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The Masters Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12

 

The Masters Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12

ESRB: Everyone - E
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Sports
 
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8.25
 
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Developer: EA Tiburon
Publisher: EA Sports

Features:

The Masters!
1-4 players (local and online)
Supports 1080p and Live Vision camera
16 courses
All new Caddie feature
New graphical enhancements

Finally Augusta National and The Masters finds its way to the video game world. After far too long, arguably the most famous golf course and tournament in the world (sorry British Open fans) is realized on consoles. Does its inclusion alone make it worth picking up Tiger 12? What else is EA bringing to the table in this year’s offering? Let’s find out.

Graphics

Graphically, this year’s version of Tiger is a nice step forward. It’s not revolutionary but still a nice step. Two things instantly popped out to me: the grass and the lighting. The grass is now rendered in 3D giving it a badly needed sense of depth and thickness. You don’t always see it up close but texturally it adds a very realistic look to the course as you play. The lighting in the game also appears to have been improved. This helps add to that sense of realism. Improved anti-aliasing really helps around the bunker's edges.

The courses themselves look fantastic. Your perspective down the fairway is right on and there’s plenty of course detail. The soft cloth animations are still intact and don’t look as exaggerated as they did when first introduced last year. You can also still upload an image of your face and map it on to your created character. I always like this feature. The game does a decent job of doing it and there’s plenty of fine tuning you can do in the character creation mode to make it look as much like you as you can.

The animations are great in the golf swing but there’s a weird choppiness at the point of ball impact during replays. Thankfully this doesn’t affect the game play but it hurts the TV-style presentation, which is otherwise pretty good. There’s also a few hiccups from time to time when you try and skip a replay

Sound

The TV-style presentation continues with the game’s musical score. It sounds exactly like what you hear on golf broadcasts on TV. The colourful David Feherty makes his return to the game. He’s a love-him or hate-him kind of guy but I think he’s great. Jim Nantz also gives a credible feel to the audio portion of the presentation. Unfortunately there’s just not enough dialogue from either of them to keep things from getting repetitive.

Golf is a pretty quiet game but I’m always impressed with the ambient sounds in golf games. Tiger always has and continues to do this well. There’s definite room for improvement though. The sounds of the actual golf shots (contact) sound a little canned. I’d love to see EA capture the woosh of the club better in the golf swing when players attack the ball on a swing. While I’m creating a wishlist, I’d love to hear different clubs (especially drivers) have unique sounds on impact as they do in real life.

Gameplay

I’ve actually stopped purchasing most sports games because I’ve tired of paying full price for a game that trots out just a couple of new features each year. Save for golf that is. While there’s not enough competition for my money in the genre, Tiger consistently brings a solid golf experience each year with just enough “new” to keep me coming back. This year it is all about The Masters. I realize that many point to The Open as the most famous golf tournament in the world but here in North America I would argue that is the Masters.

I’ll come right out and say it. The inclusion of Augusta and The Masters makes this an automatic purchase for golf fans on its own. EA Tiburon has painstakingly worked with Augusta National Golf Club to create an incredible representation of the course, the tournament and its storied history.

The main mode of the game is The Road To The Masters. With a created golfer you play through an Amateur Tour, the Nationwide Tour and Q-School to get to the main PGA Tour and eventually the Masters. This year, the various challenges that were found in sections outside of the main career mode are integrated right into each event weekend. In order to move on to the next tour you must fulfill a series of objectives. Once fulfilled, you are promoted to the next tour without having to play all of the events that are presented to you. I noticed that you cannot go back and play challenges (if you skipped them, say) after you’ve completed a tournament event.

The training and sponsor challenges are similar to what you’ve seen in past Tiger games. You play different types of golf matches against one of the game’s included pros or exceed a set of criteria such as birdie 2 of 4 par 5’s on a specific course. I found the match events to be extremely difficult and unforgiving. The sponsor challenges were a bit easier but neither game type yields much XP and therefore I didn’t find myself compelled to play them.

XP acts similar to past games. You earn it during matches and tournaments and spend it towards improved, typical skills such as putting, touch, accuracy and power. New clubs and outfits (that come with XP boosts) are earned through fulfilling sponsor requirements.

Before I get into the actual gameplay, a few quick points about The Masters. Not only is the course and tournament playable in game, you can play out several Masters Moments that recreate great moments in the tournament’s history. Further to that you can play as Tiger and recreate his four victories at the tournament. Playing these modes unlock further features such as behind the scenes imagery. There’s also a very nice Inside Augusta feature that gives hole by hole details about the course. It is all very well done.

So, let’s get to the actual golf. The biggest new thing in terms of game play this year is the introduction of a caddie. Before each shot your caddie may suggest various options for shots. They are typically provided in a risk versus reward fashion. For example, one shot might be to lay up on a par 5 and the other would be to play it safe and lay up. As you play courses multiple times and satisfy a number of mastery criteria, your caddie “learns” the course and offers different and better shot options. At first the caddie feature seemed simply like a way of opening the game to new or more casual players. You simply choose a shot and perform the swing. While you can’t disable the caddie, you can certainly opt to not take any of his suggestions and set up your own shots in the traditional fashion. Do that enough and the game smartly defaults to the custom shot setup for you. My first impressions of the caddie changed as I played more and learned more about how it works and I found myself using the caddie to select a shot option and then I’d dial things in with the custom shot setup. This strategy was most effective on the approach shots.

While the controls remain the same, there are a couple of new game play elements and layout changes. You can now choke down on your grip to help fine tune distance control. This is mapped to the right thumbstick as is loft angle and draw & fade spin. This can all be set up prior to the swing. Your lie data is presented nicely in a close up of the ball when you move the left thumbstick down before address. The information is critical in aiming your shot. I can't help but feel it is slightly exaggerated though.

The swing mechanics and putting stroke also seem increasingly sensitive. If this is indeed the case, it is welcome. Golf is a finicky game where touch and feel play a large part. Having extra sensitivity when swinging and putting helps to make it feel like real golf. There are simply times where you’re going to pull a putt left in real life and you’ll do it here too.

There are 16 courses included with the game and an additional 20 courses available (at a price) for download. 6 of the courses in game are new ones but the focus really is on Augusta here. There are 22 real golfers including seven new, younger golfers on the PGA tour such as Bubba Watson, Zach Johnson and Ricky Fowler. With this being a President’s Cup year it is nice to see this included similar to how the Ryder Cup was last year.

Online features are largely the same as last year. EA offers a number of tournaments that you can join and play but I can’t help but find myself wanting some sort of XSN-like feature that allows users to create their own tournaments.


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