Golf, that popular pastime of retired gents, ex-footballers, flamboyant trouser wearers and generally folk who frown upon my dulcet, yet colourful, Northern tones and penchant for Adidas Samba’s is back in our lives and on our 360’s thanks to the annual appearance of the bad boy of the fairway’s latest offering – Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2013.
Of course us gamers have now become rather used to these latest updates in the EA sporting catalogue. We know there’ll be a few new additions, maybe an extra mode or two and of course the updated rosters but, with this newest of Tiger releases we’ve been treated to something, well, a bit modern. This time our dusty friend, Kinect, has been invited to the party.
Now if you’re anything like myself whenever you see the words ‘Better with Kinect’ planted onto the sleeve of a game that was previously pretty spectacular without it, the warning lights flicker into action. Usually after a brief period of testing how it’s ‘Better with Kinect’ I’ll take a permanent marker and add the word ‘Not’ at the beggining of the line.
Could Tiger Woods really be the exception to the rule and give a tired permanent marker the breather it needed?
Well, for a moment I almost thought it could.
The Kinect control for this latest incarnation of the popular golfing franchise actually works really well. I found it responsive to every swing and very easy to pick up, unfortunately though what is sorely missing from this motion controlled action is precision, and when it comes to golf, precision is God.
Rather than feeling I was playing a round of well thought out and finely tuned shots my time with Kinect almost turned Tiger Woods from sport sim to hack and slash mayhem. Line up the shot, swing wildly, watch as ball swerves violently off into the bush and apologise to the Mother-In-Law for the shot to the kidneys I’d just unknowingly dealt her (I say unknowingly.) That basically summed up my Kinect experience and also sums up why I played the vast majority of my video golf via the medium of control pad.
Kinect works but it feel very much like a watered down version of the game rather than an enhancement to the action.
And that folks is all I’ll say about Kinect and this game.
Alongside the gimmicky we also have, as ever, probably the best round of console golf on the market. Everything is in place to allow you to lose yourself for hours, weeks and months with this game. A tasty 16 courses are included on the disc, some old some new, a packed roster, new multiplayer ideas and a variety of game modes.
And, hold the front page folks, Tiger Woods 2013 even has a new control system!
That’s right, gone is the traditional swing we all knew and loved and in comes ‘Total Swing Control.’
This fresh approach to the gameplay actually allows players to have far more control over each shot. Now such things as swing tempo, foot position and swing speed are taken into account and affect each shot fairly dramatically, take this from someone who knows the sound of ball on tree only too well.
The swing is controlled entirely on the left stick and while it absolutely adds the most control over shots yet seen in a Tiger Woods game it also takes some serious time to master. While the new system works a treat on the fairways it’s on the greens were it really comes into it’s own. Putting has never felt so fluid and precise as it does here and suddenly long rangers that in previous games would have seemed an impossiblility are at least bordering on the makeable.
I often prefer developers to stick to that old rule ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ but in this case I’m glad they ignored it and delivered something that adds more depth and requires more skill.
Mode-wise all the usual suspects are there. You can just play a single round, create a player and launch into a career, take part in The Masters or simply play a round online. The biggest addition in terms of modes is the new Tiger Legacy option. Here you get to play through various stages of the man’s career from toddler to superstar and I actually found it a welcome addition. A mix of challenges and tournaments the mode breaks up the typical routine and gives the player a new angle to approach from. It worked best for me taken in smallish doses but there’s nothing wrong with a little variety in your life, just ask Tiger himself. Ahem, moving on. Certainly playing as little Tiger is interesting and perhaps a little weird but overall this new feature only serves to add more legs to an already leggy title.
The other big new feature pining for our attention is the online ‘Country Clubs.’
This basically works just like your real life golf club scenario. You join a club and then play against other members of the same club. It’s a great way to keep the social aspect alive on Xbox LIVE, something that’s often sorely missing, and also allows for little friendly rivalries to form between members, plus, maybe the biggest plus here, it makes for a far gentler introduction to the online world of Tiger Woods games.
Now for the moan section. It actually doesn’t come entirely as a surprise that I find myself moaning about money and DLC when I’m reviewing an EA title as I’ve voiced my reservations about certain things elsewhere but, in this case it really is too much. The DLC for Tiger Woods 2013 is basically rammed down your throat from the off. Buy extra courses, buy boosts for your golfer, spend, spend, spend. There are coins to be earnt of course as we play and progress but to seriously attain enough to unlock even a portion of the content would require a ridiculous amount of time, dedication and skill, all three of which I don’t have. A shame but hardly a surprise that EA have chosen this route.
Other things are largely as they were. The graphics are pretty much identical to previous games, the crowd are as static and robotic as ever, the sounds of the countryside blossom through the speakers and the golf is excellent.
All in all nothing serious has changed. Tiger Woods remains probably the most perfect slice of golfing action to grace our consoles, it’s gentle yet retains the power to thrust serious tension upon you when matches go down to the wire. The new features are interesting but provide a mixed bag. The ‘Total Swing Control’ works brilliantly but doesn’t really warrant the purchase if you own last years rendition, Tiger Legacy mode again works very well but I’d also find it hard to encourage a gamer to shell out just for that, while the inclusion of Kinect ends up feeling more gimmicky than I was hoping it would.
Tiger Woods still plays a great round of golf and if you’ve skipped the last few then it’s without a doubt a great time to pick up the clubs again, but owners of the most recent game shouldn’t rush in, there’s just not quite enough changes or enhancements here to make it worth your while.