Classification: G - suitable for general audiences
Platform: PS3 (tested), Xbox 360, PC, Wii
Hogan Bridge, Amen Corner and Magnolia Lane; if these names can stir up a passion within you, then this latest offering from EA Sports will be a hole-in-one. Developed by EA Tiburon, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters is the newest addition to the long-running Tiger Woods PGA Tour gaming franchise.
Mark Twain once said, "Golf is a good walk spoiled”. Such is the common perception held towards this rather curious sport. Therefore, any developer willing to take on the seemingly thankless task of making it fun and interesting to experience deserves some respect.
So has EA Tiburon managed to earn some respect by crafting a finely-tuned golfing experience that keeps the fan base buzzing? Or is this yet another swing into the deep rough?
The result, it must be said, is quite promising.
It is, perhaps, a sign of the times that Tiger Woods’ pearly whites no longer grace the cover of his own game. Make no mistake, Mr. Woods is still a central figure, but the real star-of-the-show this time is the historic Augusta National Golf Club. Using a state-of-the-art laser-scanning technology, every tree, bunker and architectural feature has been meticulously recreated in detail. Despite all the beautiful and iconic golf courses dotted around the globe, playing at this legendary location is every golf fan’s greatest dream. Winning the Masters Tournament – held annually at Augusta National – is a dream within a dream.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters starts the player off as a junior trying to make his or her way up the golfing ladder. It is an immersive story mode that involves the player right from the start. The journey feels real and the challenges are daunting. Along the way, the player is required to attract new sponsors, unlock the latest equipment and gain as much experience as possible playing around the world. As in real life, it is all about setting goals and working towards them.
Before the journey begins, an introduction in a Masters-style television presentation sets the scene of what is to follow. The player is given control of Tiger for a single hole, as he chases his fifth Green Jacket. This is a carefully thought out lead-in to the game, and it immediately sets the tone. This leaves the player in no doubt as to what the ultimate goal should be.
If the introductory lead-in sets the tone, the PlayStation Move controller immediately sets the flavour. After a hassle-free calibration process thanks to the out-of-the-box support for PlayStation Move, the Move controller literally becomes your golf club as you drive, chip and putt your way around 16 world-famous courses. Feel free to stand as you normally would when addressing a golf ball and take a swing. It truly adds to the experience and makes the entire journey feel real.
My only criticism is that the Move controller, at times, is not very responsive. On occasions it felt easier to pick up the standard DualShock controller and navigate some of the menus. The "My Skills” menu (where you can spend accrued XP-Points to upgrade your golfer’s skills) was one area in particular that felt cumbersome and tedious to navigate with the Move controller. At times, the behaviour out on the course also felt unreliable. Thankfully, with a bit of practice, navigation does become easier.
To support you in your trudge across each course, a handy "Caddy Experience” has been added to assist you with tips and shot suggestions. This is a particularly useful feature if you are new to golfsimulators, as it isn’t always apparent what the appropriate club selection or shot is. Most of the time, the caddy’s suggestions are helpful. However, be warned, there are instances where you will be on your own. The odd errant tee shot that lands you behind a tree may result in your caddy throwing his hands up and politely informing you that he has no advice (I wonder what Tiger would say if Steve Williams did this?).
An area that would be of particular interest to golfing enthusiasts is the "Masters Moments” gameplay option. This feature allows you, the player, to relive some of the most memorable moments in Masters’ history. Remember Tiger’s incredible chip-in on the Par-3 16th at the 2005 Masters? Well, here’s your chance to step into Tiger’s shoes and try to replicate his superhuman feat. Think that you are better than the man himself? The game also includes a "Tiger at the Masters” feature that allows you to replay Tiger’s four Masters victories. This walk down memorylane is well executed and provides a real feel for what it must be like to experience those unique moments. However, the atmosphere doesn’t always feel as electric as it should be, and that takes a little away from the expected high.
Overall, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters, does appear to be polished and carefully thought out. The multitude of gameplay options and the engrossing career mode will keep all the golfing enthusiasts occupied for a while. The inclusion of the Masters storyline provides the game with something special, making it feel unique and interesting. Tiger Woods may no longer feel the love (for understandable reasons), but the game that he lends his name to should still do. It’s a title worth paying your green fees for. So, go on, then, and get yourself a nice green jacket.
Lasting Appeal: 9.0
Overall Score: 8.5