Joystiq hands-on: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 (Wii)

Wii Sports scored a spot among our favorite games of 2006 because of its innovation and motion-tastic controls. But we'd still rather play in-depth, stand-alone versions of the pack-in sports; Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 is one of the first to answer the stand-alone challenge. I recently got to swing Tiger's virtual driver -- and putter -- with the Wii game, schedule for mid-March release.

Wii Sports Golf has grown on me as I've played it more. But the bundled title has many drawbacks, like quirky club control, lack of slice sensing, and an inability to spin the ball. As I would expect from EA's stand-alone title, Tiger Woods bests Wii Sports in all of those areas -- with a few caveats. While I only got a short session with Tiger Woods and I'm only casually a golf game fan, I'm looking forward to a golf game for the first time since, well, ever.

EA showed off Tiger Woods only on the Wii; I think the company rightly didn't want to present it side-by-side with the already-released HD versions. Without the direct comparison, the graphics held up fairly well, looking similar to what I'd expect on a PS2. Tiger and the foregrounds were the most detailed, but I wished Nintendo's console pushed more details when looking further away to the trees and backgrounds.

The game's unique controls kept my mind off graphic realism. I used the pointer to interact with on-screen menus and aim at a target down the fairway, then I prepared to swing. Like Wii Sports, I held A while swinging to hit the ball. Unlike Wii Sports -- one of the only times I preferred the Nintendo game -- I had to enter a practice mode to gauge my club speed. I easily entered and exited the mode, but it was an extra effort over just swinging without holding A in Wii Sports.

Club movements in Tiger Woods felt better than Wii Sports, but didn't yet feel perfect; just like Wii Sports, Tiger Woods had a hard time gauging my swings if I didn't take enough of a back-swing. Unlike Wii Sports, Tiger Woods includes the ability to calibrate the controller for a heavier or lighter touch. And Tiger Woods reads the twist of the controller to gauge slice instead of adding random slice to too-hard shots; you can't swing too hard other than to hit the ball past the cup. The sense of my motion creating the slice felt much more realistic than the Wii Sports power gauge.

To spin the ball, I held a direction on the D-pad after a shot while shaking the Wiimote like a maraca. I may get used to this method after more time with the game, but it broke the realism that the swinging mechanic created.

EA says Tiger Woods Wii includes almost all of the modes and options available for other platforms; you could even use the Nunchuk analog controller and Wiimote to play without any motion-sensing. The Wii version doesn't include other platforms' online matches, but four players can gather around a single Wii, sharing a Wiimote or using one-each.

When it's released in March, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 for Wii should easily best Wii Sports Golf, but that's no surprise. The unknown is how well the title will sell and how eager EA and others will be to develop complete versions of the pack-in demos. Baseball is on the way, and I hope that bowling, tennis, and boxing are close behind.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.