Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 Review
With the next generation of consoles glimmering like an oasis on the horizon, gamers and developers have arrived at an interesting crossroads. On the one hand, we are being treated to some of the best games of the last/current generation as developers are now familiar enough with the tech to push it to the limit. However, the other side of the coin is that some “annual” franchises are suffering from virtual procrastination – with developers seemingly waiting to pull out all the stops with newer technology around the corner. Sports titles are notorious for this, often being accused of offering minor tweaks to gameplay, a few graphical improvements, and roster updates with little or nothing else to entice fans. While these inclusions are nice, it’s hardly fare worth demanding a full priced release.
With that in mind, I’m half tempted to simply say that Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 is almost the same product you purchased last year and leave it at that. There are a few changes that are worth mentioning, but on the whole it’s not a noteworthy entry in the long-running series. Now Electronic Arts has me worried that this trend will continue with the rest of their sports titles this year.
The biggest inclusion this year is the Legends of the Majors mode. In this mode, you get to follow and play along with some of the most recognized names in the history of the sport and replay their most memorable moments. You get to go all the way back to Ben Hogan and Sam Snead (complete with old timey graphical overtones), through Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, and Tiger Woods. These moments are ingrained into the folklore of the sport itself, so having the opportunity to play against the legends of the game is a treat. The fact that you have to use period specific equipment only adds to the challenge! Don’t believe me? Borrow some old blade irons and then tell me how frustrating your afternoon on the links was!
This mode is the biggest draw to Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14, and far and away it’s biggest improvement. However, I think this addition is really only going to appeal to hardcore golf buffs, and those are the people who already purchased the game! If this doesn’t excite you then you’re probably better off not wasting your money.
I say that because on the course, the action feels virtually the same as last year. You have more options to fine-tune your swing and clubs leading to more options for shaping ball flight. As I said last year in my review of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13, this focus is probably lost on most casual golfers who have a hard enough time hitting the ball straight. Draws and fades are nice, but are rarely achieved on purpose! However, just like in real life, pulling off such shots is suitably rewarding, not to mention integral at the highest level.
Personally, the most exciting news in the career mode – which is largely unchanged as well – is finally having the rights for all four majors! You can now play The Masters, The Open Championship, The U.S. Open, and the PGA Tour Championship complete with all the trappings and pageantry. Winning the Grand Slam now actually feels like a noteworthy accomplishment! Another inclusion that feels overdue is the ability to play on the LPGA Tour for the first time. With authentic female golfers on the roster, this feels like a lot more, well-rounded experience rather than something that was simply tacked on.
I’m genuinely happy to see that EA listened to fans like myself who hated the use of “Pins” that were so integral to the game last year. Pins were used for pretty much everything and were far too restrictive. Fortunately, courses aren’t locked the way they were last year. You have more to choose from out of the gate, and if you want to pay for extra courses you can as you would with normal DLC. Now your earned experience can be used to level up your golfer. Unfortunately, everything is pretty much locked from the outset. The career mode is more rewarding because you get to see your avatar grow, but you’re going to have to be prepared to grind early on before you unlock enough goodies to dramatically alter your performance. Of course, you can always pony up some real life cash and pay to unlock everything if you like… oh EA, why do you make us hate you so!
If you take your Tiger Woods PGA Tour experience seriously, you probably belong to an online country club. This was the best draw of last year’s game as playing with a group of like-minded friends was both fun and challenging, as long as everyone could figure out times to play. This year you have the option of recruiting more members to join, and now boasts full voice chat! Since you can have tournaments with 24 golfers at once, that is certainly a nice inclusion!
A quick note about Kinect/Move functionality: Using the Kinect is pretty much the same as last year – that is to say fun but not terribly realistic. Of course, the camera is only mapping your swing on one plane (facing you), not three, as it would with the Move. Naturally the Move is going to be more akin to actually swinging a club, but in either case if you want to actually swing clubs and play golf, I recommend going outside! Neither option is terribly satisfying.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 is obviously geared towards serious golfers who appreciate the history of their favorite past time. Of course, these are the people who pre-ordered the game and are already playing it. But with the changes focused on golf’s illustrious history and gameplay changes favoring more elaborate shot shaping, one can make the argument that more casual gamers aren’t purchasing a wholly new experience this year. With new technology coming, I can’t wait to see what next year’s installment brings to the table… but I certainly hope it offers more than it did this year.
Reviewed By: Simon Waldron
Publisher: Electronic Arts
This review is based on a copy of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 for the Xbox 360 provided by Electronic Arts.