Unlike its namesake, who dominated headlines this year for all the wrong reasons, the Tiger Woods series has been in danger of growing stale for several years now. It must be a tricky to keep thinking of new and exciting things to add to a golf game, so the improvements to the series have trickled along and subtly added features without a great deal of hoopla. This year, however, the team at EA has added the granddaddy of them all. The Masters is America’s greatest golf tournament, and perhaps the greatest in the world. The drama, intrigue, triumph and heartbreak, at venerable Augusta National, are unlike any other. In a move that has been, apparently, in the works for years, EA finally brings this legendary tournament to Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12.
The career mode in Tiger 12 has been reworked into the “Road to the Masters.” In this mode, you’ll start out as a small name fighting to earn the right to join the Amateur tour. Once there, you’ll need to complete the different tasks set in front of you to get promoted to the Nationwide tour. Once you’ve swept your way through the Nationwide tour, you’ll advance to the Q school to play for your PGA tour card. The mode, of course, culminates in the titular tourney.
In addition to winning tournaments and increasing your world ranking, you’ll also need to impress sponsors to gain access to new and better equipment. You do this by completing objectives set by each sponsor and passing special sponsor challenges. The career mode has really benefited from the addition of The Masters as the focal point. You’ll really feel like each tournament is pushing you towards something, instead of just being coffers to raid.
If you’re going to add a course like Augusta, you’d better make sure that every nook and cranny is done right. It’s clear to see that the developers have spent a ton of time making sure that they showed the course plenty of love and respect. From capturing the course’s unrivaled beauty, to the speed of the greens and fairways, Augusta is exactly how you would expect it to be. Of course, those 18 holes have played host to some of golf’s most memorable moments over the years, a fact not lost on the developers. Not only will you be able to take part in historic tournaments against the actual field of participants, but you can dive in to the Master’s Moments mode and replay nine different classic scenario’s from Master’s history. As an added bonus, if you pass all nine, you’ll earn a special exemption into the Masters Tourney in career mode.
The game has also taken big strides in the on-course action. First and foremost is the addition of a caddie. If you choose to play with the caddie turned on, he will advise you on what shot to take. He will usually offer two to three options with varying levels of risk. If you choose to go with his advice, no aiming is necessary; you just address the ball and hit it where he tells you. Of course, the best players know when to trust themselves, so you can always choose a custom shot and put the ball where you want to. As you play and complete course challenges, you and your caddie will become more familiar with the course and the quality of his advice will improve. Not only does the caddie increase the authenticity of the game, it speeds up play considerably. For my money, this is among the most important additions to the series yet.
In addition to the caddy, you now have several other tools at your command to increase your ability and decrease your scores. You can now choke up on the club for surgical precision. You can also more easily see what kind of lie you have with the new lie indicator. Those of you without much time will appreciate the new Speed Play option which, along with the caddie, dramatically decreases the amount of time you’ll spend per round.
My favorite aspect of Tiger 12 has to be the Move controller functionality. The controller works great for replicating the feel of swinging a golf club (and my standard results for doing so). You’ll need to make sure that your swing is smooth, straight, and that you don’t twist the clubhead at impact. Adding to the authenticity is a brand new first person mode called True Aim. In this viewpoint, you look down at the ground when you address the ball, and can watch the clubhead twist back and forth as you turn your hands. Playing in this viewpoint is fantastic, and greatly enhances the feel of being out on the course. Of course, the Move controller does have its flaws. Occasionally, the game wouldn’t register my club turning visually and I had to readdress the ball to make sure the face of the club was straight. Also, aiming using just the Move controller is tricky, as it seems to be very sensitive. The groundwork for extensive improvement has been laid, however, and next years game has the potential to be very impressive in this regard.
Visually, the game is stunning. Everything from the trees that sway in the wind, to the flowers at Augusta, to the incredible looking grass is top notch. Characters also look great, although to be honest, the environments are so incredible it actually makes the “uncanny valley” factor stand out a little more. Create a player has seen some great improvement, especially when crafting a face based off actual pictures using your Playstation Eye or uploaded pictures to EA’s website. Make sure that the lighting is perfect when taking pictures however, as the images also determine skin color, which cannot be manually changed on a GameFace character. The lighting conditions in my house made my character look like he just came from the Hulk Hogan school of fake orange tan.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters is unequivocally the best Tiger Woods game in years. The sheer volume of great content on display here will keep gamers busy for months, and the fantastic Move support is sure to be a hit. If you are a fan of golf, The Masters, or are just looking for a fun game to play with all your friends, this game is an easy recommendation.
Review copy provided by publisher.