'TIGER WOODS PGA TOUR 07'
(EA Sports) for Xbox 306, PlayStation 2, Xbox, PSP, PC.
Genre: Sports; Rating: E.
EA Sports seems to be having troubles updating its marquee franchises ("Madden" and "NBA Live"), but at least the other guys -- "FIFA" and now "Tiger Woods PGA Tour"-- are getting fantastic improvements from year to year.
The new "Tiger Woods 07" is a massive upgrade from last year's version. Vastly improved visuals, more courses and a ton of gaming modes makes it one of the more complete sports titles for the Xbox 360 (and the current-gen consoles) available. Golf itself has always benefited from having lots of options, and now you can play those options -- better-ball, alternate shot, stroke, match, skins, stableford -- just about anything you can ask for is here.
Probably the most dramatic and needed improvement is the skills element. In previous Tiger Woods games, you could practice for hours and make your created golfer into a veritable Tiger Woods before ever teeing off in a tournament. Now you must progress a bit more naturally and grind out wins instead of dominating the tour from the first strike of a ball.
Sadly, there are still too few courses to play on the 360 version. Only 12 are available, and while that is double last year's count, there are 21 courses on the PS2 and regular Xbox versions. Jealousy reigns.
No matter what version of the game you play you'll be impressed with the improvements in "Tiger Woods 07."
'GANGS OF LONDON'
(SCEA) for PSP.
Genre: Action; Rating: M.
A bout with schizophrenia is something bound to hinder a game's success, and this is accentuated even more when the game is built for a hand-held instead of a console. The hand-held gamer's focus is more attuned because of the time constraints and generally the player is not in the comfort of home on the couch.
"Gangs of London" takes a particularly punishing hit because there's almost no rhythm; it just tosses out multiple missions and challenges, and soon it leaves you scratching your head wondering what the point of it all is. You choose one of the city9sfive rival gangs and try to overtake the other four. There is such potential to explore the violent, seedy underground in London, but instead you just find frustration.
If you played the Getaway games from SCEA, you'll be familiar with the gameplay in "Gangs of London," since it is essentially the same. Again, the problem is that the game does not stick to one genre and roll with it. One moment you're gunning it out with rivals, minutes later you're in a car chase that doesn't seem to have a point, and then you exit the car and engage in some standard puzzle-solving or platformer fare. All that is missing is a few elves and goblins and some role-playing elements and you've got a full-blown smorgasbord of gaming genres.
This mish-mash of genres adds up to a disjointed affair. You should highly consider renting before purchasing and finding yourself disappointed.
'THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS'
(Bandai Namco) for PlayStation 2.
Genre: Driving; Rating: T.
It never makes sense to base a game off a blockbuster film license and then build the game with relatively no relation to the film. That's what happens with "The Fast and the Furious," which is loosely tied to the "Tokyo Drift" movie. The only connection is that the game is based in Tokyo. Besides that, this game seems like the Tokyo race missions from "Midnight Club II" extended into a full game.
Intentional or not, there's a backdoor way to find instant and unstoppable success in this game -- you can challenge weaker opponents time and time again. Avoiding the harder adversaries and thus earning insane amounts of cash early lets you build a car that no one stands a chance against. So you've gone from what could be a difficult racing game to a cakewalk in no time at all. It's just a matter of time before you toast everyone and finish the game.
Other street racers will provide better gaming experiences, so rent it if you must, but you're really not missing much.
--All reviews by Chris Campbell, Scripps Howard