This year's Tiger Woods release doesn't have an incredibly deep roster of game modes, but there is still some variety to be found on the disc.
Who wouldn't want to spend their career in places like this?
The career mode in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 follows a relatively standard format, with you creating a golfer and taking him through the paces of various events and challenges. As always, you can select from an array of different options when creating your golfer, and the option for "Photo Game Face" remains this year as well. You'll start with a pretty basic assortment of clothes and gear, but as you win more events and wear sponsor gear, you'll level up your golfer, unlocking XP boosts for various stats — accuracy, spin, putting — and new gear to try out.
The proceedings start out on the amateur circuit and then move their way through the Nationwide Tour and PGA Tour. Competing in events takes a pretty standard form, with an initial challenge round against a tour pro (usually consisting of three or four holes) where you play a variant like Battle Golf or match play, then a sponsor challenge on the event course to earn some gear, and finally the actual tournament itself. At any time you can change the AI of the players you'll be facing, and you can also 18-hole tournaments (instead of 72) if you like.
As with some of the other modes, I definitely found match play against individual opponents a bit tough, since even the "normal" difficulty still allows opposing AI to thrive (forcing you to hang around until they make a mistake). Once I focused on making my putting a priority, though — and taking my time with practice swings — it helped a great deal. Tournament play was fairly breezy to get through, especially in the early events.
The Tiger Legacy mode involves you reliving Tiger's past glory. Is he really a has-been now?
Tiger Legacy Challenge
This mode allows you relive all of Tiger's glory — with none of the flaws — from his toddler years all the way up until his speculative future in 2019. It's actually a pretty cool concept, with some animated sequences and voice over from Tiger during the start of each "phase" of his career.
You'll find yourself competing in various youth tournaments as well as practicing in Tiger's backyard, chipping a ball into his mother's handbag and using a sand wedge to get out of the sandbox. Things progress from there, with you competing (and winning) in Tiger's first PGA Tour event as well as completing the "Tiger Slam."
Since the gameplay in this release of [I[Tiger Woods[I/] has some depth and challenge, it does feel rewarding to complete some of these tasks. That said, there is some padding going on here, with some odd difficulty spikes at certain points (depending on what your settings are), requiring you bone up on your chipping and putting — the game's hardest aspects — quite quickly. From what I've seen so far, I'm also feeling that a fuller presentation would have helped here, as some of the sequences seem a little wooden. Often the only indicator of the historical significance of an event is the text prompt on the menu screen, with the actual gameplay nearly identical to all other modes. Still, I think this challenge mode is an intriguing concept for the series and one that should be given a more substantive treatment.
The Kinect, as close as you can get to this in real life...sort of.
Kinect support is fully integrated in the game as well, and it can used in any of the modes. As stated in my initial impressions, the control of the menus with Kinect works similar to other motion control–enabled titles, with subtle hand movements and swipes selecting menu items. Admittedly, the menus don't respond all to hand movements, and oftentimes it was frustrating when trying to make subtle within sub-menus. The menus themselves have been redesigned with Kinect in mind, but maybe voice should've been a bigger part of the menu navigation.
Once you're on the course, the Kinect tries its best to mimic real-life actions that you might take. Swinging just involves readying yourself in a swing stance and taking a cut. Aiming before the shot involves reaching your hand out, making a fist, and then slowly pointing where you want your shot to go. Many options — like changing clubs, asking the caddie for advice and resetting the shot — can be accomplished by using your voice, and this works better than the initial menu-style interface.
It certainly seems that the Kinect is filling in some gaps, correcting your swing where it needs to and generally making the experience playable. In particular, the putting is much simpler than with analog controls, and it doesn't punish you for swinging too hard. I've had some issues with a stuttering backswing animation on drives, and the Kinect definitely misinterprets some movements (leaning forward to see my TV made the Kinect think I was crouching to read my lie). Still, the Kinect does work as a control input, so long as you aren't necessarily looking for a 1:1 simulation. In my experience thus far, it's an interesting peek into the future, perhaps.
The career mode definitely isn't lighting the course on fire with its originality, but there is a lot of gameplay to be found if you want it. I'm liking the concept of the Tiger Legacy Challenge, even though the execution leaves something to be desired. The ability to play with Kinect is yet another great concept, but one wonders if this might be a proof of concept for something truly great five years from now. Check out the full review (coming soon) to see how it all shakes out.