Game Rant's Anthony Taormina reviews Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13
Tiger Woods has finally won another major championship - winning at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. It's been quite some time since Tiger has been placed in the winners' circle, and it's been even longer since his EA Sports series has seen some fundamental improvements, but thankfully it was time for a change on both fronts.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 is here and it brings with it a new swing mechanic, some pretty deep and extensive modes, and full integration with Microsoft's Kinect motion controller, each meant to draw golf fans back into a series that has struggled to find its place in the sports game world.
This year's iteration is all about control both for the casual and the hardcore audiences. For hardcore audiences, and let's be honest those are really who Tiger Woods 13 is made for, the game features a new swing mechanic that uses your typical backward and forward motion of the joystick, but makes it extremely precise. Players can over or under-swing, and even decide how fast or slow they want to swing the club.
Add to that important considerations like stance and the amount of loft, and there is a recipe for its own learning experience right there. There are some pretty detailed controls built into Tiger Woods, but the game provides enough leeway in the form of an automatic caddie option, that even the least dedicated of gamers can appreciate what's at play.
And, for those who like a more inclusive experience, Tiger Woods 13 also features support for Kinect -- but don't think that equals more fun. In fact, Kinect works counter intuitively to all that's been established with the game's comprehensive swing controls. The player has voice and gesture control over everything that's available in the controller-based gameplay, only there's just so much to keep track of that it takes away from the excitement.
Just trying to line up a shot is so complicated that players will be better off, and reap more of a benefit, from simply sticking with the game's sublime new swing controls. Kinect seems like a no-brainer, and it will impress those who enjoy seeing motion controls at work, but it's just not worth the struggle.
Of course a new swing mechanic wouldn't be anything without some high profile courses to test them out on, and Tiger Woods 13 has plenty. There are modes, options, and challenges of every make and model contained within this game that just scratching the surface feels like a full season in a regular sports game.
Taking a created pro up through the ranks allows many of the sport's marquee tournaments to take front and center, and rubbing elbows with the likes of Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson doesn't hurt. The only real drawback to sitting down to play a full 18 holes is how unforgiving the sport is towards mistakes. Playing for over an hour and making a gigantic blunder on the final hole ruins a lot of what came before it, and instills a risk that some would rather not tolerate.
But nothing beats sinking a long putt, or landing a long drive in the middle of the fairway, all of which feel extremely satisfying when executed. It's just a shame that there are going to be some who will find the challenge not worth the trouble.
The game also features a new economy system that is comprised of earned coins, which can be then spent towards pins, which can then be used to boost a player's attributes. The idea behind them — allowing a player to goose the stats of their created pro — seems noble at first, but it feels more like a distraction than an incentive to play more. Oftentimes playing without pins, and just trusting the caddie's suggestions, will lead to success, but every now and again they do come in handy.
But beside all of the typical golf game fodder of creating a pro, playing matches (both online or offline), and striving to be number one, is the Tiger Legacy Mode, the marquee mode for Tiger Woods 13. Essentially EA Sports' answer to the Jordan Challenge, Tiger Legacy lets players experience Tiger's growth from 2-year-old prodigy all the way to his future record setting run at Jack Nicklaus' Tour victory record. Just the Legacy Challenge Mode alone is enough to provide hours upon hours of content, and it actually delivers some worthy distractions from straightforward golf in the early years, but its "complete this challenge to unlock the next" nature holds it back from being a perfect addition. Still, for a game with Tiger Woods in the title and on the cover, it's a wonder EA Sports didn't come up with this sooner.
One of the game's biggest flaws rests in the inconsistencies with the caddie recommendation. On the one hand it’s a perfect addition to the series and helps the player better understand the intricacies of golf, from stance to loft, while every once in a while it will set them up for disaster. Since the game doesn't accurately map out the tree lines in the game, anytime contact is made with a tree, period, the ball will drop to the ground leaving a less than desirable lie. Sometimes it will even appear as if the ball travelled between branches, but instead it will collide with nonexistent leaves and drop.
On the whole, though, after having used the caddie suggestions long enough, players will be able to judge how best to approach a shot even if the caddie is only mostly right. And that's a true testament to a solid feature for a sports game, helping the player understand what goes in to participating in the sport, not just letting important elements wash over them.
Frankly, everything about Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13, aside from the Kinect integration, helps instill a sense of realism into the experience as only EA Sports can do. Sure, there's a lot to do, and at times it feels extremely overwhelming, but it all adds to depth. Most players won't be the type to join one of the game's country clubs, associations of players that can compete and rank up almost like multiplayer clans, or spend their time or money in search of better pin sets, but the fact that those options are there should help the longevity of the title.
It's only a few missteps, including painstaking attention to detail, that keep PGA Tour 13 from being the same type of rebirth that Tiger Woods is hoping for on the actual Tour. There's a lot to be learned about the sport of golf, and a lot that the game is willing to teach, but it's how engrossing a player finds the entire package that will determine whether it's worth checking out.
Are you looking forward to playing Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13? What was the one improvement you hoped to see in this year's iteration?
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 is out now for the PS3 and Xbox 360. Game Rant played the Xbox 360 version for review.