A Virtual Golfing Experience
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.
The introduction of the Kinect to the PGA Tour is easily the biggest draw of PGA Tour 13, but there are some new game modes worth noting. The Legacy Challenge is probably the most peculiar mode we have seen in a golf game yet. In it, you get to follow not only Tiger Woods’s golfing career, but also his life. The mode actually starts you off by controlling Tiger in his toddler years. Yes, you are actually controlling Tiger Woods when he was no more than five years old. You follow “Baby Tiger” as he hits balls into his backyard swimming pool, and as you complete these almost surreal life-themed challenges, Tiger grows up. You’ll follow him through childhood, straight through his pro years, to present day, and then to the future! It’s a mode that gets you incredibly intimate with Tiger Woods’s life story in an almost creepy way. Still, it’s one of the most fun modes in the game.
The other much-hyped game addition is the ability to form “Country Clubs” in online play. Country Clubs are essentially leagues or “guilds” for your golfing friends. By joining one, you’ll start to earn status for your club whenever you compete in a match. Earning status levels your club up, and leveling your club up gives you massive coin bonuses. Clubs will also give you objectives to complete, which come with coin and status bonuses attached to them, and the best players in a club also receive rewards. Heck, you even get a reward simply for continuing to play the game. For each four consecutive days that you play the game, your country club will give you a bonus. It essentially puts more replay value into the game but focuses it on online play, which will do a lot to bolster the Tiger Woods online community.
Everything else about Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 is pretty much identical to Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12. However, the addition of Kinect Controls, Legacy Challenge, and Country Clubs certainly make it worthwhile to upgrade. In fact, the Legacy Challenge and Country Clubs are worth it even if you don’t own a Kinect. But if you do own a Kinect, you’ll be able to experience one of the most well-designed Kinect experiences to date. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 is most likely the best PGA Tour game yet. If you are a golf fan, you should definitely pick it up.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.7 Graphics
The graphics haven’t improved much over PGA Tour 12, but they don’t hinder the gameplay in any way. 4.8 Control
Though it’s difficult to navigate menus with the Kinect, everything else feels completely natural. 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The commentators do a competent job and the sound effects are realistic. 4.0 Play Value
It took motion control to make me enjoy a golf game, and enjoy it I did. 4.1 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best