Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 Review
The timing really couldn't have been better for EA to release their newest installment of Tiger Woods PGA Tour, aptly named Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14. Tiger had just reclaimed the top spot in the rankings and was getting major press with that and him announcing his relationship with skiing superstar Lindsey Vonn. Oh, and course The Masters is also being held right about release time. So, all in all it's the perfect time to release the game. So does it live up to its fortunate hype timing or is it more of the same? Find out next in my review of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 for the Xbox 360.
I'm a little late getting this review done but in a way that's a good thing because it allowed me to see a neat feature of PGA Tour 14 that I would have otherwise missed if I was actually capable of hitting a deadline. You see, the first round of The Masters was today and when I fired up the game today I was asked if I would like to play The Masters tournament. I did and was able play The Master with the actual standings, current weather conditions, and the actual time of day at the course. I found that to be a pretty neat thing. Not only could I see that the wind was about 7 mph, I could also see that Sergio Garcia was leading the pack at 6 under. I was also hearing a baby cry. I don't have any kids and it took me a second to realize that I wasn't the only one playing the course at that time and that the crying I was hearing was coming from the online chat feature. I guess it was both feeding time and tee time. I'll go into this online tournament a little later, but just know that I was playing The Masters course at roughly the same as it was actually happening in real life.
It's been a couple of iterations since I last played a Tiger Woods game. At first glance it doesn't seem like a lot has happened. I mean the basis of the game is the same...that is, you still use an analog stick to swing, there is a career mode, you play various tournaments, etc. Once I started to look a little closer I could see the differences and additions. Some major and some minor. One of the big additions is ladies....ahh yeah. OK, that sounded much creepier than I meant! Anyway, yes, the LPGA is finally represented and includes pros Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis and others. You can create your own female golfer and take a shot at winning in the career mode.
The biggest addition is probably the Legends. Included this year are several legendary golfers including Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and a few more. You can play as these pros going back as far as 1873 and right up to the modern era and reenact several of the most famous events from the past. While I'm not a huge golf fan it seems that this would be a great history lesson for those gamers that have a passion for golf. They do a nice job of presenting the different eras including taking into account the different advances in the technology of the game. For example no matter how well you hit off the tee in 1873 the ball is just not going to go as far as it does with today's modern club and ball technology. EA also adds a bit of authenticity to each era by having the fans dressed in time appropriate attire and even adding some special visual presentations like film grain and sepia filters. Now the golf purist will notice that not all of the historical settings are perfectly accurate, mostly because of licensing issues I would assume. However these same purists will be happy to know that EA has recreated the Augusta National Golf Course of 1934. Overall, it's a fairly entertaining mode.
Graphically the game is slightly mixed. The majority of the courses look wonderful and the animation is great. However the facial expressions are too static for my taste. I was also bothered by the crowd as the same character models were used way too much for me and I was freaked out how they would all do the exact same movements. I understand that a crowd will follow the trajectory of a ball in flight or the path of a ball being putted, but they aren't all going to be doing it in the exact same fashion. Granted it's a small thing, but it still irritated me. There are some new presentations that try and take the game to a broadcast level and they somewhat succeed but in general there is nothing remarkable fresh about the whole presentation...that is, it's nice but not great. I need to take a quick moment and say I wish there were no announcers in the game. I felt that the announcers were just terrible and added nothing to the game.
Additional new items include all four golf majors for the first time. This was a surprise to me as I would have thought this would have already have happened, but it hasn't until now. An interesting new feature is the ability to play a connected tournament with 23 other golfers. This is the mode I was playing The Masters in that I mentioned at the start of this review. This is interesting in that you play at the same time as the other golfers and that their shots are represented on screen by arcs. So it's not uncommon to be lining up a putt and seeing several arcs in the sky overhead as the other shots are going on. It's a little distracting a first as it looks a little like the old game Missile Command, but you get used to it pretty quickly. In a way it's nice to see the other shots and it gives you a strange sense of community. Speaking of community, there are Country Clubs that allow up to 100 members that can be either private or public. You are automatically put into a club after you play your first round but you can go join a different one if you want. These clubs kind of compete internally with members trying to become the club champ and externally as all members of a club are graded against other clubs.
There is a focus on trying to differentiate golfers playing styles by adding a feature called Golfer Swing Style. The style breaks down into four basic types: Type (Power vs Control), Shape (Draw vs Fade), Trajectory (Low, Medium, High), and Handedness (Righty vs Leftie). For example a low trajectory style will not be affected as much by the wind and a power type might hit further but not as accurately. In the more advance settings these different styles can really be molded to create a golfer that is pretty unique to your own style.
Final Rating: 82%. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 has enough new features, especially the interesting Legends of the Majors and the online Connected Tournaments, to make it a good purchase if you've been out of the series of a while.