Tiger Woods 13
May 10, 2012, Author: Phil Ubee
Tiger Woods has had his reputation somewhat tarnished over the past few years both off the course and on it, as the new breed of European superstars have taken over the top of golf’s world rankings following that split. However, in terms of golfing video-games, Tiger is still in a league or his own. It would seem EA Sports have no intention of ditching the title sponsor from their annual PGA Tour game.
Usually, when a new TW game is released, the sun is shining and the temptation to go out on the course for real is high for any golf lovers. Not so this year, with the release being closely followed by the most consistent downpour we’ve had for several months. Even a trip to the driving range is down at the bottom of the list for things to do with my weekend, so I’ve taken the opportunity to play my golf from the comfort of my armchair instead. The question is: how does it compare?
I am Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods 13 gives you the opportunity to create your own persona and work your way up from amateur to the world’s number one, taking in all the best golf courses on the way. Fortunately, as someone who played last year’s game I was welcomed into this year’s career mode with 50,000 XP to boost my golfer’s attributes. This gave me a nice little start but made the early amateur events (on the default pro difficulty) incredibly easy.
Also, despite importing my TW12 golfer I still had to design and create my golfer from scratch again. Thankfully the editor is as good as ever, so if you want to create a genuine likeness you shouldn’t have too many issues; or you could simply use the game face option and import a photo of yourself.
The Career mode takes a familiar form, as you go into each event and face a training game against one of the world’s top players, followed by a sponsorship event. This is usually a challenge-style game that requires you to hit a certain score through a set number of holes, and is followed by the actual tournament itself. The training and sponsor event are entirely optional but do allow you to complete Skills Challenges, achieve targets towards Course Mastery, unlock new equipment and earn XP, Coins and Status Points.
XP, as ever, is used to upgrade your golfer’s stats in Power, Accuracy, Workability, Spin, Recovery and Putting. The upgrades will cost more XP the more you add, so initially a point may cost just 100XP but when you get into the 70’s they will be costing you 2500XP instead. This means that you can get to a good standard quite quickly, but to become great takes a bit more time and effort.
Coins are used as the game’s currency to buy additional courses and pin-packs. This is one of the subtle changes to this year’s version, as pins were previously earned by hitting score targets on the course, much like the old trophy balls of earlier games in the series. Now the pins are used to boost your player’s attributes like increased accuracy or extra driving power. This has a secondary effect on the basic mechanics, as the ability to boost your shot by repeatedly tapping A is now not there at all; although, the spin that you can apply once the ball is hit is available on the lower two difficulty settings.
Pitch and putt
The other key single-player component is the Legacy Challenge, which sets out a massive 53 different challenges based on the story of Tiger’s career. This kicks off with his (very) early training and his first ever TV appearance as a toddler, leading right up to the present day and even beyond into his (he hopes) future glories, culminating in the ultimate goal of equaling Jack Nicklaus’ major record.
The challenges are relatively varied but come in two basic forms. First off we have mini-games which act as training on the various components of the sport. These range from the quite playful, such as chipping into your mum’s handbag in the garden, to the very straight-forward putting green. Secondly we have the bigger competition challenges, which require you to play a certain number of holes hitting a score target in a match play event, or maybe even a round of battle golf where the winner of the hole gets to take a club out of their opponent’s bag.
In the background throughout are the Skills Challenges and Course Mastery. These are slight tweaks rather than major overhauls to the fundamental aspects of the TW franchise dating back to before this generation of consoles. Skills challenges are essentially the new Trophy Balls and take the form of hitting birdies, eagles, fairways and greens. There is an added bonus in that you can earn Status Points for your Country Club by completing Skills Challenges.
As is the way in the modern world of social networks and web presence you can link your accounts on EA Sports Challenge with Facebook, Tiger Woods Online and your console account, so that you can work on the Skills Challenges wherever you are. It’s a nice touch but personally I miss the Trophy Balls; maybe it’s a sign of my age.
Course Mastery has basically followed on from last year where you have silver and gold targets on each course, which might be a set number of birdies or getting round under a set score for example. Once you’ve achieved the set targets you earn Mastery on the course, which will get you coins to purchase the downloadable courses and ultimately unlimited plays on those downloadable courses.
The general mechanics of the game haven’t changed a great deal from previous iterations. The left stick is used to swing your club while the right stick is used to adjust things like stance and strike which allow you to add draw, fade, loft and spin to your shots. This basic setup has been tweaked ever so slightly from last year, which gives you a bit more freedom to be creative on shot setup.
The swing meter itself has changed slightly as well; in fact we have the return of the swing arc for the first time in about four years, all be it in the form of a a single white line rather than the blocky approach of yesteryear. This is accompanied by a feedback meter that comes up after the shot is played, showing you the line of your swing and grading your backswing and downswing. Backswing is measured as underswing where you haven’t gone far enough back to overswing but where you’ve gone beyond a standard swing. Overswing adds a power boost but can affect your accuracy if you’re not careful. Downswing is graded on pace or smoothness of the swing from slow to fast. Again, fast can give your shot a power boost but is also likely to affect accuracy a touch.
This arc changes slightly for putting, where the box and bar system of last year has been replaced by a sort of graph on the floor, which has a white section for under power and a red section for over power. Putt previews are back, although you can only use one per putt. The Caddie option has also been retained for all shots, where you can get the suggested shot setup off the green and a nice little target circle to aim at when on the green.
Course for concern
The Tiger Woods series of games have always been pleasing on the eye and this year’s effort is no different. The golfers themselves have been lovingly recreated by EA Sports right down to Rory McIlroy’s bird nest haircut, and some of the more flamboyant outfits sported by the world’s top players. Likewise, the attention to detail on the courses is simply incredible. Every bunker, every bush and every tree from the world’s best courses are here and, as in real life, every blade of grass is cared for. This is to the point that when you take a close look at the lie of your ball, you feel as though you could actually pick the grass out of the TV.
The weather effects are also really well created on-screen, with rain lashing down onto the course and causing spray from the ball, as well as a slower roll when on the green. As the wind gets up your golfer’s clothes, they even visibly flutter; as do the flags around the course. It all looks amazing.
Off the course there is the now customary EA Sports front end presentation with slick, easy to navigate menus set against a still from one of the many courses. Although it doesn’t trigger automatically, those famous hole fly-by’s are still there in glorious detail.
Golf is not exactly a loud sport by nature and in TW13 it’s more about subtlety than in-your-face, up-beat music. Clubs whoosh as you go through your downswing, and that ping when you catch the ball right is captured perfectly and gives you the feel of being out on the course. You can also hear the birds sing and the leaves rustling in the trees on windy days, adding to the atmosphere.
Elsewhere the crowd will cheer, applaud or groan at the appropriate moment, while menus and tournaments have a soft musical background, lifted straight from the TV tournaments. As you get to some of the bigger tournaments, the TV presentation continues into the commentary.
Unfortunately, that commentary is decidedly average overall, having not really moved on in this generation of home consoles. It quickly becomes repetitive and generally offers very little to the atmosphere; although, I do like the fact that it only comes into play in the bigger tournaments.
TW13 has the usual wealth of multiplayer options that can be played both locally or over Xbox Live and PSN. Locally you can have up to four golfers using a single control pad too, so there are no excuses for not getting your mates round for a nice friendly game.
The more creative game modes on offer are the likes of Bingo-Bango-Bongo, which rewards the first player to hit the green, the closest to pin and the winner of the hole, leading to some cheeky under-hits to ensure you get the second shot on a hole first. There’s also Battle Golf, which allows the winner of the hole to remove a club from his opponent’s bag or replace one removed from his own.
Online there are the usual lobbies and quickmatch options to play in the same Head to Head matches, as well as online Tournaments which see you playing your round of a set event alone and your score being recorded in competition with other players. These Tournaments are only open for a certain amount of time, and allow only limited attempts to get that competitive score.
The major new addition this year in terms of online play is the Country Club. This is essentially the addition of community-based gaming, allowing you to join either a public Club or set one up with your friends. The Status Points briefly mentioned earlier (given at the end of a round on all the game modes) are used to increase the stature and notoriety of your chosen Country Club. In return for this you receive a coin boost to allow you quicker access to the Pin Boosts and Downloadable course.
The other thing that being a member of a Country Club allows is the option to play Head to Head and Tournaments within the Club, rather than across the entire Tiger Woods community. This leads to a Club leader who has bragging rights and authority over the rest of the Club members.
Birdie or bogey?
Tiger Woods 13 is simply brilliant, and is something of a rarity by EA Sports in that the subtle changes of this years version make a big difference to the overall game. Graphically it looks a bit better and the sound is much the same, but the tweaks to the swing meter, and even more so the Putt meter, make control of shots far better overall.
In addition, the introduction of the Tiger Legacy Challenge adds a considerable amount of depth and playability to the single-player game, while the Country Club adds a similar layer to the online modes. The only drawback for me is the removal of those beautifully collectable Trophy Balls. Usually with one of EA Sports’ big yearly franchises the final decision will depend on when you last bought a copy of the game, but not here. Even if you have last year’s version (which I do), this is the easiest BUY IT! I’ve ever given.