Plot: What’s it about?
It’s somewhat fitting that Tiger Woods would win his 72nd PGA tour event a mere 48 hours before his new game hit the shelves, isn’t it? Then again had he won the last two years, I suppose the same thing could be said. Yes, it’s officially spring and a new season of golf beckons. If you’ve purchased every version of this game, it’d be in the teens by now but they do keep making enough improvements so that you’ll keep buying the game year after year. Hey, it’s worked with me. Now I’ll come right out and say it, this is my first review of a video game. I’ve got thousands of DVD/Blu-ray reviews to my credit, but not a single video game. I’ll also say that I’m not someone who takes games that seriously or plays them all that much. Obviously most of my free time is spent, well, watching movies. But the first game I purchased for my “new” PS3 back in November 2006 was Tiger Woods PGA 07 and for the exception of the ’09 version, I’ve had them all. Last year we were finally introduced to The Masters, something which players thought would never happen and, thankfully, it’s back again. Golf purists know that it doesn’t get much better than the springtime ritual that is Augusta and the next best thing to being there (and most of us never will be), this is about as close as we’ll get.
Tiger Woods PGA 13 offers many improvements over years past and I’ve not logged enough time to really get into every nook and cranny. What I will try to do is detail some of the more major changes from the previous version and we’ll see if it’s worth the money to upgrade. Money is the operative word here as more and more things are available on the DLC (Download Center) as EA Sports is pulling out all the stops to not only get your money when buying the disc, but every penny after the fact. If you’ve never played a version of this game, then this is certainly the version to get. Most all “years” have what the previous edition did and a bit more and I will say that each consecutive year the graphics do get more realistic in regard to the golfer, crowds and the course itself. EA has also devised a way to separate the cheapskates from the true fans of the game. For the second (or perhaps third?) year in a row, this will be available in two versions: a Basic version and a Collector’s Edition for $10 more. But what do you get for that additional money? More courses (and a cooler, different cover). Is it worth it? In a word – yes. With that said, what’s new and what’s to be expected in the new version. Let’s find out…
As every golfer knows, it’s all about the swing. You can have the world’s most expensive driver, the best golf balls and so forth but if you can’t properly connect with the golf ball when teeing off – what does it matter? One thing that’s been totally changed around is the swing. In this version you can now control the swing plane and even add a draw and fade to your shot by positioning your feet differently. If you don’t know what a draw or fade is, maybe this isn’t the game for you (go back to shooting zombies). You can even control how fast you swing, the tempo and this affects the power of your shot. This is a welcome addition to this year’s game and something that’s taking me a bit to get used to.
For me it has been and always will be all about the courses. I’m playing on a 60″ plasma HDTV so the beauty and painstaking detail that some of these courses exhibit is what really keeps me coming back year after year. Granted, a majority of the courses make an appearance every year (Pebble Beach being the main one), but as I mentioned above – EA is always looking for ways to get your money, so you can download more for $5 – $9 a course. If you ponied up the additional funds for the Collector’s Edition and you should have because I told you to, then you’ll find an additional 6 courses over the basic edition. There are eleven more courses available for download via the DLC for a total of 32 playable courses. If you pre-ordered your game, you will get a voucher for an additional course (mine being the PS3 and seeing as how I got mine at GameStop, it’s the TPC Doral course). Half a dozen courses are totally new this year in that they’ve never been available on any other version of the game. Those are: Crooked Stick, The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, Royal Birkdale, Royal County Down, Valhalla and the PGA National Course.
Tiger’s Legacy Mode
A little “cute” feature lets you somewhat relive the life of Tiger Woods from his days as a toddler to trying to break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships. This is divided into ten different “chapters” if you will: Toddler years, Early years, Junior years, Amateur years, Rookie years, Tiger Slam, Pro Years, Present Day, Future and Record Books. I’m still in the early stages of this, but it’s fun and a break from playing the various courses. What seems to have disappeared from last year are the “Masters Moments” which let you somewhat re-enact some of the great shots from Masters past. Noticeably absent are Tiger’s “Hooker Years.” Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
Admittedly, this is a feature that I really haven’t explored yet, but for the benefit of this review I’ll say that you can either start your own Country Club or become a member of someone else’s (and I assume you could do both as well). You team up and compete against another club where the winner gets coins – the currency used in the game to buy things like pins and that will power up your golfer.
One thing that I really never took advantage of was the integration with the Playstation Move. I’m sure other gamers will realize that this functionality has been used, probably with much more success, in other games. This year the XBOX 360 edition will have the Kinect functionality used. While there is an XBOX 360 in my house, I never use it (my stepson does) so I really can’t comment on how useful this is. I stick with the standard PS3 controller and it’s fine with me. Still, the capability is there if it’s your cup of tea. Personally I’d wait a few more years on this one as I’m sure it’ll become a bigger part of this, and many other, games.
And that’s it. One thing I will say is that for the rather robust price tag ($70 for the Collector’s Edition), you do get your money’s worth. Up until this last weekend I was still playing Tiger Woods PGA 12. My initial impressions weren’t that great, then again I don’t adapt well to change. I’m sure, as in years past, that I’ll warm up to the new additions and I’m sure I’ll download more courses that look appealing and that I’ll never play.
Video: How does it look?
The game, like every other in the series (for the PS3, at least) is shown in a 1.78:1 HD image. As previously mentioned, each subsequent year seems to look just a bit better. I think I’ve got my first version, ’07, around so I might pop it in and do a little comparison. Each course tends to have its own personality and you can set this so that the skies look a bit different depending on the time of day. You can even vary weather patterns. Two things really jumped out at me visually with this newest installment. First off, the crowd. Yes, the crowd. No longer do they look like a bunch of androgynous drones wearing clothes that were in style in 1974 (miniskirts on girls, really?). No, the crowd has been improved and they now move somewhat independently, have some varying clothes and colors and as you get better, you’ll notice more of them watching your game. The courses themselves seem to look a bit better as well, with better rendered textures on the fairways and greens. I’ve had the opportunity to go to Pebble Beach and you can make out details like the restaurant in back of the 18th green and so forth. The players’ mannerisms look to be smoother as well and though they don’t look entirely lifelike, they’re getting better. I’m sure in about 10 years you won’t be able to differentiate a video game from a tournament on television, but until then…
Audio: How does it sound?
Audio is something I really don’t pay attention to since most of the time I’ve got the volume turned way down. This game seems to be on the loud side when compared to a film played at the same volume. My receiver shows this as a 7.1 mix and one thing I will say is that the surrounds do offer some nice ambiance. You’ll hear the occasional bird chirp or some wind gust from behind that’s pretty realistic. I was playing the other day and had my sliding glass door open and there were actually birds chirping outside and on the game as well. I really couldn’t tell the difference between the two! How’s that for realistic? When playing the game you can have the commentary by real-life golf commentators David Feherty and Jim Nantz. Nantz’s voice is by far the more calming of the two while Feherty will chastise even your slightest mistake. But they do give credit where its due. Thankfully you can either turn off the comments or turn the volume down and let the physical sounds of the game take over. Other sounds are normal, be it the metal “clink” when you tee off or the “thud” that you make when in the sand (and I am, often). It’s not a shoot ’em up game, so the effects are a bit on the subdued side.
There are no real “extras” to speak of unless you pay an additional $10 for the Collector’s Edition and get the extra six courses (that’s under $2 a course). Other than that, both games are identical other than the cover art. I will say that this game really is growing on me. I do like the “Tiger Legacy” segment and it’s no joke, I’m still in the toddler years! The menus have been streamlined and are much more intuitive than in years past. All in all, if you’ve got the past editions then you’ll most likely already have this one and if you’re new to this game, this is the perfect version to start with.