|System: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii|
|Dev: EA Sports|
|Pub: EA Sports|
|Release: March 29, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Angelo D'Argenio
I'm not a big golf fan, but I do know that golf is one of the only sports that is more fun to watch in video game form. Regardless of my apathetic stance to the sport in real life, I keep playing the Tiger Woods game series because there is a strange Zen-like addictive quality to them. Sinking a perfect shot on a nice sunny day is almost meditative in how relaxing and rewarding it is, but regardless of its therapeutic properties, it still does manage to get repetitive. If you trance out to one golf game, you've tranced out to them all. So the real question is: how does PGA Tour 12 set itself apart from the rest?
At first glance, it doesn't seem all that different from previous entries in the series. The analog swing control scheme is still there, and if you prefer a more classic 90's golf game feel, you can still use the three point click meter system to more accurately determine the power of your shot. You can still use the focus meter to make your shots more accurate, and colored grid overlays help you line up where your shots go. Online mode is still the focus of the series, but unfortunately you'll still spend hours grinding your stats in a JRPG-like manner in order to get your golfer up to snuff for online tournaments. All the old modes return from previous installments, from Stroke Play offline to GamerNet community challenges online. In fact, the game itself is very much the same game all around.
Instead of re-inventing the wheel regarding gameplay, EA focused on the environment instead. This time, it's all about The Masters, and every aspect of the game has been tweaked to pay homage to this grandest of golf tours. The announcers this time around are Jim Nantz and David Feherty, and they describe each hole on the iconic Augusta National course with a level of detail you would expect from actually watching the tour on Sunday TV. Nantz is supposedly one of the iconic voices of the sport, and I've been told it's a real pleasure to have him in the game. Then again, I'm not a golf fan, so I can't confirm how accurate this is.
The Augusta National course itself is perfectly replicated (or at least as far as I can tell from downloading maps of the course off the internet) as are all the other courses in the game. The appearance of the score cards has been changed to give off that Masters vibe. Even the grass in the game is greener than it has ever been, and now it's rendered in 3D! That honestly might be a little excessive, but nothing is too good for the Masters!
New Masters-themed game modes have been added for the golf fanatic as well. Masters Moments is a challenge mode that tasks you with recreating some of the more impressive shots of Masters history. Considering these are some of the most impressive shots the sport of Golf has ever seen, the mode is not easy. Even so, there are only nine challenges to choose from, and while you will be practically eating your controller in frustration as you try to triumph over each one, the mode is still too small and lacks any real replay value.
There is also a "Tiger at the Masters" mode, which allows you to control Tiger Woods through his Masters career, in an attempt to meet or beat his score and get all four of his wins yourself. The mode is a great addition for golf buffs, since it's the closest thing the game has to a story mode. Aside from the videos and cutscenes featuring Tiger himself, this is where you will feel closest to the golfing great. It's unfortunate that, like Masters Moments, it's rather short and has little replay value.
If you start to get sick of the Augusta National course where all this Masters stuff takes place, you can tackle the game's career mode, which is one of the most in-depth modes the franchise has seen to date. Appropriately titled "Road to the Masters," this mode lets you take control of your own golfer as he shoots for a green jacket of his own. At the beginning of the mode, you pretty much suck. Your shots will be off-course and you'll struggle toward placing in even the lowest of local events. Don't worry, though, you will get better. You'll progress through your local tournaments, pass Q school, head to the PGA, and eventually take on the Masters yourself. For all of this you are rewarded with nothing more than a congratulations screen. Lame ending, EA. Lame ending.