Virtual sports are great, but they almost never convey the intensity of being there on the field. Golf may be the most relaxing of digital pastimes, but in real life it can be a nerve-wracking game. Every twitch of your wrist, every slight adjustment to posture, and swing angle can prove disastrous if you aren’t careful. For these reasons, virtual golf has always been a safer game than its real life counterpart. There are only so many things that your digital avatar can do to screw up a shot with those analog swings, anyway. That way of thinking no longer applies to the Xbox 360 version of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13, thanks to Kinect...
If you have Kinect, you can mimic your real world golf swing and translate it into the game. This opens up a whole new range of strategies for swinging, and most importantly a whole new range of ways to mess it all up. In a medium-sized, well-lit room, Kinect was picking up my swings ably, and it reflected just how long it has been since I’ve hit the links in real life. With a few adjustments to posture and positioning, though, my swing was noticeably more accurate. There will almost certainly be a period of adjustment for new players, as swinging an imaginary golf club takes some getting used to. It might help to use a real club or something of the sort, if the room allows for it. It’s impressive that Kinect’s hardware can mimic the sport to the degree that you may need a physical club in your hands to play properly, but the peripheral didn’t always function as desired. While swinging using your body can be exhilarating, it can also be infuriating.
"Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 takes a few wobbly steps towards progression, but it’s hard to recommend the game when it seems so dead-set on sucking more money out of your pockets."
This is the first time that Microsoft’s motion sensor has been implemented in a Tiger Woods game, and to a certain extent it shows. If the lighting conditions are anything but perfect, expect to have some issues with your swings. Ditto if you are too close to or too far from the device. Dropping out can be a big problem as the courses ramp up in difficulty. I can’t even describe how frustrating it can be to have Kinect lose track of your body two or even three times in a row as you attempt to make a pivotal putt. Consequently, Kinect support, is strictly hit or miss.
If you are playing PGA Tour 13 seriously, you will want to stick with the traditional analog controls. These have been refined ever so slightly since last year’s game, and although they are easily the best that virtual golf has to offer at the moment, they are not so different from last year’s Masters stint that they justify buying the whole game over again. These new controls place heavy emphasis on the position of your avatar’s feet, the position at which you strike the golf ball, and the rhythm of your swing. If you want to hit balls accurately, you will have to ensure that both the upward and the downward motions are smooth, straight, and consistent in their speed. It’s a bit more technical than anything the golfing genre has seen before, and because of this it can seem more difficult at first. Advanced players will appreciate the flexibility of the system, though, and new players will quickly adjust.
The game’s tracking of the left stick as you swing it back and forth to make your shots is almost scary in its accuracy. A little chart of the trajectory of the thumbstick will be overlaid on the bottom left side of the HUD after each shot detailing exactly where the stick went. This can be a great resource for new players looking to understand why their seemingly great shot went awry.
You will be getting a lot of practice with that swing during the game’s lengthy Tiger Legacy mode. This mode doubles as a sort of campaign mode in that it follows the character of Tiger Woods throughout his life, presenting you with new and unique objectives as you go. You will begin the Legacy mode playing as a young Tiger in his backyard, and advance all the way up to his record-breaking tours of the Majors. It’s an interesting mode in theory, but it falters heavily in execution. The one thing above all else that makes a great athlete is their dedication to practice, and if the Legacy mode is to be believed, Tiger has had plenty of practice. Problem is, practice is redundant and boring when you aren’t the one actually doing it.
The beginning stages of the Legacy mode are incredibly dry and tedious. You will practice as a young Tiger, hitting balls into nets, swimming pools and the like. The net sections are virtually impossible to fail, making their inclusion all but pointless. Other practice sections, such as hitting balls into the backyard pool, are highly repetitive and take little skill to excel at. It isn’t until about the halfway mark of the Legacy mode that things start to get interesting, but even then you will find yourself wishing for a more traditional game of golf. The Legacy mode’s strict adherence to historical accuracy makes playing it feel stifling. You can’t take your own approach to success; you have to follow the events just as they occurred in real life.
Luckily, there are plenty of courses to play in the free play mode, and plenty of famous golfers to choose from. Sixteen courses are included in the main game, and these will take you a solid fifteen to twenty hours to master. As you do so, you will level up your golfer, unlocking tons of equipment such as new clubs and new customization items in the process. These little bonuses are all well and good, but they pale in comparison to the amount of pay-to-play content that EA has shoved into this game. Numerous courses, items, and skill boosts have been locked artificially, just waiting for you to pay to unlock them, despite the fact that you already dropped sixty bucks on the core game, and all of these items should rightfully have been included right off the bat.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 takes a few wobbly steps towards progression, but it’s hard to recommend the game when it seems so dead-set on sucking more money out of your pockets. The Tiger Legacy mode is limiting and dull, the Kinect support is hit or miss, and the great new stick controls still aren’t enough of a change to warrant dropping another sixty bucks. The extortionate pay-to-play model is just the straw that broke the camel’s back. There’s a great golf game somewhere inside PGA Tour 13, but with so many factors dragging it down, it ends up being a lot more mediocre than it rightfully should have.
Release date : 2012-03-27
Publisher : EA Sports
Developer : EA Tiburon
Gameplay : Sports
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