Indeed, getting through the four-day Q School tournament and earning your PGA Tour card in the process can be a grueling trial (though you can save your game after each tournament day is complete, which will let you start over if you don't like how your day is going). Your opponents won't give an inch, and you can expect that same level of challenge to continue when you move on to the PGA Tour proper and start competing in weekly events.
So, there's a good amount of challenge to be found in Tiger 06. Unfortunately, that challenge will only take place on a mere six courses--Riviera Country Club, Pinehurst No. 2, TPC at Sawgrass, Carnoustie, Turnberry's Alisa Course, and, of course, the ever-present Pebble Beach. When compared to Tiger 06 for the Xbox, which featured a full 14 courses (when you count the fantasy courses), this represents the most significant gap between the current-gen and next-gen versions of the game, and for most players will likely be the deal breaker when deciding whether to buy the game. In that same vein, there's also less stuff to spend your tour earnings on in the PGA Tour shop than before. If sheer quantity of courses is your thing, Tiger 06 for the 360 is tough to recommend. On the positive side, the courses that are in the game are diverse and challenging, and they also happen to look great.
Complex shadows and lighting effects convey a real sense of depth to tree-lined courses.
That look comes thanks to a sense of depth and detail that simply isn't possible on the PS2 or Xbox. The biggest difference is the quality of lighting and shadows. Take the first hole at TPC, for example, with its honor guard of trees that line both sides of the hole, casting dappled shadows across the length of the fairway all the way to the green itself. As the tree limbs shift with the breeze, the shadows they cast move slightly as well. It's not perfect--those same shadows aren't cast on your player model when he or she stands underneath a tree, for example, and there is some shadow-texture pop-in as your ball travels through the air; but on their own, the shadows add depth and texture to the courses to great effect.
Player models in Tiger Woods are hit or miss. Some, like Tiger himself, are amazingly lifelike, with bulging veins in their forearms and spot-on facial modeling that makes the virtual golfer nearly indistinguishable from the real thing. Others, such as John Daly, don't fare nearly as well and look more like vaguely upgraded PS2 or Xbox models. There is also a sense of plasticity to some of the skin textures, and the less said about the poor hair modeling the better, especially when it comes to created players. The game also has periodic frame rate issues, often during the backswing, which can affect the swing's delicate timing. Crowds will line the course during tournaments, and it's nice to see that they aren't just static models--you'll notice some walking around in the background. Even better, you can whack a gallery member with an errant shot, which simply never gets old.
Tiger's Dolby Digital 5.1 support is best served when playing amid a full crowd of tournament onlookers. Hit a blast off the tee and the crowd will roar in appreciation (including, of course, the knucklehead who feels it necessary to shriek at the top of his lungs); shank a shot into the woods and the crowd will mutter in disappointment. Beyond that, you've got Gary McCord and David Feherty sharing announcing duties, and once again, the duo does a decent job of announcing the action on the links. Their commentary isn't always accurate--they sometimes call a match play "dead even" even if you're up three holes--but at the very least, their calls are entertaining. A slew of EA Trax tunes don't get in the way and won't have you reaching to unplug the MP3 player connected to your 360 anytime soon.
Online play adds some life to the game, provided you can put up with the periodic lag.
Online play in Tiger includes your standard quick-play and custom-match filters. You can create matches based on a number of different game types--stroke, match, skins, best ball, four ball, alternate shot, and three-hole minigames. The game keeps track of your online stats and has weekly overall leaderboards for stroke and match play, as well as the minigames. There are also daily tournaments to take part in, and the game highlights weekly money winners, golfers of the week, and tourney winners. When it comes to game performance online, there is some lag to speak of, and some of it is consistent. Unfortunately, it's one stroke at a time online--the ready-play option in the PC version, which lets you take your next shot as soon as you're ready, can't be found in the 360 version of the game.
In the end, many consumers will judge Tiger 06 by what it lacks--courses, game modes, and extras--and these are fair criticisms. What it doesn't lack, however, is challenge, and a feeling that things could slip out from under your control at any moment--something you couldn't really find on the current-gen versions of the game. If you played Tiger for the Xbox or PS2, you won't find enough here to justify spending an additional 60 bucks on. If you're desperate for next-gen golf or haven't played Tiger in a while, you'll find a game that, at least in terms of control and difficulty, is making strides toward becoming a more complete and realistic facsimile of golf. It bodes well for the future of the series.