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
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.