Review: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 (PS3)

Title: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (4.9 GB)
Release Date: March 27, 2012
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Tiburon
Original MSRP: $29.99 (PSN) / $59.99 (Blu-ray Disc)
ESRB Rating: E
Extras: PlayStation Move Compatible
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 is also available on Xbox 360.
The Blu-ray version was used for this review.

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 268 of the podcast.

Gameplay:
The biggest change In this year’s edition of Tiger Woods is the swing mechanic. Probably the single most important piece of a golfing video game, EA decided to scrap the incremental improvements of the past few years and rebuild it from scratch.

The new interface gives you total control over your shots, taking into account the speed of the back swing and the follow through. You’ll need to be more aware of the positioning of your feet and where the ball lies in your stance, forward or back in order to get more loft on the ball or keep it low and out of the wind or under any obstructions. You then use the strike meter to pinpoint exactly where you want to hit the ball.

Bits and pieces of this have been available in previous versions of the game but it all comes together here in a way that gives you precise control over every single shot… if you take the time to use it. That right there is the rub. If you want a real golf simulation, this is the best that’s out there but it takes time to line things up for each shot.

If you’re not interested in such minutiae, the caddy is back to guide you through the course. This time around however, he’s been removed from the screen, giving you two options for shots that you can follow or ignore entirely. It all sounds great in theory and having total control really changes the game, for better or worse though, you can take nearly every shot with little to no tweaking and still have a pretty good round of golf.

Hybrid clubs have been added to your bag, keeping up with real life golf and giving you a few more options. Pins are back from last year but changes have been made in how they work and what they do. EA has essentially turned golf into an RPG and I hated it.

As you play a round, you’ll earn coins. Coins can be spent on new equipment and clothes as in previous versions of the game and now, also on pins. The trick here is that pins now have a limited number of uses and each pin, of course, does something different. The pins now take the place of the little bonuses different equipment used to give, such as extra power in your driver, more spin on the ball, better accuracy in putting etc. they can also multiply the number of coins earned in a round.

What this all adds up to is grinding and earning more coins. You used to be grinding to level up your golfer, which made sense for character progression, as annoying as it was that you had to start from scratch each year. Now, you use coins for the boosts and to purchase the downloadable courses.

This year, you get sixteen courses on the disc and to get the DLC courses, you can do it a number of different ways. The first option, spending coins to unlock unlimited rounds sounds like the best way to do it, you won’t ever have to shell out real world money for DLC courses again. This can actually be done, but it’s going to take an inordinate amount of time to pull it off.

To buy rounds at DLC courses, you’ll need to spend 6,000 coins for one round, 9,000 for two, 12,000 for three and 18,000 for four. You can unlock it by playing rounds and achieving the course mastery goals, x number of birdies, eagles, greens in regulation, etc. but eventually, you’ll have to get at least 100 par holes or better which means you’ll have to play each course a minimum of six times to unlock it. Given that a good round of 18 holes can earn you 1,000 to 2,000 coins and the fact that there are 19 downloadable courses, it’s gonna take a very long time if you go that route. Given my rudimentary math skills, let’s see here, play an average of 2 hours per day, times the number of coins, divided by the number of courses, factoring in hard drive crashes, carry the two, and it looks like it’ll take about 37 years to unlock everything, but I could be off a bit.

Are there any shortcuts? Of course, we live in an age of paid DLC my friends and you can always outright buy enough coins to unlock all 19 courses, it’ll cost you $74.99. So now what on the surface seemed like a great idea really isn’t when you dig a little deeper. All they did was shift the cost and hide it behind endless grinding, knowing you’ll get sick of it eventually and just spend the money to quickly unlock everything.

One of the other big additions this year, Country Clubs, can help you grind away. The Country Club addition is actually pretty cool, bringing a more social aspect to the game. Every round you play in any mode earns points to level up the club. Members of Country Clubs that are leveled up earn more coins per round.

You’ll be ranked in the club based on your weekly performance, encouraging a lot of play, because club champions get invites to special tournaments online. While it ups the social aspect of the game and adds a bit of a score chase element the main thrust is to earn coins more quickly.

The Tiger Legacy Challenge is the last big addition and while it sounded good in theory, it’s essentially a glorified set of tutorials and practice rounds with interesting but creepy character models. You’ll play as Tiger, initially trying to chip balls into kiddie pools in the back yard at his family home, recreating the Mike Douglas show appearance as a child and eventually entering tournaments. The idea of reliving the moments of Tiger’s past that helped shape him was not without merit, it just doesn’t work in the current format. As part of the Legacy additions, you’ll get kid versions of a number of golfers, each more disturbing than the next.

Visuals:
The graphics are slightly better than last year’s edition and while the lighting effects and new color palettes in the sky reflecting different weather patterns and times of day are fantastic, the crowds still suck. They’ll react in odd ways, standing in place until a ball hits them, reacting to being struck by a ball that was clearly nowhere near them, etc. You’ll also see the same eight repetitive character models spread around the fairways and greens making the same odd gesture at exactly the same time. The developers still haven’t grasped the fact that a different color shirt on the same character model doesn’t work when each of them move in the exact same pattern in unison.

Speaking of movement patterns, your golfer still makes the same movements and gestures after every swing and made putt, with no regard for the situation this can make things interesting when you tee off right in front of a body of water and your golfer heads right for it, oblivious to his or her impending liquidity. Things get even more disturbing when you’re using the young Tiger and he sinks a putt on an empty course then waves to no one. It all feels like shortcuts were taken to the detriment of the realism they’re striving for elsewhere in the game.

Audio:
The music flat out stinks. It’s essentially the same limited piano music from the past few years with no option to use custom soundtracks. The sounds on the course are pretty much the same ones you’ve heard for the last I don’t know how many iterations of Tiger Woods. There’s just not much of anything new or innovative here.

Online/Multiplayer:
Online consists of all the standard fare from Tiger Woods games in recent years along with Live Tournaments and the Online aspect of the Country Club. One of the nicer parts of the Country Club is the ability to create and schedule daily or weekly Custom Club Live Tournaments. You have full control over all the options and it really adds again to the more social aspect of the game, making it easier to get online with a group of friends.

Conclusion:
Having no competition to speak of is really starting to show. The development team appears to invent new tasks for themselves each year without addressing any of the underlying problems of the game.

While i like the new swing mechanic and the level of control it offers, I’m incredibly unhappy with the grind and how it feels like an RPG now because that’s not what I’m looking for in a golf game. I feel like I’m being punished for being a casual player. If i don’t play a lot every week, I don’t climb in the Country Club standings and I get less coins making it a much more arduous task to unlock the DLC.

In previous versions, i could play at my own pace and level up my character without the pressure of this. I know I can just buy the courses, but I really don’t like the way they dangle them in front of you now and push you to play and play and play to ‘earn’ them.

While its still a good game, I really feel the series has taken a step back this year.

Score:
8.0

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Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 25 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation – minus the Switch.

Josh is currently the US PR & Marketing Manager for Fountain Digital Labs and has recused himself from any involvement on PS Nation arising from posting or editing any news or reviews stemming from FDL.

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