If any game series needed a next-gen revamp it's Tiger Woods PGA Tour. The current-gen versions have been rather unspectacular for the past few years, feeling more like EA phoned in the final games rather than create something new. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 on the PlayStation 3 (and Xbox 360) is a solid step in the right direction, offering the most challenging gameplay Tiger's seen in years.
First things first; Tiger Woods 07 on the PS3 doesn't have anywhere near the same amount of content as the current-gen versions do. Instead of the 21 courses you get in the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions, the PS3 game has 12, which is obviously a big improvement over the rather pathetic 6 courses from the debut Xbox 360 title, but still a fair few less than ideal. On the upside, each course is far more detailed than in the current-gen games, with every bump, undulation and change in height being clearly visible. The golfers, and in particular Tiger, also look far superior.
The True Swing system is once again at the core of everything, and this works just as you'd imagine. The swing animations seem smoother, though, making shots look far more natural than before. While the left analogue stick handles the shot strength and accuracy, the right stick is used to modify loft. It's nothing revolutionary, but it's a system that works well. The only real weakness of the swing system comes on the putting green, where judging shot strength becomes a lot harder due to the short backswing. Hitting the ball at the top or bottom can increase or decrease putt strength, which works well, but some kind of swing meter for putting would have been nice.
What makes this next-gen game play differently to the others, and make it a whole lot more difficult, is the new True Aiming system. Rather than having a single point at which your ball will be directed (assuming you hit the ball accurately), Tiger Woods 07 on the PS3 uses a large circular target zone. This makes you play shots in a different way, as you can't be sure where the ball will land within that zone, and is far more similar to how you play golf in real life. It's all about percentages, and making sure you hit the green is more important than going for the pin.
Course and green detail makes the game even more difficult, as there are far more slopes and bumps than you'll be used to. The greens are particularly nasty, with huge slopes that make careful shot placement absolutely vital - landing on a downward slope can see your ball disappear to the back of the green or even slide into the tricky fringe. As a beginner, when your character isn't proficient in all areas, the game is a real challenge, and although it's made easier as you earn more ability upgrades, playing a round is never a walk in the park.
Game modes are plentiful if you like mini-games and traditional one-off events (stroke play, match play etc), and there are two pretty time-consuming career events. The Tiger Challenge pits your character against 20 golfers and the PGA Tour Season mode uses the FedEx points system to rank players over a gruelling season of four-day events. Both modes will take some serious time to beat, and you'll need to train your golfer to be the next Tiger Woods if you want to do well.
The PGA Tour mode is a real slog and it would have been nice to be able to set how many rounds you wanted each event to be, but if you want a simulation it does the job very well. You can choose to let the game simulate how you'd perform during a round, but it defeats the purpose of playing the game in the first place - there's no fun in sitting on a menu screen and pressing 'X'.
On the presentation side Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 has had a complete overhaul over the current-gen releases. The menus are sleek and let you hit a few balls as your golfer without even needing to go into a game mode. ESPN radio and news has been integrated if you like that kind of thing, but its US focus made it one of the first things I turned off in the options menu. Character creation has also been improved, and you can now create some scarily realistic looking players. It takes a fair amount of time and attention to detail to get good results (or bad results, depending on your goal), but playing as someone that looks like yourself, especially during multiplayer games, is great fun.
Speaking of multiplayer, Tiger Woods 07 on the PlayStation 3 allows up to four players to play together online. While not all the game modes are playable online, the key modes are, and you can set a number of options in the pre-game menu in order to create a match exactly as you want. Pin difficulty, rough length, green speed, and more can all be modified, and a shot clock can be used if you want the round to move at a brisk pace.
It's really hard not to like Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 on the PlayStation 3 or the Xbox 360 for that matter (they are nigh-on identical bar some minor Sixaxis motion control to add spin). It just plays a really nice round of golf and for the first time in ages poses a real challenge. Had the course count been on par with the current-gen releases there'd be no question over which version you should buy, but even with nine less courses, I'd still recommend you go with Tiger's next-gen offering. When you play well you feel like you've actually done something impressive and the sleek presentation is a big step up from what you get on the PlayStation 2.