Another year means another release in EAs Tiger Woods PGA Tour series, the franchise has grown in strength with each successive release but a sports sim must offer something new with each release as by the very nature of the games each sequel is going to play very much like its predecessors and this can sometimes cause problems.

EA have kept improving the Tiger Woods series and adding more but some common complaints of the fans also seem to make it across each time, In general the Tiger Woods series has tried to sit on the fence between easily accessible play and full simulation which can be a difficult situation to be in as fans of pick up and play games tend to shy away from simulation heavy titles and vice-versa so creating a game that tries to cater to both crowds can be difficult. As it stands the Tiger Woods series has always been accessible enough so that the majority of players are comfortable enough with it without having to rigorously study the manual.

Take a swing at it

The greatest difference that returning fans will notice in Tiger Woods 06 is in the swinging system, you still use the left hand analogue stick to set the power via the backswing and downswing to strike the ball but now you can use the right analogue stick or 'shape stick' as the game prefers in order to control exactly how you hit the ball by using an on screen icon, which will determine the spin on the ball and therefore have a great effect on your overall shots, you can get by to an extent without worrying too much about using the right stick but it is definitely worth mastering for some of the challenges you will face as you will be better able to control the height of your shots too.

Obviously you cannot recreate the feel and experience of wielding a golf club and using it to smack a golf ball very accurately on a standard PS2 controller but given the limitations of the pad as far as playing golf goes the new control system is pretty good.

The play changes again when you hit the green and enter putting mode. EA have gone for a grid overlay as featured in other golfing titles, you see a 2D green grid superimposed over the green with lights running down the grid lines to indicate to you the contours and severity of the terrain, this works very well in practice and you also get help from an arrow indicator which plots out how a shot would go on flat ground for your reference. This new system may not make it as easy to putt as in previous games but this is welcomed as many players found that they would putt perfectly each time once they got used to it before, now it a little harder.

You can get some immense help with putting though if you want by having the game show you the ideal putt.

Character building excercise

As with many games now you can create your own character and then customise and tweak their appearance in Tiger Woods 06, the character creation is very flexible and will even allow you tweak and modify things like how weathered with age your skin looks and whether or not you have scars amongst a whole slew of other options, the Game Face creation really is flexible and you should have no trouble in creating your exact likeness if you want to spend the time doing it.

You can then use the character you create in the Rivals Mode of the game in which you take on famous golfers throughout history, working your way up to the top and eventually to Tiger Woods, there are challenges in rival mode to test all areas of your golfing skills to add some variety to the proceedings.

As you play through you will accrue points which may be used to upgrade your golfers attributes which include your power, putting and even your luck, the effect this has on your character is quite pronounced and you will find that you will trounce the majority of the opposition with relative ease once you stats start to rise as attributes are boosted.

Alongside the attribute boosting points you will collect money too as a reward for passing the varied challenges in Rival Mode, this cash you will spend in the shop accessible from Rival modes front end on new clothing, accessories and equipment for your creation.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2006 features fifteen different golf courses seven of which are original creations while the rest are modelled on real life courses. The graphical detail remains at the same high level as prior games in the series, not much has been added to the visuals that will blow you away but this doesn't matter as the graphics were fine beforehand and are still do perfectly well now. The courses will look different depending on which time period you are playing golf too.

The courses have an in-build difficulty balancing system called that makes the courses raise or lower the difficulty of the next hole depending on how you are doing, again this is where Tiger Woods 06 is being an accessible game rather than pure simulation.

Final Shots

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 features some big changes in the control mechanism since last years release, the new system offers much greater flexibility and control than the 'power meter' method found in other titles and the changes to the putting system too make this more than just last years game repackaged.

The extended character creation features are welcome especially as the game can be taken online enabling for some of the game modes to be played against human opposition.

If golf games have never been your thing then I would strongly recommend renting first if you are interested but fans of the sport cant really go wrong.