April 04, 2011
You know you’ve hit an all time low when your face is replaced on the box of your signature game by an image of a flag. I mean, it’s a nice flag and all, but it has the charisma of, well, a flag. Still, Tiger does have his name on the box so he obviously must be doing something right and as one of the greatest of all time, perhaps this is another chance to get things going in the right direction. The real question here though is not one about Tiger Woods, but rather whether or not the latest addition to the series is actually worth handing over your hard earned cash for. The short answer is: maybe. The long answer…
First and foremost, if you have no idea about the Masters in Augusta then this game is likely to mean very little to you. Sure, you can jump in and have a mean game of golf, but the whole experience is very much tied into one of golf’s marquee events. With a new commentary crew on hand to divulge some of the history of the course, as well as a wonderfully detailed representation to look at, the whole package has been made to make the Masters the pinnacle of your game time. Thankfully though, the golf is still pretty damn good too, so you can still have a fine time without knowing any of the random facts and figures to do with one of golf’s prestigious events.
Thankfully, or not as the case may be, there has been very little tweaking behind the scenes and the game plays in almost exactly the same way as its predecessors. This means that hitting superb drives down the fairway soon becomes second nature, however, judging tricky approach shots and pinpoint accurate putts can be a little more finicky. It’s nothing that can’t be mastered without a little effort though and you also have your handy caddie available to help, should you be stumped about the best approach to your next shot.
In fact, the addition of caddies and a far more streamlined career mode are the two main improvements on show here. As ever you can create your own player, spending as much or as little time as you like to make him (or her) as devilishly handsome or repugnant as you see fit. Once again you can expect a trip through Q-school to get your license before taking your skills on the road, with the Masters as your ultimate destination. The caddies are on hand to give you useful pointers for each hole, although obviously you’re free to do your own thing too. The great thing is the fact that the more you play on certain courses then the more knowledge your caddie will accrue, leading to even more helpful advice along the way. It’s a smart idea, although one that would be nice to have an off switch for – as series veterans will no doubt be able to go it alone from the get go.
While the Masters does take centre-stage, there are plenty of courses to test yourself along the way, not to mention a bucket load of DLC right off the bat. It means that you can spend time enjoying events and gradually honing your skills using the XP you earn from each event, so that your quest to reach number 1 never feels too harsh or over too quickly. Plus, as you improve your player, the controls seem to become less of an issue as the margin for error swings in your favour. Along the way you can also pick up sponsorships and new equipment to help you out, all of which combines to make your road to the Masters that much more enriching than previous careers have been.
Outside of the main spectacle you can also take part in historical Masters Moments in a bid to echo the glory days of former greats of the game. Having to hit an eagle or tap in seven birdies in a row is pretty tough, especially if you mess up right at the end. However, the satisfaction that comes with pulling off a memorable salute to history is well worth it. You can also step into the shoes of Tiger himself and replay each of his four Augusta wins, with the aim being to keep pace with his scores at the time. These really just serve as variations on the overall theme but at least provide a nice diversion and help to provide a bit of historical perspective. Obviously if you get sick and tired of playing solo then you can head online and take on the world, with the usual array of tournaments, Gamernet challenges and the like. Again, it’s nothing that you haven’t seen before, but it does a good job of rounding out the package.
Another year, another familiar EA achievement list. At least this time around they don’t expect you to do anything too outrageous – although staying at number 1 for 281 weeks will take plenty of time and patience. In fact, in order to get the full 1,000 you will have to put in plenty of effort or rely on some amazingly good shot making skills, especially for the ubiquitous hole-in-one. For golf fans this game should be ripe for the taking as long as you are prepared to put the time into each mode.
While EA have mastered the annual sports upgrade, they don’t seem to have the ability to make them move into ‘must buy’ territory. Tiger still offers a great game of golf, but nothing that you couldn’t have experienced with last year’s offering. The courses themselves are great, and the Masters centrepiece is an obvious highlight, plus the caddie system adds that touch of realism and assistance that newcomers will have been crying out for. Regular players may find having a virtual pal a bit too chafing though, as it can almost make it a bit too easy to follow every hint. On the whole though Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters is still your best, if only, option when it comes to golf, but it doesn’t do enough to make it a must buy if you already have a Tiger on your shelf.
Using iconic commentators is a nice touch, but they just don’t seem to have that much to say on the whole, whereas your caddie just never shuts up, which can leave you commentating on your own efforts. Or maybe that was just me...
The pro’s look pretty good and some of the courses are supremely lush, with some obvious care and attention having gone into recreating every detail.
The controls for Tiger haven’t really altered too much in a while, and it is still pretty easy to get the hang of things only now you can be guided along by your caddie which is handy for newcomers. As with any sports game though, repetition will kick in, but the more you like golf then the more you’ll get out of it.
EA always have superb presentation and this game is no different with plenty of attention obviously lavished on the main event and its history. The career mode has an obvious goal now and there’s an array of offline and online challenges to keep you going long after you’ve won the infamous green jacket. Are there enough new features to make it an essential purchase though? That’s debateable.
A solid list, but one that is going to take plenty of time and effort to get through, especially holding onto the number one spot for so long. Still, golf fans have seen worse and veterans should be happy with the mix of tasks.
EA seems to be the master at adding subtle changes to their yearly updates while never straying too far away from their tried and tested formula. The few tweaks do make Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters a more well rounded game, and one that is great for newcomers, but most golf fans will have seen this formula time and time again. If you like the Masters, and bucket loads of DLC, then give this a shot.