FutureFive NZ - Review: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14

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Review: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14

Apparently, according to American novelist, Mark Twain, golf is a good walk spoiled.

Whilst that may be so in some people’s eyes, it’s most definitely not the case if you don't have to leave the comfort of your sofa.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14, a mouthful of the title if ever there was one, is the first of EA Sports titles to hit the shelves this year. The game is easy to pick up but difficult to master.

And, considering I’m not a golfer, I had rather a lot of fun with both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of game.

I’ve never played a round of proper golf in my life. The only “golf” that I’ve played had intricate ramps and miniature windmills, if you get my drift. This being the case, please be mindful that this review is from a general gamer’s perspective.

That being said, if you are a golfer wishing to take your hobby into the digital realm, I have been playing EA’s PGA games for years. Not fanatically, but for long enough to remember a time before the covers were graced with Tiger’s face.

So hopefully you guys will get something out of this review as well. Please, however, be kind to me if I overlook anything.

On starting up Tiger Woods 14 you are confronted an options screen that looks daunting to newcomers but will be familiar to Tiger Woods veterans and players of other games in the EA Sports range. Nobody could ever fault EA for not providing a variety of game modes and options.

As you’d expect, you can play as Tiger Woods; but there are a host of other pro golfers to choose from as well. The most fun, however, is to be had by creating your own golfer either manually or via the game’s Photo Face option.

Photo Face uses your console’s camera to take a photo of your face and plant it on your golfer. It’s not as elegant a solution as EA’s internet-based Game Face tech - as used by the likes of FIFA 14 and Madden 25, but it does the job.

The career mode allows you to take your golfer though the same path to the PGA Tour as the real pros. The ladies are also catered for, allowing players to create their own female player and head out on the LPGA Tour.

Your career begins by choosing either the US Amateur Championship or the British Amateur Championship, working your way up through the ranks and into the pro tournaments.

There are four tournaments available, The Masters, the US Open, the Open Championship and the PGA Championship. With twenty courses (more if you get the special The Masters edition) and the ability to select the weather and the the time of day, including night, the game provide players with a massive amount of variety.

There’s also the Legend of the Majors mode which allows you to play through a series of challenges across some classic courses with, against and as such golfing greats as Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer on a trip through the history of the sport.

For those of us with less time on our hands, it is easy to set up a quick round of golf on your favourite course. You can play part of a tournament or just a practise round to hone your skills using your own player, or by selecting a pro.

The online multiplayer mode is covered by allowing devout golfers to partake in their own online golfing community. Players can create or join a country club with up to 100 members and play in club tournaments.

By far the best way to enjoy the game is, of course, via a couch tournament. Tiger Woods 14, like its predecessors is a perfect game to play with a group of like-minded friends. With each player taking a turn in quick succession, nobody is going to feel left out.

A vast amount of options, courses and golfers is all very well, but how does in all come together on the green?

In an age where every other game involves maiming, tacking, hitting and killing opponents, Tiger Woods 14, like its real-life counterpart is a more elegant experience. Your golfer’s swing is controlled using the left analogue stick, the shot accuracy dependant on the cleanness of your “stroke”.

In order to achieve the perfect shot the stick must be pulled back and then pushed forward swiftly and in a straight line. Make a mess of this and the ball will travel too slowly or veer off into the rough.

Fade and draw adjustments can be made to counter wind speed and direction. This requires slightly trickier angled stroke of the analogue stick. There are other adjustments than can also be made - like where to strike the ball with the club - that enables players to fine tune the shot in order to keep on par.

The game, with its analogue controls, is a vast improvement from the double keyboard tapping of yesteryear. With such control over every shot, it is quite exhilarating when you get it right.

Now that we can control shots with this sort of analogue precision, it is difficult to see where the innovation from year to year is going to come from.

The game doesn’t look startlingly better than its predecessors and, to be honest, doesn’t really play that much different from the multitude of PGA games I’ve played over the last few years.

One of the things that always frustrated me about EA's golf games were the relatively poor graphics. Considering the simplicity of the visuals, just a golfer swinging a club and a ball moving down the fairway, you'd think that some of the spare computing power would be put to use in polishing up the graphics.

Whilst the visuals in Tiger woods 14, are nice enough, compared to a lot of the games around at the moment they could be a lot better. Maybe we’ll see a radical improvement on the next-gen consoles.

As you’d expect from EA Sports, the tournaments in Tiger Woods 14 come complete with some superb commentary. Anyone that has watched a bit of Sunday afternoon golf is going to be quite at home as the action on the screen is dissected with alarming accuracy by the game’s AI pundits.

This, along with the satisfying sound of the club hitting the ball, adds a tremendous amount of atmosphere to the game.

It’s worth bearing in mind that EA Games have embraced premium DLC and ran with it. Whether you welcome DLC as an opportunity to enhance your game or if see it as a shameless way of ripping off the public, Tiger Woods 14 has a lot of premium extras, the most important being the extra courses.

There are a large amount of courses on the disc that should keep most players occupied for ages. The fact that there are some extra locations to purchase should be seen as a bonus as it is unlikely that your average player is going to be able to sample them all anyway.

So is Tiger Woods 14 likely to improve your real-life handicap? Well I'm not really placed to say; but if I was, I’d say “not really”.

Owners of the PlayStation Move and Xbox Kinect can pretend that they are real golfers by swinging the Move controller, or miming with the Kinect; mimicking the action of holding and swinging a club.

Whilst I'd say the game works well with motion controllers up to a point, both Sony and Microsoft’s motion sensing tech are just to fiddly to use with menus. You are likely to end up back on the regular controller just to avoid the arm-waving frustration.

Using the Kinect or PS Move motion control technology in Tiger Woods 14 is good for a bit of fun, but it is really more akin to party game than golfing simulator when played this way.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 is a welcome departure from from the frantic mayhem that is the gaming norm these days. Whilst the game may be more sedate than other sports titles it still needs skill and concentration to master.

With a superb tutorial system, it’s a credit to EA Sports for producing a game that isn’t just a niche effort squarely aimed at the real-life golfing fanatic.

Like a game of Putt-Putt, anyone, seasoned real-life golfer or newcomer, can pick up and play Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 and go away with the feeling that they’ve played a decent round of professional golf.

Graphics: 7.5
Gameplay: 8.5
Sound: 8.5
Lasting appeal: 9.0

Overall: 8.5

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