|System: Xbox 360*, PS3|
|Dev: EA Tiburon|
|Pub: EA Sports|
|Release: March 27, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Updating sports game franchises has to be one of the hardest things to do in this industry. The rules of a sport never change, and big headlining athletes spend a lot of time in the spotlight. You can change the way the game controls, but then you risk losing your old fans. You can add new players, teams, or venues, but this generally isn't enough to warrant buying a new game every year for the casual crowd. Yet the biggest sports franchises in the business continue to put out new games on a yearly basis.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour is the next sports title up for renew with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13. How does EA introduce something fresh and new into the franchise this time? With motion controls, of course! Yes, the big new draw of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 is a fully Kinect-controlled experience. While the rest of the game delivers the same golf simulation you have come to enjoy from the PGA Tour series, the Kinect controls offer a brand new way to play the game.
First of all, the game's menu system has been streamlined, Before each shot, a simple side menu will give you options such as Change Club, Change Stance, Ask Caddie, and more. When you aren't playing the game with the Kinect, you simply scroll through these options to choose the one you want, and select it for easy shot customization. Shooting without the Kinect is handled just like it was in PGA Tour 12, and by using the game's swing meter you are able to slowly dial in on the perfect shot over time. Playing the game without Kinect controls is fun, but gets old rather quick. It feels a lot like playing PGA Tour 12 all over again, just with a more streamlined interface.
However, the game completely changes when used with Kinect, becoming something much closer to a virtual reality golf experience. To navigate the menus, simply move a hand up and down to select the option you want. This allows you to easily change your club or my stance, and although it's just a small touch, actually reaching out to grab your club feels better than selecting one from a menu. Additionally, I would have thought that aiming a shot with motion controls would be difficult, but I was wrong. While aiming, your hand essentially becomes a mouse cursor. This gives you an amazing amount of precision that analog sticks actually have a hard time replicating.
While aiming by moving your hand may seem awkward, there are plenty of motion controls that actually simulate the movements you would make on a golf course. For example, you zoom in the camera by putting your hand over your eyes as if you were shielding them from the sun. This allows you to get a nice read on where to aim your shot. Similarly, crouching in order to see a shot at ground level is performed by actually crouching in front of your TV. To prepare to swing the club, you simply take a golf stance by clasping your hands together in front of your TV. Swinging involves actually swinging your hands as if they were swinging a golf club. The game keeps track of your posture in order to determine how you'll hit the ball. On low difficulties, the game is nice and compensates for errors in your posture, but on higher difficulties you'll have to actually mimic a professional golf swing in order to avoid hooking or slicing the ball.
However, the best motion control, in my opinion, is the ability to choose how the ball spins after you shoot it. Simply move your arm around to influence the exact direction the ball rotates as it flies through the air. By utilizing these controls, I was frequently able to guide the ball straight into the cup even when my shot was off. It kind of feels like cheating. In a good way.
In addition to the motion controls, the Kinect adds a series of voice commands, which make the virtual golfing experience feel even more natural. Using them, you can actually circumvent the menu system all together. To change your club, just say "change club: nine iron." To preview your shot, just say "shot preview." The voice commands are the same as the game's menu-titles, so you'll never forget your voice options. Not only that, but the voice recognition system is good. It only failed to recognize what I was saying once or twice. Even when I was frustrated or exasperated, it still knew what club I was looking for. After a couple sessions of play, I naturally started using voice commands to control all the menus, club management, and asking my caddie for advice, while using motion controls to aim and make my shot. Simply put, the Kinect controls are fun, effective, and well programmed.