Monday, April 23, 2012

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 Review

Where can the Tiger Woods PGA Tour series even go from here? It has been a tumultuous few years with what seems like an identity crisis plaguing what has been a very strong golf simulation. After Tiger fell off the rails we weren't sure if he would be the focal point of the series and last year he didn't even make the cover, after the inclusion of the Masters took the limelight. This year we are back to the original Tiger roots and with an improved public perception has come greater involvement in the series. Reliving the careers of champions is becoming a big plus for a lot of sport franchises and the involvement of Tiger from a toddler could really mix up the golfing experience here.


Presenting golf in the most realistic way possible is a lot easier for EA to manage compared sports involving player contact. Animations are a lot smoother and with a lot small roster of players more time can be spent getting the small details in faces and actions smoothed out. Golf does look great and is probably as good as you are going to get it without having more processing power to add realistic life to leaves and grass. Player animations are excellent and the courses are simply beautiful. I was particularly impressed with the extra amount of detail that went into the Tiger Legacy mode as more than just golf courses had to be created for the challenges. They went to the extra effort of making sure the environments were detailed, as well as providing an unique cartoony feel to the characters in this mode.

As with the graphics, sound in golf is in complete contrast to the loud, hyped up experience you experience in almost every other major sport in the world. When you think of golf you don't imagine dub step and crowds going wild as you hit a green in regulation, so this game is a lot quieter than most sport games. EA do this well though with a very chilled out score that compliments the patient and calming movements involved in golf. This is incorporated with the sparse amounts of commentary as well as the applause from the crowd on good shots (or disapproving cringes from bad shots). I was hoping for more commentary to make this more like a television broadcast. Other sport titles go for the camera angles etc. of broadcasts and feature fully fledged commentary, I reckon this is something that could be brought in a bigger way to future titles. Apart from that this is a pretty strong package that doesn't stray far from its peaceful roots.


Seasoned veterans of the Tiger Woods series are going to be venturing into brand new territory with this game. This year brings a whole new control scheme that makes golf completely reliant on your actions instead of just setting up your shot, holding a button to power up completely and watching the perfect shot unfold, you need to use the left thumbstick with great precision. Small deviations in your backswing or swing in either direction, speed or time held will greatly affect how your shot unfolds. While this is a great mechanic, it isn't really explained all that well and you must play around with shots to even get close to mastering what is required on anything higher than the lowest difficulties. If at an XP and coin disadvantage, playing with the old controls as an option would've been handy but the new control system does make getting a good score rewarding.

Another new feature this year is Tiger Legacy, which recaps all the key moments of Tiger's rise to fame from a small child to the all conquering golf power we know today. This is done by having a variety of challenges to complete at every age which range from chipping a ball into the pool at an early age to challenging tasks such as the fabled bend around the trees onto the green at Augusta. These can be tedious tasks that require precise hits sometimes in succession to pull off, but they feel rewarding once you complete it and progress onto the next challenge. It is a different attempt at the 'Be A Legend' mode we are used to in other games and mixing up the formula is refreshing to see, no matter how well it came off.

The standard career mode is back, as is normal play and a reinvigorated multiplayer section with the Clubhouse. This provides a team based experience where you join a club and participant in private tournaments and rounds of scheduled golf to earn XP and level up your club. This compliments normal online play where you can challenge people to a round of golf to try and become victorious. The clubhouse is a great way to get with friends in this game and see how you match up to local competition. I found myself halted in my career progress a number of times so I could complete the daily clubhouse tournament.

A controversial but revolutionary method of DLC last year was the fact that coins you earned could be used to purchase additional courses instead of the conventional paying method. This rewarded players who continued with the game and over the course of time they could effectively get everything for free. The thing is though, over half the courses (20 out of 36) are locked and to unlock one play of the course requires around 8-10 rounds of golf to earn enough coins. To unlock the courses forever you need to 'Master' the course which requires completing certain objectives and will at a minimum require 6 playthroughs. This is the equivalent of 40 rounds of golf to get enough coins to even achieve this without using pins which can boost how many coins you earn. I'm all for this concept, but the sheer amount of time to unlock ONE golf is atrocious and should be looked at. There is no way I'm playing 900 rounds of golf to unlock 20 courses.


Despite the 'free' DLC issues that are still plaguing the series, this is a very solid package. The graphics are better than ever and playing golf has never been better. The new control system will take some getting used to for old players but having complete control over your shot can only be a good thing. There is Kinect support for those who want to play that way but it has been merely implemented for the sake of it, I expect more out of it in the future. Despite the lack of some major courses, we still have Augusta and Tiger Woods so what are you waiting for, go hit some balls!

Graphics - 9/10 
Sound - 7/10 
Gameplay - 8.5/10 
Overall - 8/10