I’ve never been a big fan of golf. I lack the patience to watch the game, let alone play it. Still, Tiger Woods himself has always fascinated me, especially after his magnificent fall from grace, starting with his sex scandal and leading to his unimpressive sporting performance (just look at his last performance in the Masters). Still, EA Games has continued to back him, leading to the release of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13, which, despite the name, is the 15th game in the series. That’s a lot of games based around the successes of one man.
PGA Tour 13 knows this too and this time has decided to go the full hog, with a whole mode dedicated to Tiger’s golfing career. Titled ‘Legacy Challenge’, players take control of Tiger throughout points in his life, from his toddler years all the way up to the future (No, there isn’t the option to cheat on your wife). Both people familiar with Tiger’s career and the unfamiliar alike will find this mode interesting to experience as it gives some insight into how the star trained and developed his techniques, especially with the influence of his father, Earl Woods. Each chapter features multiple challenges; some are quite simple but unfortunately others are unclear and/or lengthy, leading to frustration when I had to restart the challenge upon failing it.
However, my numerous failures can probably be attributed to the fact that I was using the Kinect functionality for a lot of my play time. Kinect support is another new feature in PGA Tour 13 and is supposedly the first golf simulation game to use it. Most of it is quite intuitive and well-implemented, such as shielding your eyes to zoom in and using voice commands to change clubs as though you were speaking to a caddy. Perhaps because of the way the Kinect tracks the points of your body, you play facing the screen rather than on-side as you would expect. There are a couple of wrinkles that need ironing out though. Firstly, the Kinect didn’t register my swings as well as I would have liked, meaning I had to take several shots before the club actually connected with the ball. It is, however, far more forgiving than my experiences with putting, which requires a great deal of precision. The Kinect doesn’t translate tiny movements into accuracy very well, resulting in a lot of missed shots.
Playing with a controller on the other hand, is incredibly precise, allowing you to experiment with lots of different options, such as your stance and putting spin on the ball. The most important of these features is the new swing system, which adds a surprising amount of depth and complexity to the game. The left analog stick is now used to control your swing, and factors like the speed and direction you flick the stick back and forth in all determine where and how the ball is going to land. The game also has a swing meter which provides an impressive amount of feedback on your performance as well, such as how straight your swing is. The fact that it’s a great learning and feedback tool will no doubt appeal to amateur golf gamers, especially when the rest of the game has quite a steep learning curve and doesn’t do much to teach newbies golf basics.
Modes from the previous games are back in full swing (pun intended) too, and the one you’ll probably waste the most time on is career mode. There’s lots to do here, from creating your own golfer to playing in huge tournaments. One interesting element of career mode is the ability to collect and equip ability-boosting pins. It is an unexpected element, something that I would expect to see in an RPG rather than in a straight-laced sports game, but it is actually implemented surprisingly well. You’ll also be spending a lot of time on the game’s 16 courses in the various modes, but if you get bored there are plenty more to master – for a fee, of course. PGA Tour 13 treats unlockable courses somewhat strangely, as to have a shot at permanently unlocking a brand new course, you’ll need to complete a number of challenges in order to earn in-game coins. However, chances are you’ll take multiple attempts to complete these challenges, which means continuously shelling out coins to keep them temporarily unlocked until you do so. It’s an overly complex system which can easily be bypassed by just paying for the courses, but it feels like a slap in the face considering the price of the game. PGA Tour 13 also introduces its take on in-game socialising in the form of Country Clubs, allowing you to form clans with friends to play private tournaments and earn more coins. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try this out for myself, but it certainly sounds like a great idea.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 is my first foray into the world of golf simulators and I have to say I’m fairly impressed, although I’m not about to run out and buy a copy every year. Tweaks such as the new swing system are great, but most of the game is quite unfriendly to amateurs, with a steep learning curve and a lack of any real tutorial mode. It’s more a game that caters to experienced fans, who are going to find the game a treat despite the unresponsive motion controls and strange unlockables system. Well, if anything, I guess I have a bit more of an appreciation for golf.