Tiger Woods PGA TOUR Review (PSP)

Tiger Woods PGA Tour arrives on the PSP scene as a straight port of this year's console versions. Depending on your point of view, that's either a good or bad thing. As for me, it seemed like Tiger would be a perfect fit for Sony's portable wonder. Was I right? Well, yes - mostly.

If you've played Tiger Woods PGA Tour on either the Xbox or PS2 this year, you'll be amazed at how much the smaller PSP's version looks like it's console brethren. The graphics are crisp, clean and lush. The player animations are excellent, and the presentation is every bit as good as the console version, with dramatic camera angles and well-timed cuts to player reactions. While Tiger itself isn't the most detailed game on the planet, it does the job, and it's streamlined simplicity works extremely well on the PSP. It's actually one of the best looking games available on the PSP - be it a sports title or otherwise.

Tiger's solid, if uninspired, commentary is carried over in full to the PSP, and the game's environmental and game sounds are, well… par for the course. I enjoyed the commentary when it first came out a few years ago - but EA badly needs to get their guys back in the booth for some fresh lines - pronto.

There's nothing spectacular here by any stretch, but there's nothing that detracts from the game, either. It's a golf game; and it delivers what it needs to - a relaxing, pleasant and unobtrusive audio package.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour's feature set is remarkably robust, and it provided much more than I expected from a handheld game. The "Game Face" feature makes an appearance here, and while it's not quite as robust as the console versions - it's almost too robust for the PSP, as many subtle details are essentially impossible to view on the PSP's smaller screen. Regardless, it's great that it's there. While the ability to play a full PGA season is not in this version, the Legend Tour allows you to work your way up through the ranks using both tournaments and head-to-head matches. With your earnings, you'll improve your created golfer's abilities and add better equipment to his golf bag. It's quite satisfying, and it'll take even veteran Tiger players a while to complete the Legend Tour.

The Legend Challenge is also available, and these shorter games are ideal for the gamer that just has a few minutes to hit the links. "Party Play" mode lets you play against friends on the same PSP, but the games are limited. Remarkably, there's not even an option to play a single round with a friend. It's a confusing choice that doesn't really mesh with the sport of golf itself, and it diminishes the value of "Party Play" significantly. Of course, the standard "Quick Play" mode is there - choose your golfers, pick a course and scoring system, and off you go. It would've worked better to have a second player option, but it doesn't - the other golfers you select will play against you; controlled by the CPU. On the whole, however, it's hard to argue with Tiger's feature set - especially on a game that appeared at launch - it's quite robust, and provides the gamer with an awful lot to do.

There's a fly in the ointment, however - load times. Going from menu to menu takes a surprisingly long time, but that's nothing compared to what you'll experience in the game itself. When a round begins, the game will take quite a bit of time to load the course initially. That's understandable. However, when the game takes as long as it does for each and every hole to load - you have a problem. Gamers may spend 90-120 seconds per hole to play it, and then have to wait another 30 to get to the next one? That's far too much time spent looking at a loading screen, and in the world of handheld play, having roughly 20% of your game time or more doing nothing but watch the PSP load data is almost unforgivable. EA has got to tackle this issue for the next iteration of the series first and foremost.

Not too long ago, Operation Sports' own Mark Fossen reviewed Tiger Woods for the Xbox, and had detailed analysis of the game play that I won't try to improve upon. If you've never played Tiger before, I strongly suggest that you check it out, as the game play of the PSP version is all but identical.

The controls for the game, however, are not. Power boost is added during the swing by rapidly tapping the right shoulder button during the player's backswing. This can be problematic, as the PSP unit has the screen attached to it - and it'll be shaking quite a bit as you pound that button. This can also throw off the analog swing mechanism more than it would on a dedicated controller like those on the Xbox and PS2. Speaking of the analog swing system, the PSP's very nature tends to make swinging the sticks a bit more difficult and perplexing. It seems as if the PSP's analog nub is not nearly as accurate as the analog sticks on the PS2's Dual Shock or the Xbox's Controller S. For no apparent reason, you'll have shots come up very short or hook and slice dramatically. While it doesn't happen on every swing, it's hard to get the rhythm down consistently because the analog nub itself doesn't seem to perform consistently. On a drive to the fairway, the precision may not be as critical, but on the green, you'll be all but guaranteed to miss a few putts per round that you probably would have sunk if you were playing the console version. The "problem", if it can be posited as such, more likely rests with the PSP itself than it does with the game, but perhaps EA can tweak the sensitivity of it's swing controls for the next iteration to overcome it. On the whole, however, the game is as enjoyable as the console version - it's as good a port as it realistically can be.

Tiger Woods has "Ad Hoc" play available, and two players can square off in a variety of different game types, including Stroke Play, Skins, Match Play, "Bingo Bango Bongo" (where the first player to reach certain goals on a hole removes a club from their opponent's), and the Long Drive Shootout. Both players swing the club simultaneously, so the games will move along faster. Players can even wager their digital "cash" on a match. Tiger Woods PGA Tour's online feature set is excellent… mostly. Unfortunately, the fact that it's only "Ad Hoc" playable (read: two players in the same room on two PSPs) is a huge drawback.

Quite honestly, since most gamers already have a game console, why wouldn't I just play my buddy on my television if he or she is already there in the room with me? We'd have a bigger screen, better controls, and I'd only need to purchase one copy of the game, to boot…

If Tiger Woods PGA Tour had supported "Infrastructure" (read: Internet online) play, this game's value would have shot through the roof. As it is, it's a nice addition that unfortunately only a few gamers will ever get any use out of.

Only four things hold Tiger Woods PGA Tour back from true gaming greatness: the abysmal load times, the slightly off-kilter analog nub swing system, better multiplayer capability, and true online… er, "Infrastructure" play. As it stands today, however, Tiger Woods PGA Tour is a very solid outing by EA Sports. It's fun to play while blending a little bit of golf strategy in the mix, and gives the gamer a lot to do. There's a lot of meat on the PSP version's bones. The Legend Tour will keep even the most ardent players busy for a while, and it's an attractive game that really shows off the beautiful graphics potential of the PSP. For an accessible and entertaining handheld sports game, it'd be tough to do much better than Tiger Woods PGA Tour.

Tiger Woods PGA TOUR Score
out of 10