The transformation that the Tiger Woods franchise has gone through this generation--not unlike that of the man himself--is astounding. What started as a slick-looking arcade-style golf game with simple mechanics has evolved into a meticulously designed labor of love that focuses on the best of the sport today as well as its storied past. In many ways, it symbolizes the top aspects of sports gaming in the waning years of the PS3/360 era--as well as one of its worst.
The difference between a Tiger game several years ago versus its latest incarnation is stark; a completely different mechanic that allows exponentially more shot-making opportunities is backed by the inclusion of all four major championships on the PGA Tour, a fully realized women’s tour, a new difficulty mode to challenge the best players, a bona fide historical mode that combines legendary players with old-timey equipment on wildly different courses, and an online social community that encourages play with and against friends. As recently as two years ago, none of these were present in any real capacity. In many ways, Tiger 14 feels like the ultimate fan service for longtime players of the franchise.
It’s impossible to ignore the elephant in the room, however. Even as the game comes jammed with content for the $60 price tag (or the special edition with a few more courses for $10 more), a staggering amount of expensive DLC in the form of additional courses also awaits. Even worse, any courses that were purchased last year do not count towards this season’s selections. If you were to purchase all of the courses, it’s conceivable you would come close to doubling your investment; considering that many of these courses are key to integral parts of the game, it feels unnecessary to demand so much from customers.
What is on the disc at launch is certainly impressive, though. In career mode--the heart of any Tiger game--you have the ability to tailor your golfer out of the gate to your preferred play style. Big hitters can choose Power players, while precise golfing surgeons can go in the direction of Control. The modified Total Swing Control mechanics provide instant feedback to your input, all of which is controlled with the left or right stick. That’s right--there’s no three-click method anymore. Everything is managed by moving the sticks up and down in time, with precise measurements that directly impact where your ball will go off the tee, fairway, rough, sand, or green. If you haven’t played Tiger in a while, be prepared to spend some time learning. It’s the best Tiger control set yet, but it takes some practice.
Legends of the Game is the newest mode, featuring all types of challenges set throughout golf’s history. Borrowing from NBA 2K13, the presentation will reflect the era; when you’re walking the courses of Scotland in the 19th century, sepia-toned hues awash the screen. As you move forward in time, presentations will change accordingly. While it’s an interesting feature, the much more impactful aspect of early eras is the different equipment being used. It forces you to take a different approach--obviously, you’re not nearly as long off the tee nor as accurate in rough spots--but more than anything will have you longing for current-day gear. By far the best aspect of the Legends mode is the carefully crafted men themselves, as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and many others have their distinct mannerisms beautifully captured.
For the first time ever, all four PGA Tour major championships are licensed and playable. This is simply huge for all fans; imagine if Madden didn’t have the Super Bowl, but rather a “Football Championship Game?” That’s no longer an issue, as the Masters, US Open, British Open, and PGA Championship, as wel as their respective courses, are in the game. As it has for several years now, Augusta permeates the experience of Tiger Woods; not only is the present-day course still a major attraction, but the famous Par 3 course and 1934 layout are also available. However, they are only on the premium Masters Historic Edition or as DLC.
Online play also continues as a focal point, as Country Clubs--groups of friends that can congregate with aggregated stats and their own tournaments--are back and expanded this go-round. Entire communities sprung up around these Clubs last year, and it was a wise decision to boost their membership from 25 people to 100 for this season. While many players will never head into online golf, those that do have a way to find like-minded people with similar skill levels and desired experience--something all sports games could benefit from.
Tiger Woods 14 stands as a terrific example of a sports franchise that has continued to evolve itself in the direction its fans want it to go. Better mechanics, a deep historical mode, expanded online capabilities, and multi-gender careers highlight a huge game with much to offer its fans. However, it’s difficult to view its desire to exact even more money after purchase by offering enticing course content as payable DLC that directly impacts your ability to play core modes of the game as anything but questionable. If you go in with eyes wide open, chances are you’ll get exactly what you want out of Tiger this spring.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.