Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 12: The Masters Review (PS3)
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Article 1: Tiger Woods 12 Initial Impressions
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters is the latest iteration of EA Sports' golf series that has prominently featured Tiger on the cover for the better part of the last 10 years.
While the series has seen some controversy, EA has stood by its man so far. However, EA decided to hedge its bets somewhat by taking Tiger off the cover of most versions of the game this year, replacing him instead with the most prestigious course and tournament in golf.
Beyond the debut of Augusta National and the Masters in video games, there are also new golfers and the usual selection of new courses and our old favorites. But does all of this equal a great game of golf? The answer to that question depends on what you want out of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters.
I could sum up the gameplay in Tiger as something that's a lot of the old formula you've gotten used to with a couple of notable additions that will either make you love or hate this game.
First off are the new caddies, and they either add or subtract from the game depending on where you sit (or stand if you are playing the game with a motion controller).
To me, the caddies take a lot away from the game. I think this is EA taking a concept and force feeding it down users' throats without giving us much of an option in terms of how it should be implemented. What I really think would have worked better was an option for how much or how little caddies can help you. As of now, I just don't think the implementation of caddies works at all.
Golf is a game of imagination, creativity, focus, skill and luck. You have to have all of these things to be a great golfer. But in Tiger Woods 12 you just need to listen to your caddie and swing at the right percentage.
The classic controller option is still pretty much the same, with you having to flick the left analog stick down then up. I always thought this was about as close to perfection with a classic gaming controller as you can get, and the formula still works.
Controlling your putts is moved over from last year's new setup, and if you haven't played Tiger in a few years I'm sure you'll grow to like the putting system. As it stands, I have no complaints about the control scheme in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12.
The gameplay itself is put together in a fashion that works for some players, but it won't for others. As I will note later, if you want a realistic experience you are going to be sorely disappointed with Tiger. But if you can find a magic balance point with the game, you will have fun with the game.
Your enjoyment of the online modes will come down to how much you enjoy the game itself. However, there are enough options for online golfers to inspect and enjoy.
The online elements of Tiger are enjoyable if you have a good crew to golf with (and if you check out our golf forum, you'll find that good crew), but again it just feels like EA hasn't fully explored what online golf could be. There's really a lack of imagination with the modes, and while they are far from bad, they aren't quite as good as they could be.
This is one of Tiger's weak points. As a personal bias, I've always wanted games to take a point of view, stick to it and do it well.
For instance, if you do broadcast presentation go all out from that perspective. Make it as close to the real thing as possible. Same thing for on the field/course/track.
Developers may think dabbling in both is creative or that it might work, but it really just makes both aspects shallow, and it really makes the whole package seem uninspired. Thus, enter Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12.
The presentation of Tiger Woods is a strange mix of being on the course with your caddie and watching a pseudo-broadcast on TV. The problem with this, of course, is that neither aspect is explored with the depth that it should be.
While many people think golf is a bore to watch on TV, it's hard to beat the tension and buildup of the Masters or any other major being broadcast on TV. However, camera shots like one of the leaderboard, cut-ins of other players and so on just are not present. You don't even know who you are playing with during a round. Remember how Tiger would defeat opponents by simply being paired with them a few years back?
Don't expect that in this game.
Simply put, Tiger is packaged to be a pseudo-broadcast/simulation/arcade experience through and through. It's shallow but tries to go deep enough to keep you pleased. In the end the presentation just feels vapid and stale after a few rounds.
With the idea in mind that I don't know if Tiger is exactly meant to be a total simulation of golf, it's hard to fault the game for cutting corners on the course.
In case you are wondering, you can still post ridiculously low scores at the US Open, some greens feel like mini-golf, and if you simply focus on power and putting you'll dominate in this game.
That's not to say the Tiger series has not taken positive steps toward simulation realism over the past few years, because the game is slowly heading in a positive direction. It's just not quite there yet.
Drives on lower difficulty levels are automatic. Once you climb up the levels a bit, then they become more unforgiving. However, the caddie simply makes drives automagic. You don't have to change anything yourself, just pull the stick back and push it forward to the correct percentage, and you hit the drive your caddie envisioned. It's like you two have a secret ESP link -- or worse, that the game is doing all the work for you, but I'm trying to give EA credit for imaginative storytelling here.
Approach shots are still quite boring to me. I don't know why, but approach shots are my kryptonite in the game of golf because I personally lack the touch needed sometimes. In Tiger there is simply no imagination or touch needed. Thanks to the Caddie feature, you can simply choose to not use anything. Instead, just try to focus on the right motion with your analog stick, and you will be successful every time (or close to it).
Putting is mostly a frustrating mix of being too easy or just ridiculously hard. First off, your caddie gives you a blueprint on where to aim with a circle on the green. If you just aim your shot within the circle, most of the time you will end up with a putt that scrapes the hole.
Then there are the moments where putts roll back past you if you miss an uphill shot (or roll to the next county if you are putting downhill). Sure, this happens sometimes in golf -- and a lot in miniature golf -- but for it to regularly happen on some courses is just ridiculous.
The controls themselves are definitely fine, and, to repeat my theme from a previous section, EA has done a really good job with the control scheme of Tiger. What the developers haven't done well is create a game that fits coherently together.
Nevertheless, while the game has issues simulating real golf, it's hard to say the game is not fun. There is definite balance within the game, and you can obtain realistic numbers if you simply find the difficulty settings that work for you. At the same time, realistic results are hit and miss and can't be fine tuned to any meaningful degree.
The best way to put it is that Tiger, while not totally realistic, can achieve a semblance of balance if you put some work into fine tuning the game for yourself. However, there are notable flaws and holes in how the game was put together, which makes it seem like the developers cut corners in order to give the game an appearance of being more realistic than it really is. Thus, Tiger Woods 12 will frustrate those looking for a more realistic experience.
Road to the Masters
The main game mode is the Road to the Masters in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12. While the game mode has a new name, it is largely the same mode you have been playing for years, with just a few changes in the process.
The basic format is play a tournament, play well, advance, play another tournament, play well, advance. While this game mode is fine, it does not even begin to realistically simulate a golfer's pursuit of a FedEx Cup.
Thus, once again people looking for realism will be disappointed by the main mode in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12, but those looking for a mode -- albeit a shallow one -- with logical challenges will find themselves enjoying Road to the Masters since there is a buildup and then an end point to the whole thing.
As with previous Tiger games, you gain XP for completing tasks on the course. You can then use the XP to build up your golfer and purchase new items to improve his performance, which is a straight up copy of the RPG character-building formula. This is not new for the Tiger series, and I think it's something sports games should look into, even if I can't help but feel it's a bit cheap.
If you believe in microcosms, I think the upgrade system in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 is a definite example as it really can be used to sum up the entire approach of the game. While the bounds of realism are completely stretched beyond belief, the system is logically put together and makes sense. Once again though, if you have played golf and who want a realistic experience, you may be sorely disappointed.
The progression you can make from your first event all the way up to the Masters is faster than any golfer could possibly improve, but it is fun to see your character grow before your eyes and make his way up the golfing ladder.
The main game mode will probably take you about 20 to 30 hours to complete if you get a realistic balance going for you. That's a good amount of golf, but you need to make sure your settings are going to fit your play style. If you aren't careful, you'll easily fall into the trap of making the game way too easy or ridiculously hard.
Masters Moments/Tiger at the Masters
These modes are what I would call a wasted opportunity. Perhaps licensing was too much, but I came away from both modes feeling a bit underwhelmed.
The Masters Moments simply call for you re-creating shots or runs with your created golfers to match historical moments. That's fine, but with a tournament so deep and rich in history as the Masters, to not take full advantage of that and instead only go halfway feels cheap to me. The same can be said for Tiger at the Masters, as I really felt there were a lot of perspectives you could've explored there. Instead, you are only given one option, and it just left me wanting more.
Perhaps it's the cynic in me, but I really think both modes were a giant waste of time as implemented.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters is a game that falls into a trap so many games have fallen into. It tries to be one thing, but it then tries to claim another banner. Unfortunately, if you hold it up to either banner, the game really falls short.
At the end of the day, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 is not a bad game. I pointed out a lot of flaws in the game from the realism standpoint, but the game is far from a bad game. If you take the game for what it is and apply some tweaks to balance it for you, the game turns out to be a fun game of golf.
The game is not for those looking for a realistic game of golf -- the caddie feature alone guarantees you can't enjoy that type of a game. I understand the reasoning for Tiger being made to appeal to the masses, but perhaps adding another level for hardcore golf fans in the future will round out this game and make it truly great. As it is, the game is sorely lacking in-depth, balance and realistic touches that separate the good games from the great ones in our genre.
Visuals: The grass textures look plasticy to me, and each course really runs together. The graphics aren't technically bad, just stylistically they don't work as well as they could.
Audio: Commentary isn't quite what it should be (or shouldn't be). Golf sounds are good, crowd noise from the gallery is adequate. It's really a very average package.
PS3 Move: Move controls are average and don't risk too much -- future iterations should be better. It's kind of hard to get the hang of touch shots since you have to get percentages right.
Course Choices: The number of courses in the PS3 version is pretty solid, DLC will help as well. There's enough variety to give you enough challenges for sure.
Lasting Appeal: How long you play Tiger 12 will depend on how you feel about the brand of golf it gives. But there is enough here to keep you busy for awhile.
Learning Curve: With the caddie function, you just need to learn the stick movement, and you can begin golfing like a pro. You can learn how to do it yourself, but it seems pointless with the caddie (via ESP) setting up your shots.
Score: 6.5 (Above Average)