It's the most accessible Tiger Woods game yet, but it's also the easiest.
Outside of all these additions and changes, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005 is still, basically, the same old Tiger. You can still play a quick one-off game of your choice, be it stroke, match, skins, stableford, or fourball, and the skill zone still offers a nice variety of minigame-style challenges. The game introduces several new real-life courses to play on, as well as a few fantasy courses; unfortunately, many of the courses included in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 have been omitted, dropping the total number of playable courses from 19 to 14. It's still a solid collection of courses that cover a great variety of locations, but it's a shame that classic courses like TPC Scottsdale and Spyglass Hill aren't included.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 was the first in the series to introduce online play, though it was only available on the PlayStation 2 version. This year it comes to the Xbox as well, and both versions have basically identical online capabilities, letting you play one-on-one with another player or compete in EA-sponsored online tourneys. Though the online is completely functional, it's not really much improved over the online support in Tiger 2004 for the PS2.
Though the visuals have received minor touch-ups year after year, the core graphics engine that powers Tiger Woods has been pretty much the same for the past three years. Tiger 2005 makes some modest improvements over the graphics in Tiger 2004, with the player models looking more realistic and emotive than ever, but there are other aspects of the visuals that are now starting to show their age. When you're doing a flyby, everything still looks nice and realistic, but it doesn't hold up as well upon close inspection. A lot of the foliage surrounding the courses has a kind of flat look to it, the picket fence-like rows of grass blades that make up the rough are plainly visible, and some of the fairway and green textures can look a little blurry. The series really started to establish its own visual flavor back in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003, when it introduced a bevy of dramatic camera effects to give more impact to powerful tee shots and make tense approaches and putts even more nail biting. Tiger 2005 maintains these designs. This year, EA has done away with many of the older shots and introduced a whole new set of crazy effects, which include a sepia-tone effect and a zoomed-in shot that follows the ball off the tee. Some of these effects are quite effective, but their overall quality just doesn't seem quite as consistent as in the past.
All three console versions of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005 are pretty much comparable in terms of content and quality, though there are a few system-specific idiosyncrasies. The graphics on the PlayStation 2 seem especially aliased, and along with a lack of online support, the textures in the GameCube version seem to have just a bit less clarity than the other two versions. And, like last year's Tiger, the GameCube version of Tiger 2005 comes on two discs, which is a testament to the amount of content contained within the game, to be sure, but having to swap between discs at seemingly arbitrary points in the game is a hassle. Most of the differences are ultimately pretty nominal, but when compared side-by-side-by-side, the Xbox version definitely has the greatest graphical fidelity.
Gary McCord and David Feherty have been the commentary team for Tiger Woods PGA Tour for years now, and you can tell this by how comfortable they sound in Tiger 2005. Their delivery is natural and unhurried, and more irreverent than ever. Even though this means you'll have to hear a few more bad puns from Feherty, it can be amusing when one of them miscalls a shot and the other chides him for it. Outside the commentary, the sound is pretty good, though some of the "wackiness" creeps into the environmental sounds. The most obvious example of this is the sound of another golfer shouting "fore!" followed by the sound of breaking glass and a car alarm. It's kind of clever the first time you hear it, but the joke doesn't really stand up to multiple plays.
Online golfing can help give Tiger Woods 2005 some longevity, at least on the Xbox and PS2.
Though Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005 is still enlisted in the EA Sports Trax program, it doesn't have quite the same weird mishmash of artists that has been indicative of the Trax program thus far. Save for the inclusion of OutKast's "The Way You Move," which plays by default at so many of the menus that, despite being catchy, it quickly wears out its welcome, the rest of the music in the game is provided by dance music producer BT. The soundtrack has a uniformly relaxed ambience to it. Rather than vie for your attention, the soundtrack here does what it should: complement the visuals and help establish the mood.
From strictly a bullet-point perspective, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005 is a more full-featured game than last year's (with the notable exception of the smaller number of courses), and it still stands as one of the best games of golf for the PlayStation 2. However, many of its improvements over Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 feel kind of incremental, and unless you're an Xbox owner who is itching to take the game online, owners of Tiger 2004 shouldn't necessarily rush out to pick it up.