Also available on: PlayStation 3
Developer: EA Tiburon
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 marks the beginning of a new era for a franchise that was beginning to grow slightly stale. This year the development team has added a brand new swing mechanic and an intriguing new game mode, not to mention motion controls for both the PS3 and Xbox 360, something seemingly tailor made for the video game golfing experience. And while not everything works quite like it should, the changes are a step in the right direction, further cementing the Tiger Woods series as the premier golfing franchise.
Any successful overhaul begins with a revamped game mechanic and control scheme, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 is no different. The revamped swing system is easily the most successful new feature in the game. It offers a surprising amount of depth, proving incredibly intuitive, whether newcomer or series veteran. At its most basic, players need only pull back the analogue stick and flick it forward in as straight a line as possible and with the desired amount of pace.
Successes and failures are conveyed with the use of a swing arc, as well as a small analogue tracking box in the bottom left of the screen. Pulling the stick to the left or hitting the ball with a lack of conviction is all visually represented, offering players a fairly detailed analysis of each and every shot. If, for example, you're consistently guilty of hooking each shot, it's easy to factor this into future attempts. Players also have the ability to open and close their golfer's stance and aim for specific spots on the ball, subsequently changing the height and direction, perfect for avoiding wind or for chipping out of bunkers.
This year finally sees the Tiger Woods franchise dabble with motion controls, something that theoretically, should be a perfect fit. As with most Kinect games, however, there are a few ghosts in the machine, preventing the controller-free aspect of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 from fulfilling its potential. With the exception of how to line up a shot - you face the screen, instead of adopting a side-on stance - those familiar with Kinect Sports Season Two will notice many a similarity.
Players can survey the course by shielding their eyes, crouch to line up shots and use voice commands to change clubs or even ask for advice. While these features are well implemented - apart from the aim mechanic which is a little fiddly - the problems occur when actually taking shots. The long game is fine as the Kinect sensor is generally pretty forgiving, particularly on the default setting. Putting is nigh-on impossible, however, as the sensor fails to pick up minor movements consistently and accurately. One way to overcome the problem is to switch back to the controller for putting, but it disrupts the flow of each game and ruins the momentum.
Another major addition, on paper at least, follows the life of Tiger Woods from toddler to champion. Tiger Legacy Challenge is a brand new challenge mode, which also serves as a glorified tutorial. Each chapter represents a different stage in Tiger's life as a golfer, beginning as a toddler chipping balls into a paddling pool out back, and putting in front of a live studio audience on The Mike Douglas Show. Chapters are made up of multiple challenges, and are preceded by a brief, albeit poorly executed, video featuring snippets from the man himself.
While there are some interesting challenges, such as an early dream sequence that sees Tiger match Jack Nicklaus's total number of Major wins, the majority are incredibly dull. It's a fantastic idea, and the true to life aspect of the challenges are a nice touch, but the mode simply lacks atmosphere and that little bit of polish. Challenge requirements aren't always clear, especially when they're made up of multiple parts, while some are a little too lengthy, making it incredibly frustrating when having to restart.
Fortunately, Legacy Challenge is only a small part of the Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 experience. The majority of time will be spent teeing off as one of the game's plentiful supply of licensed golfers, on one of the 16 courses included (for free) in the game. The career mode is still enormously deep, taking custom golfers from minor competitions to major tournaments. In addition to authentic tournament play, the career mode contains a wealth of unlockable items, clothing and pins, which take their cue from role-playing games and online shooters, adding stat boosts when equipped. It's a great idea.
Though satisfied with its out of box offerings, there is so much more to do in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13, but it will cost you, either in-game coins or cold hard cash. Coins are a big part of this year's release, and can be earned by completing challenges on each course - multiple birdies, pars, eagles, etc. Unfortunately, accessing one of a whopping 20 additional courses costs a lot of coins, and not only that, coins can be difficult to earn.
You can permanently unlock extra courses by maxing out their challenges, but it's likely to take multiple attempts, which means lots of coins. The result is a batch of unattainable unlockables that are more realistically available to users willing to pay for them as DLC. It's a little cynical, although there's no denying that the best courses are already included on disc.
For every step backwards the game takes, it makes up for it with an improvement here or a tweak there. The online portion of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 is fantastic, offering a new country club scheme that sees friends band together to play private tournaments and earn extra coins. Countless regular tournaments are also available, as well as the usual array of quick matches. Not only is online play the most enjoyable way to tackle the game, but it also yields more coins, aiding efforts to unlock those extra courses.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 is another enjoyable golf simulation from Electronic Arts, offering nearly everything that a fan of the sport could ever ask for. The Xbox Kinect controls aren't fully up to task, especially during the short game, while the Tiger Legacy Challenge is something of a mixed bag, proving a little lifeless, despite offering moments of entertainment. The new swing mechanic is enormously impressive, however, while online play and the game's career mode prove immensely enjoyable and are remarkably deep. Cynical use of DLC aside, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 remains the definitive video game golfing experience.
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