Formats: Xbox 360 (CE Tested) | Playstation 3
Publisher: EA Sports
Release Date: 30th March 2012 (Out Now)
Tiger Woods 12 was perhaps the most accessible game in the franchise for many years, incorporating a brand new caddie system to assist with picking the right shot for your current situation. While you still had to make good on your shots, many would be inclined to agree that the system did make things a tad easy.
As the sporting legend lends his name to EA’s golfing franchise for the fifteenth successive year, the developer has gone to lengths to ensure that this time around things won’t be as simple. While the caddy system returns, it’s switched off by default and can be incorporated as mere advice, leaving the player to set up the shot themselves. However, if you’ve grown accustomed to having your hand held, or simply want the maximum level of help available to you at the start, you can have the ideal shot choice ready to go at the press of a button. That said, a new element to the title means that things won’t be as simple as they potential were before.
The USP of Tiger Woods 13 is a revamped swing system, which proves to be incredibly testing for players. How good your shot proves to be is reliant on the tempo and direction of your swing (not mention picking the right foot stance and where to hit the ball). Pulling back too quickly can result in over-swing, while too slowly will likely result in the opposite. Before each shot, a trajectory line shows the ideal swing pattern, which you’re invited to match.
In addition to this, the control stick must be pulled back in as straight a line as possible in order to maintain the accuracy of the shot. Depending on your swing difficulty setting, this may include pulling back and pushing off at an angle in order to perform draw and fade strikes. Ultimately, if your movement isn’t as true as it needs to be, then shots are less likely to go where you would expect them to.
While not quite maintaining a 100% straight swing won’t prove to be that problematic with your approach play, when it comes to putting it’s a whole different story. Until you’re able to pull back smoothly with near perfect timing, the chances are you’ll be spending far more time on the green than you’d like to. If, like many gamers, your controllers have been through the wars over the years and are no longer perfectly aligned, this could lead to some incredibly frustrating misses. Thankfully you can switch swing control to the right stick if that’s a little less beaten up.
By bringing in this new system, other features of recent years have been eliminated. You can wave goodbye to adding power boosts to your shots as well as the old school three-click system. Spin can still be manually applied to the ball while it flies through the air though, with no limited focus meter to reduce your usage of this function. Ultimately, if you’ve avoided using the stick in recent years, you’re pretty much out of luck this, unless you happen to have access to Kinect or Move.
If the new swing system is an attempt to make things a tad more realistic, this has been countered by the introduction of boost pins. Before each round, you can apply up to three of these to your chosen character in order to give them a leg-up on the course. This might include temporarily increasing your attributes, the power of a club, or even the amount of experience you earn from the round, to name just a few.
Pins have a limited number of uses, and you can buy new ones and refills from packs, which are purchased using coins earned through game-play. If you’ve played Ultimate Team mode in FIFA, Madden or NHL previously, then you’ll have an idea of how this works. If you find that you’re not earning coins quickly enough through your skills, you can always resort to buying coins using actual currency.
Another use for coins earned is to gain temporary access to the game’s DLC courses. If you read my recent news piece regarding the game, you’ll be aware that 11 courses were made available as DLC for the game from release. To purchase them all would increase the overall cost of the game by over 50%. However, as it transpires, the courses can actually be fully unlocked for free – albeit with a lot of effort required.
As seen in Tiger 12, each course can be “mastered” by completing a series of objectives as you play through them. Using the coins earned in-game, you can purchase free rounds on the DLC courses. If you’re able to complete all of the mastery objectives for a DLC course, it will then be permanently unlocked for you to use in the game. The gold objectives, while still requiring a lot of work, aren’t as tough this time around.
While it’s good that you don’t have to pay a penny for the courses if you don’t want to, it should be pointed out that actually managing to permanently unlock one course will require 5+ rounds to be played on it, with the cost of buying 3 rounds a whopping 12000 coins. Getting that many coins will, in itself, require several hours of play on the other courses. Therefore, unless you’re planning to forsake all other games for the next 12 months, it’s likely you won’t see permanent access to everything without laying down the cash.
Career Mode remains largely unchanged from last year, as you work your way from Amateur through to the PGA Tour and the glory of playing in The Masters. Extra XP and items can be earned for your golfer by taking part in sponsor and training events, while cheaters can still ensure victory in every single event by saving and quitting on each hole if it’s not going their way. What’s more, there’s no stupid achievements this time around that can have their progress heavily mucked up by not having DLC courses available.
Following on from last year’s history lesson of Tiger’s Masters triumphs, 13 goes further back in time with Legacy mode. Here, you control the man himself during various stages of his life, going back as far as his first TV appearance as a toddler, and then continuing onwards until you’re eventually writing the future. Completing all the challenges for each era unlocks the version of Tiger that you’ve used for use in other modes. Naturally, playing a tiny Tiger means reduced stats are the price for short-term laughs.
An aspect that kept both myself and others coming back to Tiger 12 was its multiplayer, which has been taken to a new level in 13 with the introduction of Country Clubs. This social aspect allows you to join with others in golfing clans. By creating or joining a club, you can launch internal tournaments and matches, or team up to go against members of rival clubs. Each game you play allows you to earn status points for your club, which in turn causes it to level up.
That said, if you’re a lone-wolf, you can still venture into the online modes by yourself, or even try your luck at the wide variety of returning Live tournaments. Many will be disappointed to see that the Gamernet challenges of the past 5 years are no longer a part of the action this time around though. Given that it could have been used as a means of gaining and wagering extra coins, it feels like a missed opportunity for EA to take it out.
As mentioned earlier, Tiger 13 incorporates Kinect game-play, a first for the series. As well as being able to control the menus with your hands, Minority Report-style, you can also select clubs with your voice, aim your shots by hand and perform air swings in order to make those all important shots. From early experience, there are still teething troubles with this and, as always, the less room you have available to you the harder you’ll find it to get to grips with. Perhaps most disappointing is the fact that you must perform your swing side-ways, as opposed to towards your screen. This does take you out of the moment somewhat, especially as it’s never previously been an issue for Move or Wii controllers. Still, there’s promise for future editions, especially for that Motion-only generation that some manufacturers seem to think we want (heads up guys, we don’t).
As someone who put several hours into last year’s game but still has plenty more to discover from it, Tiger 13 certainly doesn’t feel like an essential upgrade, even with the more challenging swing system. However, that’s not to say it isn’t capable of providing several hours of entertaining fun for those that do love their golf. That said, those who did get frustrated by 12 will likely experience larger amounts of game rage here, while the removal of several decent features of previous years seems utterly unnecessary.