EA Sports Tiger Woods PGA Tour is back again for another year and looking to make a splash with Kinect integration. For the first time in the series the Xbox 360 Kinect will be able to track your full body movement in an effort to create an advanced virtual golf swing. There are some other noteworthy additions this year too such as revamped swing mechanics, new golfers, new courses, online country clubs and for the first time you can experience Tiger’s legacy. Yet at the end of the day, the ability to play Tiger with your body as the controller appears to be the main selling point this year. So does it play better with the Kinect Sensor? Do all these additions make it worth picking up Tiger 13? Let’s find out shall we.
With the exception of EA Sports’ NFL Madden game, I have stopped purchasing most sports games year in and year out. The main reason is that I cannot justify paying full price for a game that includes just a few more bells and whistles. I pick up Madden every year because I am a massive NFL fan and I find the franchise brings back enough “new” to keep me coming back. I guess it boils down to how much of a fan you are of that given sport. Likewise, I have many friends who pick up Tiger Woods PGA Tour every year as they feel EA Sports manages consistently bring a solid golf experience to the table every year. This year Tiger Woods PGA Tour has seemingly upped the ante by not only revamping the swing mechanics but also including full Kinect integration. Unfortunately, just like my real life golf game, some of the new additions are hit while a good chunk of the new additions are a miss.
Wasting no time, when I first popped in the game I wanted to check out the new Kinect controls. You can navigate the game’s menu with the controller or with your arms and hands; however, in order to get a first taste the Kinect functionality I wanted to put the controller down right away. Navigating the front end with the Kinect is accomplished with the use of your hands. Swiping much like other Kinect enabled games gets you through the menus and into the game. The only issue I had navigating the menus was that it seemed a little difficult to control the menu selections as they flew across the screen when you held your arm out. Clearly, using your arm and hand along with the Kinect sensor could have been a little more refined. It just seemed like the menu system had a mind of its own, and trying to get it to settle down into the right category took some patience. I cannot count how many times I would yell, “wait go back” as the game modes flew past. Needless to say, Tiger 13 was off to a rough start when it came to the Kinect integration.
Once I finally managed to jump into a game and ready to hit the virtual links, I was very curious to see how the Kinect swing mechanics would pan out. To pull off a swing you need to face the TV with the front of your body looking at it, clasp your hands much like you would grab a club and then take a natural swing to hit your shot. The Kinect tracks your movement during your swing including your arms, hips, and shoulders. On the higher difficulty settings you may hook or slice if you do not maintain good form throughout your swing.
Overall, the swing mechanics using the Kinect sensor fall flat. For starters, it was awkward to face the TV with your body square to it as opposed to standing sideways facing the TV like you would if you are driving a ball off a tee box. To me, it just makes much more sense to stand as if you are ready to drive a ball onto the fairway. So right off the hop, I was not impressed. Secondly, I did not find the Kinect all that responsive to my motions. Many of my drives fell flat and frankly I had no idea what I was doing wrong as I consider myself to have pretty good form on the golf course. It just did not seem to read my body motions properly. In any event, it was not long before I plunked myself back on the couch and used the standard Xbox 360 controller for the rest of my Tiger 13 experience.
On a more positive note, the Kinect also makes use of voice commands with the “see it, say it” system. Any text that appears on screen in quotation marks will be recognized as a voice command. For instance, to change a golf club to a pitching wedge, you would say, “change club, pitching wedge”. It is a simple as that and unlike the Kinect movement sensor I was amazed with the responsiveness and accuracy of the voice command. Every once in awhile it misinterpreted my nasally voice, but overall it was bang-on.
One of the more enjoyable new features this year is the Tiger Legacy Challenge. Here you can relive firsthand Tiger Woods’ most memorable golf accomplishments as he rises from a child prodigy to golfing legend. You start out in this mode by making an appearance on the Mike Douglas Show when Tiger was just 2 years old. Here you have to drive a couple of balls into the net. Once you successfully complete one challenge based on one of Tiger’s accomplishments you move on to the next challenge. Whether it be chipping balls into Mom`s handbag in the backyard or sneaking on a course to play with Dad on the 3rd hole, Tiger Legacy Challenge offers up a nice amount of variety and some fun mini-games as you play as Tiger at different ages. I should also mention some of the challenges are quite difficult so do not expect to breeze your way through them.
Another new addition this year is the new swing mechanic where the tempo and speed of your swing influences the power of your shot. A fast tempo will add more distance to shots, while a slow tempo will result in less distance. The visualization of the golfer’s swing is shown in the form of the swing meter. When swinging you need to use the meter as a guide to help you execute a proper swing with the right power and trajectory. All in all, I found the swing mechanics using the controller to be bang-on. Swinging does feel and look incredibly natural. The adjustable shot setup also allows for countless ways to hit the ball with one club. It makes for a swing mechanic where you really feel in control and responsible for all the nuisances that go into a good golf shot.
Much like last year`s Road to the Masters mode, this year we have Road to the PGA Tour mode. In this mode, you choose to start your career in one of three Amateur Tours (American, United Kingdom, World) and try for the chance to compete in the Masters as an amateur contender. Win and you will earn your PGA Tour card. Finish in the top 25 to earn amateur exemptions allowing you to compete in a limited PGA Tour schedule, or continue your career on the Nationwide Tour. Win three tournaments on the Nationwide Tour to earn a battlefield promotion to the PGA Tour, or battle it out in Q-School at the end of the year. All in all, Road to the PGA Tour is excellent single player progression mode that will surely give any Tiger fan countless number of hours of replay value and of course a great reason to play the game for months on end.
One of the great features from the previous Tiger game is back, and that is your Caddie. Before each shot your Caddie suggests the best option for your shot. Turn on automatic Caddie and the game will automatically select the best club and shot for you. All you then have to do is execute the shot. I personally enjoyed this aspect and rarely took a shot without consulting with my Caddie. While you cannot disable the caddie, you can certainly opt to not take any of his suggestions and set up your own shots in the traditional fashion.
Despite some of the new additions to the game, the controls largely feel the same. Tiger veterans should be able to jump right back into the game without a hitch. Once again the swing mechanics and putting stroke are sensitive. Pull back the analog stick for a split second too long and that could result in a horrendous putt. Much like a real life swing the game does a wonderful job at having your pay attention to all the little things that go into a good swing.
This years game ships with 16 courses on the disc, five of which are new to the Tiger Woods PGA Tour series on the Xbox 360. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13: The Masters Collector’s Edition features five additional courses, including one that is new to the series, as well as the Augusta National Par 3 course and Tournament Practice Facility. There are 15 more courses available for download, as well as a special 16th Bonus Course. The game includes 22 licensed golfers comprised of 20 male golfers and two female golfers- including five new golfers and two PGA Tour pros returning to the franchise. Additionally there are two sets of celebrity golfer packs available as pre-order incentives.
While 16 courses out the box seems like a decent number I was somewhat taken back with only 22-golfers included. Yes, I understand only 22 were included last year; however, with many new and old PGA golfers on the scene, I just figured we may see an increased roster. This could also raise the profile of the PGA game while Tiger gets his game back. Simply put, 22 golfers seemed far too few for my liking.
Visually, this year’s version of Tiger is a nice step forward. It is nothing incredibly innovative or jaw dropping but still a decent step in the right direction. Overall, I noticed the courses looked a little sharper while lighting effects and some new unique camera angles provide a more authentic and true to life experience. The grass seems to pop out and the colours in the game are simply fantastic. The character animations seem a little dated but otherwise Tiger 13 is game that features plenty of eye candy and does the PGA proud with a stunning looking game.
As far as the sound is concerned, it does not appear as if there has been much if any improvement. The ambient musical score is back and the colourful David Feherty makes his return to the game. The commentating is good but not nearly enough to keep things interesting. I was also surprised with the amount of repetition. The game’s sound effects also seem a little dated and could use an overhaul. Sure birds chirping or fans cheering all sound good but it is sounds we have all heard before from the franchise.
The online game is back again but this year includes online Country Clubs. Here you can invite friends to join your own exclusive country club and team up to gain quicker access to downloadable golf courses and compete against other club members for the coveted Club Championship. Once you are a member of a Country Club you will begin earning Status Points for every round you play anywhere in the game such as Play Now or Online head to head matches. Status Points are used to level up your club and rank yourself against teammates to compete for Club Champion honors and earn coins. Based on your weekly performance and Status contribution to the club, you and your teammates will rank up from Members to Club Champion. Each week, the individual crowned Club Champion is awarded a substantial coin bonus and invited to the special Club Champion tournament to represent their club vs. the Club Champions of all the other teams. Overall the Country Clubs will come as a welcome addition to those hardcore Tiger fans who have been awaiting something like this for years.
Overall, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 is a game fans of the series can pick up as the new additions will likely satisfy those who played last year’s game and are looking for some advancement in the game, especially the addition of the Country Clubs. Unfortunately, when game box says it is “Better with Kinect Sensor” I can’t help but think that this is misleading as this is not the case at all. In fact, the game simply suffers when you play with the Kinect sensor. If you are planning to pick up the game for the Kinect functionality you are making a big mistake. Despite the flawed Kinect functionality, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 is an enjoyable game with the regular controller and the new additions this year make it game fans of the franchise will want to own.