addition of new courses and Tiger Proofing helps make up for the omissions. As in previous installments, the presence of sloppy textures, blotchy trees and foliage, bland geometry, and distracting aliasing issues mar the appearance of the courses. Mesmerizing skies, serene lighting, reflective water, and animated wildlife do, however, instill some eye candy. On the downside, the lack of on-screen caddies and spectators makes the links feel desolate at times. Nevertheless, despite not undergoing a complete overhaul, Tiger Woods 2005's graphics remain solid and are a notch above those of other golf titles on the PS2.
Presentation/Audio : 90
The greatest compliment that can be paid to Tiger Woods 2005's audio is that it quietly does its job of immersing you in the game. Sound effects are sharp, if not fully realistic, and Pro Logic II support ensures you'll be hearing the ambient sounds (cheering spectators, chirping birds, barking dogs, gusty winds, etc.) from all angles, provided you have the proper audio setup. Meanwhile, enthusiastic commentary from David Feherty and Gary McCord generally meshes well with the action--supplying plenty of witty remarks and irreverence in the process--and the soothing beats from BT add wonderfully to the ambiance.
The only major complaint concerns the OutKast song ("The Way You Move") that plays each time you enter the GameFace II menu, which will be quite often. Even if you love OutKast, you will eventually grow to hate their aforementioned song with great passion, mainly because it cannot be toggled (though you can disable the menu music entirely). That annoyance aside, the quality of the audio presentation is about what you would expect from an EA Sports game and matches that of previous Tiger Woods games.
Interface/Options : 95
Like prior games in the series, Tiger Woods 2005 begins with an interactive tutorial that familiarizes you with the basics and gameplay mechanics. Tiger veterans will be instantly familiar with the controls, as they are essentially unchanged, save for a couple of new functions. Once past the tutorial, you'll have the chance to create your own character and fully access the menus. As with most of EA Sports' titles, the menus here are slick and work well, complete with all the basic options, records, and stat tracking Tiger vets would expect. Load times vary throughout but are never too intrusive.
That's enough rambling about the front end. You're probably eager to learn about the new features EA Sports has been trumpeting--namely, GameFace II and Tiger Proofing. Well, here's a quick summary: They rock! Now here are the particulars, beginning with GameFace II. If you checked out the 2004 version of Tiger Woods, you know the GameFace system offered a huge amount of options with which to create your virtual twin--or whatever type of freak you wanted to bring to life. It was loaded with features, easy to use, and fun to experiment with. GameFace II expands on these qualities and contains even more depth (thanks to dozens of new sliders), as well as a similarly great and uncomplicated interface.
With GameFace II, you can create a youngster with braces and a poor complexion or an old-timer with horrible wrinkles and grotesque age spots--and just about anyone in between. Want to create an obese slob with crooked teeth, nasty scars, and hideous tattoos? Go for it. Or how about a puny, balding nerd with bags underneath his eyes and freckles all over his face. Whomever you're looking to create, the new scaling, texturing, and aging features really help dial in the look. The possibilities are seemingly infinite. Plus, you can now tailor your golfer's swing, using a variety of sliders to adjust stance, posture, grip, hand placement, and more.
There is most definitely more. Drawing inspiration from the GameFace system, EA Sports has packaged Tiger Woods 2005 with a course-editing tool known as Tiger Proofing. Like GameFace, Tiger Proofing is simple to use and full of sliders that allow you to modify the courses in the game. You cannot build your own course from scratch, but you can alter the existing ones so dramatically that they practically become new, not to mention more difficult to play. Among other things, Tiger Proofing lets you deepen bunkers, narrow fairways, sculpt the greens, grow the rough, and adjust the foliage. You can also change the color of specific elements, such as the sky and grass, and add logos to certain aspects of your course. Heck, you can even edit the logos themselves.
Gameplay : 85
If you can manage to pull yourself away from the GameFace II and Tiger Proofing features, you'll find that EA Sports has subtly tweaked and refined the gameplay. The game still incorporates the familiar analog swing, though, meaning the analog sticks control your golfer's swing. Also returning are the power boost (hit the ball farther) and spin control (alter the ball's flight in midair), much to the chagrin of purists. Accompanying them are the new ball-in-stance and Tiger Vision mechanics. The former lets you adjust your stance in relation to the ball so you can better hone your shot, while the latter gives you an edge on the green by showing you exactly where to putt the ball. Using Tiger Vision practically guarantees you'll sink a putt, no matter how tricky it seems.
Now before you diehard golf aficionados freak out, you should know a few things. First, the new Tiger Vision feature is limited, as it cannot be used on every hole, and you must quickly line up your putt once enabling it. Secondly, there's now a "tour difficulty" mode, which increases the overall challenge. In short, tour difficulty, once unlocked, makes you focus more on your game by limiting your use of spin control and forcing you to make precise shots. It also disables caddie tips and gives you 3-to-1 odds, potentially letting you earn more money to spend on upgrading your golfer. When all else fails, anyone seeking further challenge can choose to disable all the golfing aids and arcade-like features in the game or simply make the courses more hellish with Tiger Proofing.
Still, in terms of realism, there's no denying Tiger Woods 2005, like its predecessors, leaves something to be desired. The game has been designed to appeal to the masses, with spotty physics, forgiving swing control, exaggerated drives, simplified putting, and a relatively high occurrence of extraordinary feats threatening to spoil the enjoyment for hardcore golf enthusiasts. Granted, those who have been following the Tiger Woods series on the consoles already know this. In the end, the game remains fun to play, and that's what's most important.
Indeed, you can expect some good times with the game's various modes. This year's version of Tiger Woods focuses on your pursuit of becoming a golfing legend, and most everything in the game revolves around this theme in one way or another. In Legend Tour, for instance, you must win a series of matches against real and fantasy golfers in an attempt to take on several legendary players, including Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Seve Ballesteros, and Tiger Woods himself. Legend Scenario, meanwhile, has you trying to win special challenges designed around the unique abilities of each legend.
Play well and you'll earn Legend Coins--used to purchase courses for Tiger Proofing and assemble your "dream 18"--and possibly a spot in the Hall of Legends, a fully navigational museum dedicated to the all-time greats of the game. Supplementing the legend elements is a full-fledged PGA Tour career that can be played with friends, who serve as guest golfers on the tour. Some other noteworthy elements include an expanded pro shop (now with a search feature), a full complement of traditional golf games (stroke, match play, skins, etc.), arcade-style mini-games, and the return of real-time events, special challenges that unlock based on your PS2's internal clock.
Another thing that returns is online play. Debuting with the 2004 version, online play in Tiger Woods 2005 will merely be the icing on the cake for some. While it hasn't been completely revamped, it has received a handful of key enhancements, including a feedback system, handicapping, wagering (using virtual money, of course), and an improved interface. Other updated online features included the ability to play Tiger-proofed courses, specialized tournaments, and mini-games. Ultimately, the game's online aspect may not be the main selling point for everyone, but it's great for those who want to pit their golfing skills against other gamers instead of sketchy CPU-controlled opponents.
Replay Value : 90
Newcomers to the Tiger Woods series may initially be overwhelmed by the vast amount of features, unlockables, and things to do in Tiger Woods 2005. With GameFace II, Tiger Proofing, and options and modes aplenty, there is a great deal to explore and discover. Those who have been playing the Tiger Woods games year in and year out, however, may not be as impressed, since a lot has been carried over or modified from previous games. Even so, the game is compelling enough as both a single- and multiplayer experience to appease perhaps even the most jaded Tiger Woods fans until the 2006 version arrives.
Overall : 90
Surprisingly, a few golf titles are vying for the attention of PS2 owners this year, and all of them support online play. However, if you're looking for real golfers and courses, as well as engaging gameplay and features, the choice should be obvious: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005 is the game to get. It may not be revolutionary, but it has enough going for it to suck in most gamers, regardless of their skill level or feelings toward golf. Only haughty golf purists or those truly burnt out on the Tiger Woods franchise should consider getting their golfing fix elsewhere.