April 09, 2013
If Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 was about celebrating Woods' own story - creepy toddler Tiger and all - then PGA Tour 14 is all about embracing the history of golf's most prestigious tournaments.
With Legends of the Majors, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14's headline mode, players get to revisit some of the sport’s most tense, heroic, euphoric and heartbreaking moments across The Masters, the U.S. Open, the Open and the PGA Championship.
Covering over a century, Legends of the Majors begins in 1873 with the very first Open at St. Andrews and brings players right up to the current day. Along the way you’ll relive famous moments with legends like Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Sam Snead, Seve Ballesteros and Lee Trevino. Beat each and you'll unlock them as playable characters.
With each era presented in a fitting fashion, offering grainy sepia-toned filters, questionable clothing and crappy equipment where applicable, Legends of the Majors is the most convincing reason for fans to dish out on this latest edition of the long-running series. Golf has a long and rich history and Legends of the Majors makes use of it in a thoroughly entertaining and rewarding manner.
Having all four Majors in one place – for the first time in franchise history - also offers further advantages, because you can now jump into each tournament at will, without having to faff around with the game's career mode. It's a nice way to dive into all the glitz and glory and attempt to earn top honours, without having to grind your way there. Between this and Legends of the Majors, EA’s licensing has been put to good use.
Just as notable are the addition of a number of LPGA stars, in a move that sees the sport's female pros appear in the series for the very first time. It's a brilliant inclusion that not only adds depth to the game but also reflects the ancient sport's crumbling patriarchal order. It's not just blokes that play golf, ya know.
However, all of this is just dressing for the core of the game, and that too has been on the receiving end of some tinkering. What PGA Tour 14 brings to its new swing system may not be revolutionary - and let's be honest you'd be mad if you expected otherwise – but it is welcome.
The basics remain the same. You pull back on the left stick and then swoosh it forwards while hoping your thumb doesn't twitch out on you. The accuracy and distance of your shot is based on the pace, rhythm and trueness of your thumb swing. Beyond feeling a little more demanding, nothing's really changed.
This extends to the revised fade and draw mechanics, which allow you to swing along an indicated diagonal path to shape the path of your ball left or right in the air. You could do this in previous titles, of course, but it’s baked into your swing meter this time and feels a little more substantial. EA Sports’ best trick has always been to pass off established abilities as new features, so it's perhaps overdoing it to get too excited by the addition. But regardless, it works and it works well.
Simply put, however, in terms of hitting the ball, only minor but decent changes have been made. Even the addition of 'golfer types,' player-specific specialities like power or control, do little to improve the moment to moment play of the game. It feels limiting rather than liberating.
Elsewhere, PGA Tour 13's Country Clubs feature has been beefed up. Basically a kind of golf version of an online clan, this mode allows you to join friends and chosen randoms to fight it out for the right to be club champion. Helping to flesh out the mode this year is a player cap increase from 25 to 100, the ability to create 24 player tournaments and text chat. If you have a large amount of friends that play the game, it's all worthwhile.
Far more meaningful are the strengthened online tournaments, which allow multiple golfers to participate in custom tournaments at the same time. And in a neat bit of visual trickery, you'll see other players' shots arcing through the air as you play. If you're clever, you can use these to your advantage, analysing their trajectory to find the correct line.
So that's all good, but the removal of PGA Tour 13's offensive unlock system, in which chunks of on-disc content were hidden away from users, is perhaps the biggest cause for celebration. Make no mistake, EA Sports will still do its best to squeeze you into paying for upcoming DLC, but at least it's no longer trying to implement the kind of monetisation seen in free-to-play games.
That's faint praise, however. The truth is that for all PGA Tour 14's welcome additions and alterations to the blueprint, there's only barely enough to justify a new title. In most cases it feels like EA Sports has desperately fumbled around for ideas to flesh out the bullet points on the back of the box. There's even a short tutorial vid when you fire the game up, highlighting the new stuff in case you miss it.
The achievement list follows a similar pattern. They've stripped out the more annoying challenges, like last year's 'Unstoppable!', and popped in a couple more creative efforts building on the game's new day/night options, like Howl at the Moon, but the result remains hugely familiar. It's marginally better, just not that different.
Hard to wholeheartedly recommend, yet undoubtedly an improvement over its predecessor, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 is an enjoyable and solid game. The next generation of consoles may be arriving just in time, however, because we're not convinced the series has anything more to give.
Despite yearly iterations, EA Sports still hasn't managed to get the commentary and crowd noises to sync properly with the action. It's annoying and smacks of amateurism.
Marginally better than last year, but still lacklustre, PGA Tour's visuals at least gain from some of the ageing effects rolled out for Legends of the Majors. Otherwise, they're utterly uninspiring.
The swing system has been adjusted yet again, but to no great effect. 'Golfer types,' allowing specialities like power, control and trajectory, feel like needless tinkering.
With Legends of the Majors, the improved online tournament and the taming of last year's horrible unlocks system, PGA Tour 14 is a step up. You certainly couldn't want for more modes and options.
Some fun achievements have been built around the game's largely pointless day night settings, but this is essentially the same list they've been trotting out for years.
Legends of the Masters dips into the sport's past, drawing on the power of its players and its history for one of the PGA Tour's best new features in recent years. Much of the rest of the additions, however, have little or no impact. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 is decent, but do we really need another EA golf game?