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Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters first look – Is this the ultimate golf game for both newbies and pros?

The most important event in all of professional golf is The Masters tournament, which takes place every year at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. It’s the Super Bowl of golf, steeped in so much tradition and prestige that the winner’s prize – a comically unfashionable green jacket – is actually considered gorgeous instead of gaudy. The Masters has been the most fan-requested addition to the Tiger Woods series for the last 10 years. And now it’s here, compete with precision-mapped courses and commentary by the one and only Jim Nance. It’s also having a ripple effect on the rest of the game; Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 simultaneously both the most realistic entry ever seen in the series and also the most newbie-friendly.

The very first thing you’ll do upon starting the game is take control of Tiger Woods, tied for the lead on the 18th hole on the last day of play of The Masters. If you sink the putt, he wins. You get just a taste of the elation, the explosive rush of adrenaline as you savor the taste of golf’s ultimate victory. Only then do you enter the create-a-player mode and start your own journey toward this same goal. This is the new career mode – you begin trying out for an amateur circuit, then moving up to the National Tour (or skipping almost directly into “Q School” if you rock) and then the PGA Tour, where you’ll be playing to get into – and win – The Masters.

On one hand, this task will be easier than in previous games thanks to the addition of caddies, who are far more than mere pack mules who drag your clubs along for you. Before each shot (even putts), your caddy will offer you two or three recommendations for which club you should use, where you should aim, and how hard you should swing. To take this advice, you simply press a button and swing away. It’s fantastic for new players, who are often bewildered by the various subtleties of club, spin, lie, wind and topography. And hardcore golfers can still just ignore or even disable the caddy with a button press and do it their own way. However, we’d recommend you listen up – the caddies are smart, and the more you play any of the game’s 16 courses, the better their guidance will get.

On the other hand, the developers have made your opposing golfers arguably as smart as the caddies, so expect the field to get very competitive once you make it to the PGA Tour.

This push-pull of added depth countered by accessibility is everywhere in TWPGAT12:TM (Yikes). You can choke up on clubs now – something that will matter to only the hardest-core players – but you can also take practice swings that actually buzz your controller when you swing with the right power. You can import the experience points your golfer in last year’s game earned, but you can also save your game mid-round for the first time ever.

Finally, there’s plenty to love outside of the career mode as well. The scenario mode is now called “Masters Moments”, and recreates the nine most memorable occurrences from Masters history. You may not know today how Arnold Palmer won it in 1958 or what Jack Nicklaus did in ’86, but as soon as you do it yourself, you’ll appreciate the accomplishment.

Wii players will be glad to hear their version has everything the 360 and PS3 version has (except perhaps the dynamically-grown grass) as well as support for the Wii Balance Board and a new mini-golf course. And PS3 Move players will enjoy a first-person viewpoint for the first time. And there’s one more all-platform feature in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters that we’re really excited about. You can actually join the field of this year’s Masters tournament with your virtual character, with the game recreating every golfer’s score hole for hole and enabling you to match up with them. You may not be able to win the fabled green jacket yourself, but we’re at a loss to think of any way you could get closer to that feeling without breaking into Tiger’s closet. He has four of ‘em – surely he wouldn’t miss just one, right?

Jan 5, 2010

I was the founding Executive Editor/Editor in Chief here at GR, charged with making sure we published great stories every day without burning down the building or getting sued. Which isn't nearly as easy as you might imagine. I don't work for GR any longer, but I still come here - why wouldn't I? It's awesome. I'm a fairly average person who has nursed an above average love of video games since I first played Pong just over 30 years ago. I entered the games journalism world as a freelancer and have since been on staff at the magazines Next Generation and PSM before coming over to GamesRadar. Outside of gaming, I also love music (especially classic metal and hard rock), my lovely wife, my pet pig Bacon, Japanese monster movies, and my dented, now dearly departed '89 Ranger pickup truck. I pray sincerely. I cheer for the Bears, Bulls, and White Sox. And behind Tyler Nagata, I am probably the GR staffer least likely to get arrested... again.