Penny Arcade ran a comic strip last week that sums up Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 more succinctly than I think anyone can. We are, indeed, at terminal golf. It’s hard to imagine what improvements future games could include – the only direction I can think of lies in motion control (but more on that later). Last year’s Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 allowed players to control Tiger Woods at every point in his life, which you would think doesn’t leave much room for sequels to develop. Nevertheless,Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 is here, undoubtedly released as developers are already planning the 2015 version, so let’s take a look at what your AU $59 will buy you this year.
Alongside standard modes, such as Career and Quick Tournament, PGA Tour 14‘s big focus seems to be on the history of the sport. ‘Legends of the Majors’ mode presents a string of challenges, which re-create pivotal moments in golf from the present day stretching all the way back to the late 19th century. These challenges can range from specific shots, to the results of entire rounds, but each one requires you to complete the event just as history records in order to advance. You’re given a short explanation before each challenge, but to a layman to the sport (such as myself), they don’t mean a whole lot – or at least, don’t explain the significance of the event enough to make you as excited as a fan of the sport would undoubtedly be. Playing as golfers such as Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player at defining points of their careers is a big draw for golf fans, but won’t mean much to rookies. I do like the cute effects added onto some of the older challenges, though – including a sepia tone and grain filter to reproduce the look of aged film.
Motion control is offered on both 360 and PS3 – on which I reviewed the game, so my first foray into PGA Tour 14 was with Move controller in hand. The results were disappointing, to say the least. While the Move controller is a reasonable enough match for the general shape of a golf club, the PlayStation Eye has a very tough time detecting any proper golf strokes. With two hands on the Move, it’s difficult to get the Eye to pick up the controller, meaning the only way I, or anyone else who tried, was able to get off a shot was one-handed – as if we were playing baseball. On top of that, the interface feels un-intuitive, and it’s tricky to both aim and to even enter the ‘aiming’ mode.
Of course, the tutorials in the game don’t really offer any way to improve your golf swing. You’ll learn the basics on how to perform a shot, and what buttons do what, but if you’re hoping the motion control will lead you on the path to becoming a better golfer, then you really should just get down to a driving range and start practicing the real thing. The default controls, which involve flicking the analogue stick back and forth, are much more reliable and accurate.
With a normal controller, the actual golf itself plays as well as you’d expect. You can aim, adjust where you strike the ball and even change the player’s stance by varying degrees. Of course, the optimal swing distance and power are generally pre-selected for you, so all you have to do is follow the on-screen guidelines to make par. This makes the game simple, if a little uninteresting, for newcomers – if one is a golf expert or has put enough time into the game, then there’s more room to experiment and plan your shots out more effectively. However, interface issues rear their head once again. Pop-up dialogue boxes occasionally appear to offer tips on how to play, or display scores, but they can often obscure vital parts of the screen, including your shot meter. You just have to wait for them to disappear, which can take quite a while. Golf is definitely a game of patience in PGA Tour 14.
There are 20 courses on offer, although they’re largely located in the US, and more local ones such as the Melbourne course that played host to the recent President’s Cup are DLC-only. However, they’re all created exceedingly nicely, with a pleasing colour palette and such pleasant ambient sounds as birds chirping and rivers flowing, which sounds great if you have a surround sound set-up. EA’s player creation function is well-developed, especially if you use their ‘game face’ scanner, which converts your photograph into a character model’s face. Decking your character out in non-EA branded gear does require a fair bit of unlocking, however, so be prepared to see your face shilling EA-wares on-screen for quite some time.
Returning features from previous years, such as Career mode and the online Country Clubs feature, stand the test of time. There’s a huge amount of content to get through in the Career mode, and you could find yourself playing it past the next couple of iterations of Tiger Woods PGA Tour. Joining a Country Club is easy, and the game supports voice chat with your fellow members across the game, which is a nice inclusion.
If I haven’t made it clear already, I’m not the biggest golf expert in the world, although I know enough to explore Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 fairly thoroughly. If this was your first golf game, I’m not sure that this would engage you in the sport. While the focus on golf’s history seems like it might be a way to become involved, in execution it’s really only of interest to golf fanatics who want to re-live important moments of the game. If you’re a fan of golf and own any of the recent Tiger Woodsgames, the ‘Legends of the Majors’ mode might just provide enough justification to pick up Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14, but it’s hardly a vital purchase. It’s a well made golf game, but hardly outstanding in any fashion.
With standard controls, it's an accurate golf experience | Create a golfer feature | Legends challenges | Career mode
Erratic motion controls | Poorly explained tutorials | Interface issues | Unappealing to non-golfers