I’ve never played the Tiger Woods PGA Tour series before. Believe me, I approached the 2007 installment with good humor and the sincere hope that the noble game of video golf would win me over as it has so many frat boys and ESPN.com columnists. What I found was a buggy, unfriendly experience that left me feeling as unwelcome as a woman at Augusta.
RED CARPET?: You’ll feel about as welcome as lady golfers at Augusta.
The tutorial seemed like a natural place to start. It was also where I encountered my first bug, mere seconds into my Tiger Woods experience. There are actually several short tutorial videos, each of which explains a particular gameplay aspect with a combination of voiceover and in-game video. The first tutorial was titled “Standard Shot,” and yes, it seemed a little strange when the voice started discussing a draw, which you can use “when a straight shot isn’t appropriate.” Strange, that’s the sort of tutorial one would expect when selecting the “Alternate Shot” lesson. Yep: both options played the same video. Oops.
Not that the tutorials are all that helpful. You’d think they would first explain how to do something and then give you a chance to practice. Ah, but that would make too much sense! No, if you want to access practice mode — in which you can place the ball anywhere on the course and retake shots to your heart’s content — you need to navigate out of the tutorials and through several other menu options. It’s nonsensical.
Okay. That’s just the tutorial. No matter. Next up was the create-a-player mode, which is given fresh life in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 because it’s called “Game Face.” Hey, that is innovative! As usual, my first thought was to create a virtual avatar who resembles me exactly, right down to the chiseled abs and high cheekbones. Here again I was stymied. For whatever insane reason, when you’re cycling through the hairstyles (or hair color, or moustache style, or whatever), you have to wait for a new face to load before moving on. So even if you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you do not want your character boasting a “flat top,” you have to wait until that loads before moving on to the stylistically distinct “flat-top fade.” And even after I spent all that time getting it exactly right, Video Mitch Krpata still looked as if he had Down syndrome.
The tutorial, the practice mode, and the game face had all let me down, so I decided to say the hell with it and dive straight into a match. After all, the true test of a golf game ought to be the quality of the golf. That is, unless you’ve been utterly unable to digest the tutorials and given no sane way to practice. In which case you end up hitting your drives into the rough, airmailing the green, and getting booed by the hicks in the crowd. There’s also some useless flash and dazzle, like the bizarre visual effect when you zoom from your ball to the destination marker: the fairway smears into a motion blur and there’s a low-pitched whooshing like the sound effect from the opening credits of Star Trek. It’s all worth it in the end, though, when you heroically hit your ball into the cup. Truly, this is why video games were invented.
Does anybody else care about this stuff? Every year, EA Sports can release a broken and unfinished game, get its 80 percent score on Gamerankings, and sell a million copies. And as its fan base continues to confuse additions to the gameplay with improvements, there will never be an incentive to address the fundamental problems. On the other hand, it sure does look real pretty. Tiger, you’ve done it again!