Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2006 goes clubbing
27th Jun 2005 | 15:18
Now that he's finally coming out of his well-publicised 'slump', Tiger Woods looks like a changed golfer. He's got a new swing, a new attitude, and he's rediscovered that killer Tiger touch that he seemed to lose after ruling the game for years on end.
Similarly, EA's Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2006 is bringing a whole new raft of features and improvements to its game - including a next-gen Xbox 360 version that will compliment the PS2, Xbox, GameCube, PC, PSP and mobile versions and launch alongside the console in November.
A new dual analogue stick system lets you control you shots better than ever, the GameBreaker system lets you pull off extraordinary shots if you've got the cuts and you can earn extra money by 'calling your shot' before you hit it.
On top of that there's all the usual improvements we expect from EA's sports franchises, like the latest stars, the hottest courses and the most accurate professional tournaments. The PC, PS2 and Xbox versions will all offer online play, too.
The Xbox 360 version will feature ridiculously detailed courses and motion capture as well as mo-capping Tiger's facial movements for the first time.
We've got freshly-cut screens of the PS2, Xbox and Xbox 360 versions for you to putt your eyeballs into and we recently had the opportunity to grab an interview with Amy Bartlett, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2006's product manager at EA Redwood.
A new year, a new Tiger. What's the main addition for 2006?
Amy Bartlett: This is the first look for everybody because we didn't show it at E3 this year. So we're not showing all our new features, but we're showing a couple of new things and those should help give you an idea of where we're heading.
The first new thing concerns the swing. Any Tiger fans will know that we pioneered the analogue stick swing, so pulling back straight and pushing forward straight will get you a pretty good swing and strike of the ball. That's still the same, but this year we've tweaked the spin mechanic by letting you adjust where you strike the ball with the right analogue stick.
If you pull back on the right analogue stick at the point of impact you'll cut under the ball, forcing a higher trajectory and putting some backspin on there. And if we push up on the right analogue stick you'll top the ball, giving a lower trajectory and putting some top spin on there. The same applies for sidespin - drawing and fading the shot. This gives you much more freedom and power to shape your shot for every circumstance, and lets you nail your approach shots down onto the green with lots of spin.
What does this add to the swing system?
Amy Bartlett: It's much more like real golf because you have to fine-tune and perfect where you're striking the ball to get the best results. That gives us extra depth and something the player has to learn. And if you've never played Tiger before you'll still be able to play a solid round without messing with your impact marker - just like a real golfer.
It's very different to the old spin system where you added spin after you had impacted the ball.
Amy Bartlett: Well, we still have that. Depending on your abilities you'll be able to put even more spin on the ball after impact, but what we're doing with the impact marker is giving the player more control over how they shape their shot off the club.
So rather than changing the whole system you're actually adding an extra dimension...
Amy Bartlett: Exactly. People who have played Tiger for the past few years have really mastered the system and got almost ridiculously good, so rather than completely revamp it we wanted to add a new level of challenge for people who are already experts.
Does the putting system remain the same?
Amy Bartlett: No. You'll no longer just get a caddy tip. You'll have to look at the green and read the putt for yourself - we're not holding your hand any more. We've overlayed a grid onto the green that tells you whether you're shooting up or down hill and if the green slopes off to either side. Then you need to measure the power of your swing and shape it to the contours of the green. So all-in-all you'll have to work a little harder to become an expert at reading the greens. It's not just an aiming game any more.
Why was the decision taken to change the putting system so drastically?
Amy Bartlett: We talk to a lot of our fans and a lot of media and we do a lot of research every year, and we keep an eye on the scores that get posted online every time a new Tiger comes out. We've been seeing consistent scores in the fifties only a month after the game comes out. That's just not real golf. It was obvious to us that people were getting too good, too quickly. It used to be 'aim here and the ball will drop'. But you don't always one-putt, right? So now you have to take in all the information we're giving you and play your own shot.
We wanted to implement something that required a little more feel, a little more fine touch, and reflected the real sport of golf better. True golf fans will appreciate that, but we think gamers will too because it requires them to up their skills even further.
Is reacting to the opinions and desires of the Tiger fans an important aspect of the development process?
Amy Bartlett: Definitely. We look a lot at the forums and message boards to keep an eye on what the hardcore fans are saying. We can't respond to everything but when we see consistencies among complaints or requests we strongly consider making changes or additions. We make games because we love games but we also make games for our fans. People like knowing that they are being listened to and we want them to enjoy the game as much as is possible. There's nothing better than picking up a new version of your favourite game and seeing that new feature you've always wanted.
Any other changes to the control system?
Amy Bartlett: That's all we're talking about in terms of gameplay at the moment, but we do have lots of other new features. We'll have 23 licensed golfers, four of which are new. We've announced Chris De Marco and Mike Weir, and we have another two that we'll announce in July. We also have 15 courses in the game, a mixture of licensed courses and fantasy courses, nine of which are new.
What about online play?
Amy Bartlett: Yeah, Xbox Live and Online for PS2. New for this year are foursomes, so you'll be able to get out there with three other friends. Also new this year is PAL/NTSC compatibility so we'll be able to set up some Ryder Cup-style transatlantic competitions.
Amy Bartlett: Well, most of it is still under wraps at the moment. We're going to reveal more about how you'll be levelling your character up and progressing through the game in July
What input has Tiger had - is he involved in the development of the game?
Amy Bartlett: He's really involved with the development. It's great because he's around our age, he's grown up playing videogames - he's currently in love with the PSP - and he really understands how games should work.
So, last year the big story was that Tiger was in a slump and that he was struggling with his swing. He knew all along what he was doing - he was improving his game, just like we improve his game every year. Now he's got his new swing and it's working well for him he wanted us to do all new motion capture, and in the next-gen versions we'll have facial motion capture too. He likes to be number one at everything he does, so he's always very interested in being part of the development process. In fact, he recently told me that he wants to sell more than FIFA and Madden, so that's our next target!
Good luck! How's the next-gen version going?
Amy Bartlett: Great. It will be a launch title for Xbox 360 later this year and we did show it at E3. It'll be very different to the current-gen games - it'll have a different line-up of golfers and courses, but more importantly with new hardware comes the opportunity to do new things. There are lots of things we always wanted to do but couldn't, and know we can think about putting those things in the game.
And what would those things be?
Amy Bartlett: [Laughs] You'll just have to wait and see. But it was evident from what we showed at E3 that the additional detail really helps to bring the course to life. Every blade of grass is rendered individually and behaves individually - it's pretty exciting. Of course, we're still really excited about the current-gen product, but the next-gen proposition means our wishlists are growing again.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2006 will be available for PS2, Xbox, GameCube, PSP and PC in autumn, with the Xbox 360 version launching alongside the console and other next-gen versions due next year.