Tiger's latest game for all current-gen systems is, as you are probably expecting, remarkably similar to last year's effort. In fact, the developers at EA seem to have got to the stage where they can only make the game feel new, by removing perfectly good game modes and replacing them with new ones - for better or worse. What's more, without new rosters to worry about (a few new players on the tour isn't quite the same as the changes that happen in the English Premier League each season), unless new courses are added, these yearly releases seem more and more pointless; although I'm sure this is a view on which EA differs.
As ever you get to create your ideal golfer (or circus freak), making him or her as close a resemblance to yourself as you feel comfortable with, while obviously trimming off a few pounds and adding a few inches to your height. Once you've tweaked every inch of your appearance, you need to spend your meagre experience points to give your player some basic skills, and then you're ready to take to the Links.
Perhaps EA knows that the Tiger Woods series has been on the end of some criticism in the past over lack of new content, as the developers have seen fit to highlight every new addition to the game. Seven new game modes are on offer this year, the biggest of which being 'Team Tour' which is a direct replacement for last year's 'Rivals' mode. Tiger has assembled a team that's wiping the floor with the competition all over the world, and your goal is to assemble your own team, to eventually take on and beat Tiger's. Thankfully you get to play as each team member, so you don't have to rely on the AI.
You'll need to recruit three players in total, and to do so you need to prove yourself in a number of challenge events. Winning challenges unlocks players, who can then be added to your team. 19 Team Tour challenges are available, and by the end you'll have to be on top form to be in with a chance of winning. The Team Tour will cover most of the game modes Tiger Woods 07 offers, but each mode is also accessible via the main menu, making for a huge selection of single and multiplayer offerings. These include the lengthy PGA Tour mode, skill-based challenges in the Skill Zone, standard stroke and match play, and a couple of new modes ideal for playing with friends.
Online play is available for PlayStation 2, Xbox and PC owners and lets you compete in the modes available in the offline game. It's here where you'll be able to really test out your created character, who hopefully will have earned a few skill upgrades before you venture into the online world. Skill points are awarded during general play, and then can be exchanged for skills in a number of areas key to your player's strength as a golfer.
On consoles swinging a club is as simple as it's ever been, but you get two methods to choose from. The simplest is the standard left stick swing, which handles all hook and slice, as well as power, in the same movement. In this standard swing mode the right stick handles where you strike the ball, allowing you to hit the ball higher or lower than usual. The new Alternative swing moves hook and slice to the right stick, and while this might be preferable for some players, I found the standard set up more than adequate. Extra power can be added to your swing by tapping a button during your back swing, and spin can be added while the ball is in flight, via a similar button tapping method.
On the PC Tiger Woods has always been more of a simulation than its console brothers, and this year is no different. The mouse-driven swing mechanic allows for greater control and the game as a whole is far less forgiving. Game modes are largely very similar, with the focus being the new Team Tour, but a big emphasis is also placed on the PGA Tour mode, which is slicker than that found in the console versions.
The recently released ProStroke Golf demonstrated how a more advanced control system can work on consoles, and playing Tiger Woods 07 does feel like a slight step back. At the same time, the controls have a simplicity to them that makes the game easy to play, and there is level of depth to the control and shot choice for the more serious players. What Tiger lacks in precision control, however, it more than makes up for in presentation.
Tiger Woods 07 is as slick as ever, and while the engine is looking a little rougher than it did a few years back, it's still a solid looking game. Licensed real world Tour players look great and the 21 courses (12 in the PC version) are all modelled excellently, but colours are a little pale, giving the game a slightly washed out look. The usual fancy effects for certain shots and situations return, although the majority of these can be disabled from the options menu. On the PC the visuals are head and shoulders above those in the console games, and the courses are significantly more complex. Colours are richer, textures are more detailed, and lighting is far superior, making for a game that resembles EA's next-gen offering. A solid selection of EA Trax and some perfectly adequate in-game audio and commentary round off a well put together package.
There's no getting around the fact that Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2007 is more than slightly similar to last year's game, and the game before that, with a handful of new modes and courses. At the same time, though, it's a great package. Newcomers to the series will find a great deal to play through, but if you own last year's game, think carefully about what you expect to find in the new game before laying down the cash.