Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13: Fading down the stretch

April 12, 2012

You can tell when a golfer just starts getting tired. It’s usually sometime around the middle of the final day of a tournament, when those birdies keep slipping to pars and the drives just aren’t quite as long as they have been. They’re pros, and they compensate well, but there’s just not that spring in their step that made things fun and exciting.

Tiger Woods 13 is that point for the venerable series.  

Motion control impressions
The Kinect support just isn’t there yet, really. The menus aren’t really designed for it, so the relative-movement swiping is weird. The motion golfing doesn’t really have on-screen prompts for how best to swing (though it loves to tell you to crouch and yell for your caddy), and the nature of a golf swing means it can get a bit confused when your arms are away from the screen. It’s a gimmick, sadly, and not the fully-realized experience we want.

We reviewed the Xbox 360 version, so we couldn’t test the Move controls. Last year’s edition had serviceable implementation, though, and the device-in-hand setup works well for the sport.

It’s not entirely a bad thing, though. All the features from previous installments are here, like the fairly in-depth Road to the PGA Tour campaign mode, skills challenges and golfer customization.

There are some new modes here, and while some are interesting, others feel like EA compensating for not having that energy on the final day. It seems like a weird time to introduce a Tiger Legacy Challenge mode, with the golfer’s personal popularity at an all-time low, but it’s a nice change-of-pace and fun if you still want to guide him from childhood to stardom. (The events themselves are fairly straightforward.)

A big addition this year is the idea of Country Clubs, which are essentially clans for golf and allow you to work as a group to unlock things and compete both within the group and against others. It seems like more of an attempt to justify the Online Pass, and it’s even more crucial for this game, because playing offline doesn’t unlock all the things it should. (Even if you redeemed a pass and just aren’t connected.) Also, if you were worried about microtransaction creep, you were totally justified. The game cranks up in-game costs of things, then tries to sell you currency. It has more DLC courses than on-disc ones, and it has implemented a supply of single-use boosts that you can pay to replenish. Sigh.

The swing controls have been changed up once again, trying even harder to turn your thumb into a backswing. We didn’t really feel more precise, but then again, we’re not very good at golf so maybe that’s just accurate. There’s more nuance to it, though, as there isn’t necessarily a “right” swing, and you can try some truly strange stuff. None of this is going to help newcomers figure the thing out, though, which could be a problem.

The presentation is gorgeous, as always. Dependably, the courses look photorealistic, the interface is slick and the sound (like Jim Nantz’s intros to particularly-notable holes) is subtle and smooth.

Whether you want Tiger 13 largely depends on how much you value the game’s new shot control system, as much of what’s here was available last year, and some of that is a lot more palatable without the new money-grab veneer. If you’re not used to golf games at all, it’s a rough place to learn the ropes, but if you’re in way deep this still may be worth your time.

Pros: Full-featured golf game, interesting campaign mode
Cons: Bad Kinect controls, little to distinguish it from last year

Score: 3/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.