Published on March 26th, 2013 | by Mark Gibson, Editor/Community Manager
Back to the Green: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 Review
Developer: EA Sports Tiburon
Publisher: EA Sports
Platform: Xbox 360 [reviewed], PS3
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Review Notes: A copy of the game was received for the Xbox 360 console for review purposes.
EA Sports brings the next installment of their golf simulator franchise with the benchmark Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14. Most will notice Tiger Woods featured on the cover. However, this time around there are two legendary golfers appearing: the great Tiger Woods and the legendary Arnold Palmer.
For anyone that considers themselves a golfer or has ever attempted to play the timeless sport, you know one thing – it’s incredibly frustrating and difficult. Of course, you don’t want that same real life frustration translated into a game. (There is no way I’m shooting a 70 on any course in reality.) But alas, the pros sometimes struggle on the green. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 does a fantastic job of making golf enjoyable, challenging, and keeping that even level of “frustration” that the pros endure.
Don’t let the word “frustration” discourage you. When you hit your stride in the game, it can be the most rewarding feeling. But when you hit a few bad shots and suffer a few double bogies, the “frustration” is followed with a good feeling of competition. After all, golf is a sport against yourself.
Gameplay will feel familiar from previous versions of the game. This iteration adds some needed improvements in such areas as the Golfer Swing Styles. You can now set up to 24 custom golf style settings for gameplay. This setting applies to the “Create a Golfer” feature where EA Sports Gameface makes a returning appearance. That’s right gamers, you can add your very own uploaded photos to the EA Sports servers and create your CGI self. Once you’ve done this, you can start a career with your golfer and work your way to the top to become a legend. Most of the career mode remains unchanged from last year, but it is still an addicting experience and arguably one of the key game modes in the entire franchise.
There are several new gameplay modes added to to this years game that will feed your golf hunger. The biggest, and most highlighted being Legends of the Majors. This is where you can take the reins as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and many more. What really makes this game mode unique are the visual effects. If you are playing as Palmer from 1958, you are actually playing in 1958. The clothes will change, the equipment will change, and most notably, the broadcast will change to look like television from the time period. It’s a pretty cool feature used to unlock new golfers for Quickplay and Tournament modes, and it is definitely something I would like to see EA do for all its sports titles.
Keeping in line with EA’s new “connected” franchise and career modes, TW 14 has implemented a Connected Tournaments area when you can play in a Twentyfoursome. As time consuming as that sounds, all of you are actually playing at once. It’s slightly distracting to see other people’s shots flying around the field while you try to make yours, but it is really an interesting game mode. This is the first type of “party” system implemented into a sports game where you are not playing on a team. It’s very similar to how an online racing game works, except you can still move at your own pace and somewhat reflects what you would see on a real life course.
The online Country Club mode has also received an enhancement taking the member cap from 25 to 100. There is also a new Loyalty Reward system that includes a team based “streak” in which club members receive a loyalty streak for playing the game on multiple consecutive days. While the reward payout increases with the number of members you have in your club, it’s pretty difficult to manage 100 club members in hopes that they play a round of golf once a day. If you achieve this, I salute you.
Aside from playability, graphics and realism are a big deal in sports games. Quite simply, TW 14 is stunning. When you can see the breeze blowing gently against your golfers pant legs while they tee up a shot, that is some serious attention to detail. One added feature is night golf, where the elements of the game really change as you try to tee off into darkness. This adds a new kind of challenge to the game. Especially when it is dark and windy. While night golf is fun, it also doesn’t make much sense since golf clubs usually close at sundown and the pros don’t tee off at night.
It’s really the menu screens that grabbed my attention stepping into the game for the first time. With the soft elevator music and the bright colors, it is very soothing. There are even a few menu tracks that sound like an inspirational sports movie soundtrack. Other sounds provided levels of tranquility, mixed with authenticity.
You may also recognize the commentating voices of David Faraday, and Jim Nantz who is also in Madden 13. In this realm, the game falls a little short. You’ll hear the same commentary over and over, and in some situations, the wrong audio queue is triggered: Nantz saying “Let’s take a look at the leaderboard” and you are shown a graphic of your own personal score card. Past versions of the Tiger Woods games seemed to have more intuitive commentary.
This portion of the review applies to the Xbox 360 Kinect ONLY
There seems to be a standard in sports games now to utilize the Kinect technology. Sometimes this works beautifully, but in most cases, it is just a gimmick that you may only use once just to “try it out”. Unfortunately, TW 14’s Kinect mode falls in the later category.
Without having anything in your hands, the motion of swinging a golf club just feels awkward. In fact, the Kinect will detect your awkward moment resulting in your golfer making a weird half swing and somehow still hitting the ball at full power. Even when attempting to have something in my hand to make the motion feel more natural (in my case, a Swiffer handle) the Kinect will not recognize the added paraphernalia. This only resulted in the Kinect getting even more confused than it already seemed to be.
There are also way too many prompts to use the Kinect. If you are like me and keep your Kinect connected 24/7, (Voice controls make me feel cool…just…okay?) you will be prompted constantly to activate it to navigate menus. Sometimes, the notification at the bottom left of the screen that reads “raise your hand to use Kinect” blocks out half the screen. I later found out that it was only doing this because the Kinect was detecting my leg when I had it up on my chair. No, Kinect! That is NOT my hand!
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 is a fantastic new edition to the series. It’s a sports game that actually seemed to listen to the feedback from gamers in previous titles, and made plenty of necessary changes. There are tons of new game modes to explore, and Career Mode will keep you glued to your television. The visuals are stunning, the real life golf courses are spot on, and the night golf is pretty entertaining. Aside from the seemingly gimmicky and broken Kinect controls, this game is a hole in one.
+ Stunning graphics
+ Gameplay is still challenging and addicting
+ Legends of the Majors lets you play as historic golfers
– Commentary is repetitive
– Kinect Mode seems broken