Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 Review
Written : Wednesday, April 04, 2012
By: Lee Bradley
When Tiger Woods tees-off at the Augusta Masters later this week it will be as an outsider, a man with just one tournament win to his name in two and a half years. How things have changed.
Woods was golf to many people, a prodigy that won his first major in 1997 and didn’t stop until 2008, just over a year before the incident that unravelled his career. The revelation of Woods’ numerous extra-marital affairs has had a lasting impact.
All of which you’re no doubt aware of. But what you might not know is the effect it has has on the games that bears his name. Sales of the Tiger Woods PGA Tour series are historically solid, but since 2009 they have dwindled to a fraction of their former glory.
There are parallels to be found then, not just between Woods’ performance on the course and the performance of his games in the shops, but also in regards to quality. The recent titles have been poor. In order to recapture former glories, one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history is required.
In Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13, there’s enough to suggest that comeback is possible. But for now we’re stuck with a game that fails to make the cut.
The most significant new feature of PGA Tour 13 is the revised swing system. It’s easily the best thing the game has to offer. With a controller, you pull back on the left analogue stick until you hit the peak of your swing, then push forward in one rhythmic movement. As you do so, the game measures the speed of your backswing and follow-through, along with the straightness of your inputs. Too slow, fast, jerky or wayward and the ball simply won’t end up where you want it.
What makes this system so pleasing is the feedback you're offered on each stroke. In the bottom left-hand corner of the screen is a circular stroke meter, which tells you exactly where you went right or wrong with surprising granularity. Every wobble and inaccuracy is immediately represented.
It’s nicely balanced too, with the game’s default setting finding a nice line between responsiveness and forgiveness. While all but the slightest discrepancies in technique are immediately noticeable in the flight and direction of the ball, you’ll rarely dump a shot miles from its intended target.
The challenge then, comes from the fact that once you’ve found a rhythm with your swing, you have to tackle the game’s many courses. Some, just like the real thing, are incredibly tough. Though you may be able to place the ball within feet, you’re charged with placing it within inches. It really does make all the difference.
The result is an infuriating pain, an arms-aloft triumph, a twitchy exercise in muscle memory and a lesson in course studies, all at once. Just like actual golf then. It’s a pretty decent facsimile of the real thing.
"Lurid clothing: a golfing must."
The Kinect functionality meanwhile, making its debut appearance in PGA Tour 13, is less successful. Both the motion and voice controls are ham-fisted, awkward, unresponsive and unintuitive. And even when they do work, swooping your arms around in a rough approximation of a golf swing gets old pretty quickly. Plus, you have to face the screen, rather than line-up side-on. It’s all a bit rubbish.
If you were planning on picking the game up just to check out the Kinect controls, think twice.
Other new features are a mixed bag. Tiger Legacy Challenge is the most interesting, giving players the opportunity to re-enact a series of key moments from Woods' career and life. There’s no sex or driving mini-games, in case you were wondering. In fact, even the slightest dip in form is whitewashed from history.
Instead what you get are challenges set in a weird, characterless world of silent, lifeless back gardens and empty golf courses with the distant, lurking presence of Tiger’s father in the background. Then later, vicious difficulty spikes and climactic grand slam wins, peppered with dull, flat, uninspiring commentary.
There’s a biography about Woods coming out soon, in which the author describes Tiger as looking “like a resentful killer robot.” That’s exactly what Tiger Legacy Challenge is. It could have been great - Tiger’s story is worth telling and the young character models are fun - but its an empty, emotionless shell, presumably wiped of all character by twitchy brand consultants. You’re better off sticking to the career mode.
But then at least Tiger Legacy Challenge exists largely outside of the game’s coin system, which is really quite rotten. Here’s how it works. While the main game offers up 16 courses plus a whole bunch of extras, a lot of content is locked away, accessible only by spending the in-game currency earned through progression. Which is fine, right? We’ve seen it all before.
What’s so offensive is how tightly some of the content - including skill boosts, equipment and even courses - is locked down, hidden behind some astronomical price tags. Seriously, you would have to play for a very long time to earn enough coins to unlock every piece of content on the disc.
This inevitably paves the way for an aggressive DLC approach by EA. They clearly hope to sell you everything that’s hidden away, for real money. Ostensibly an improvement on the approach sported by recent PGA Tour titles, the coin system nevertheless represents a grubby, grotty way of doing business.
Indeed, the only sensible way to approach the task of unlocking everything is by getting heavily involved in the new Country Club option. This mode allows to you to form clans with likeminded players and enjoy the collective rewards of a team. It’s actually a pretty good mode. It’s just a shame that it acts best as a solution to an unnecessary problem.
Meanwhile, the achievements are pretty solid, offering a bunch of progression and mode-based pops, alongside some skill-based stuff like holes-in-one and putting from off the green. The game could have done with more of the latter type to be honest, but it’s an improvement over last year. At least there’s no Broken Record equivalent.
Ultimately, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 gets the very basics right but fluffs the rest thanks to the horrible coin system, poor Kinect integration and some under-developed new features. Couple that with ageing visuals, atmosphere-less courses and lacklustre commentary, and the entire project smacks of a tight budget and desperation.
Woods may well make his comeback, but it won’t be this year.
Flat and uninvolving commentary with crowd noises that only occasionally respond in the right way at the right time. Poor.
Some nice character models and course vistas. But the engine is getting old now, with flat textures and ugly, sparse crowds. Patchy.
The new swing system is great, give or take a few problems with the short game. Just don’t bother with Kinect.
Legacy mode is a lifeless husk, a wasted opportunity. Country Club is a good addition. The coins system undermines everything.
Sports games often have punishing lists, but EA Sports seems to be getting better. Not terrible at all.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 offers a decent game of golf, with a new swing system that works, and works well. The rest, however, is underdeveloped and the use of downloadable content is downright offensive. Wait until next year.