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Remember last year how Tiger Woods was not even on the cover of his own game? And the year before he shared the cover for the first time? It kind of felt like Tiger might disappear from the game he made popular. The fact that Ricky Fowler, the Puma-loving Zac Efron of the golf world, now shares this year's cover with Tiger Woods, doesn't mean Tiger is being pushed out. In fact, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 has more Tiger in it than ever. What it doesn't have, however, is a powerfully motivating reason to buy it if you already own last year's game.
Tiger 13 doesn't have a fancy new tournament to promote like previous two years, and as a result the career mode feels largely the same as last year. The Masters, still a novelty in golf video games after last year's big debut, remains the end goal for your customized golfer, but the game no longer makes as big a spectacle of it. The career mode feels dry, and as other sports games do more with the customized character front (see Fight Night Champion), the idea of just golfing in tournament after tournament and watching your name rise higher on the rankings doesn't hold the same excitement that it used to.
Among Tiger 13's new modes, the most notable addition is the Tiger Legacy Challenge mode. At times a glorified mini-game collection, at other times a historical tour through golf's greatest active player, the Legacy mode offers a variety of challenges, and lets you play as Tiger Woods from a toddler, on into the future (when he decides to grow a goatee apparently). The interactive documentary allows you to relive his entire career in a way that no other sports games, save for the NBA 2K series' homage to Michael Jordan, has done with an athlete. Big fans of Tiger will love the attention to detail and cool interstitial cutscenes and interviews, and everyone else can appreciate the more unique approach to the standard “challenge shot” setup golf games have had for years.
For Kinect owners, Tiger 13 finally makes use of full body motion controls, and they feel substantially different than the PS Move or Wii Motion Plus mechanics. Pantomiming golf feels a bit sillier than normal without something in your hand, but Kinect tracks the motion well and provides a new avenue for gamers to get into the sport. You'll affect draw and fade by swinging at a different angle, which simplifies the experience, bypassing the rather complex menu system that PGA Tour offers before each shot.
While not new, PS3 owners still get the Move controls that have been around for the last couple of games. Some gamers may prefer the more first-person aspect that Move offers, vs the pulled back presentation of Kinect. They ultimately feel mostly the same, and after swinging your arms to play various golf games for over half a decade, motion controls feel as standard to the game as club selection and putting grids.
The same swing arc used for the motion controls is used for the standard control scheme as well, and the longstanding stick controls take a back seat to a new tempo swing mechanic. Instead of carefully pulling back to where you think you need to, then pushing up on the stick as fast and straight as you can, now you can reel the rhythm of your shot. After selecting a club, the amount of draw/fade, and distance of the shot, the swing plane shows where you should swing, too. Simply pull back to start your back swing, and push forward to hit. Get the tempo right and your shot will be perfect. While some may scoff at the mechanical simplification, the new control scheme streamlines and livens up each round of golf. It feels more rewarding, as opposed to the punishing system of games past. And, hey, if you hate it, you can switch to the classic control scheme as well.
With the 360 and PS3 versions finally taking advantage of the motion control for both, it's disappointing to not see the extra modes that the dearly departed Wii version used to offer. Sure, Disc Golf and Mini Golf are silly, but they were also a lot of fun, and gave PGA Tour a party mode that, frankly, it desperately needed. Tiger 13 also continues the annoying trend of fewer courses on the disc. Over the last few years, the Tiger Woods series has seen the number of disc-native courses dwindle, instead seeing EA offer them as DLC. Thankfully, the career mode doesn't taunt you with them like last year's game, and players can earn those courses through a new reward/microtransaction system, but there's no getting around the frustration that a golf game from a few years ago had 10 more courses than you get now.
When you get online, you'll find Tiger 13's other new addition: online Country Clubs. Acting as a sort of clan mechanic, the clubs allow you to invite other players, and compete with them on courses that you can unlock with coins (earned by playing the game). Top players from each club are invited to special online tournaments hosted by EA, and the clubs combine friendly competition with teamwork, encouraging everyone to get better. Obviously the extent that these features work and are, well, fun, can't be fully determined until the servers are rather well-populated and active.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 improves on numerous areas from last year's game, but they're small, almost inconsequential-feeling areas. Honestly, if you don't play online, don't own and love Kinect, and don't care about reliving Tiger Wood's first hole in one, it's hard to emphatically recommend PGA Tour 13 more than last year's version, which had far better presentation thanks to the fanfare over the debut of The Masters in-game. EA Tiburon offers a well-done golf game, but also reinforces the idea that maybe golf isn't a sport that need an annual release.