Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 – Xbox 360
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Tiberon
Release Date: Mar 26, 2013
Genre: Sports
Reviewed by Travis Young

Review Score: 3.5 of 5

I’ve been playing the Tiger Woods franchise for far too long now; well past the relevancy of the man on the cover and well past any hopes of true innovation on the part of EA Sports. While I cannot prove it without decompiling the game’s code I am fairly confident that the core engine in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 is the same core code as the last three or four games if for no other reason than the game shares all the same annoying glitches and bugs as its predecessors; garbled speech, periodic lock-ups that require a system reset, and of course, painful load times even after installing the game to the Xbox hard drive. EA continues to refine their premier golf franchise each year but in none of the ways we want or need.

Each year brings a new gimmick; a hook that is supposed to entice you into another $60 core purchase, and since all those DLC courses you bought last year won’t transfer over, another $30-40 in course bundles. Recent installments have allowed us to play in the Masters at Augusta or grow up with Tiger throughout various lifetime signature moments, but this year provides us with perhaps the best possible feature to date; Legends of the Majors, an entertaining and insightful look into the historic timeline of professional golf from its inception to present day. You’ll step into the shoes of golf’s greatest legends and try to match or even best their historic performances. Ironically, this mode has captivated me far longer than the traditional core career mode which, pardon the pun, has run its course.

But is one mode enough to snatch another $60-100 from our pockets? In past years I’ve always justified the purchase of $40 worth of DLC with the fact my review copy from EA was free and I was still coming out ahead, but after last year’s course bundle purchase that drained the majority of a 4000 point card I swore I was done buying extra courses. But EA is clever in that devil-on-your-shoulder kind of way, and as you progress through the career you will inevitably come to events that take place on courses that don’t come on the core disc, and the game will taunt you with a potential DLC purchase to play the event as it was intended or substitute one of the 20 courses they do provide to stand in for the missing real estate.

And of course the Coin system is back, always nagging you to purchase EA currency with Microsoft currency that you’ve already purchased with real money – anyone else smell a money laundering scheme here? Just kidding. Coins can purchase all sorts of goodies to speed you through the game much faster than earning them legitimately through gameplay; the most important of which are pins and pin refills. Prior to each round you can equip a variety of pins to your golf bag that will enhance your game in various ways in a “pay to cheat” system that I exploited last year and have entirely avoided this year.

So beyond the obvious new game mode, what other new features does PGA Tour 14 bring to the clubhouse? Well, for the first time ever you now get to play in all four golf majors; the Masters, the U.S. Open, the Open Championship, and the PGA Championship. Country Clubs get a major overhaul upping the size limit from 25 to 100 golfers while adding new Club Chat, stats tracking, and loyalty bonuses. You can even play with up to 23 other golfers at the same time in the new Connected Tournaments where you get to see the shot arcs of all the live tournament players. And if you can’t be bothered with creating your own country club or joining another, the game will place you in one automatically after your first game.

While the broadcast presentation style has been enhanced and a few more comments have been added to Jim and David’s repertoire, I am still hearing the same comments I heard 4-5 years ago. I think it’s time to either scrap this broadcasting duo or at least start fresh with a new batch of commentary. And why am I getting that same garbled overlap of multiple sound clips every fifth or sixth hole just like the ones that annoyed me in the past four game installments? Did my from-the-fringe eagle suddenly cause Jim to speak in tongues? At least the crowd noises, course environments, and soothing music all help to enhance the experience.

Total Swing Control is back and now enhanced with fade and draw attributes that you can assign to your golfer at creation time then exploit by angling your follow-through swing to shape the ball’s trajectory to overcome course or wind hazards. After all of these years trying to master the perfect straight swing they are now asking you to master the angled swing as well. Something else to watch for is the ball lie and the strike contact point of the club, especially when you are hitting from the second cut or the beach. You’ll need to manually position the crosshair using the right stick to adjust the contact point between club and ball for a quality stroke. You also get to choose between playing a Power or Control golfer, each with their own pros and cons, and swing tempo now plays a major part of your overall swing effectiveness. It all leads up to the new Simulation mode that takes your golf game to a whole new level of seriousness. Gone are all the gimmicks that allow you to game the system, leaving you with only real striking physics and real word results.

Kinect is back and if you read my review last year you already know my feelings on what was rather a poor implementation of motion-tracking control. It remains a fun way for kids to get physical and have casual fun with the game, but there is no way you can take the imprecise nature of this system seriously when it comes to playing this game competitively online or even in a normal career mode. The various gesture for changing the views is clever and I do enjoy the voice commands, but ultimately even having the Kinect “connected” to your Xbox will slow down the game. At first I just covered the camera to avoid random detection issues, but I ultimately just disconnected the device anytime I play the game now.

Graphically, Tiger Woods PGA Tour has always looked amazing and this latest version is no exception with stunning visuals that are further enhanced with new lighting effects to replicate sunset, sunrise, and even the ability to play night golf. You can even toggle live time and weather to sync your game with the real conditions and time of the course venue at the time you are playing. One particularly cool aspect when playing through the early portions of the timeline of Legends games is the use of sepia filters and aging effects that give the illusion you are watching your game play out on archival footage. It’s a nice monochromatic break from the traditional green grass and blue skies.

PGA Tour 14 ups the course roster from last year’s 16 to 20 courses; the most offered in a Tiger Woods game to date, adding in Mission Hills, Muirfield Village, Oak Hill Country Club, Royal Troon, and TPC Lousiana. If you go for the Masters Historic Edition you get six more courses and that still leaves you with 22 additional DLC courses including the new Colonial Country Club and four fantasy courses. The game also comes with 32 licensed golfers including historically accurate multiple versions of legendary players like Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, and Jack Nicklaus. There are 20 current pros including 15 men and five women and even some celebrity golfers.

While Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 does appear to offer the most comprehensive golf game in the franchise’s history, it’s ultimately up to you if those changes are worth another $60-100 to enjoy them. I’ve fallen prey to the yearly trap of getting all excited about the game and impulsively buying all the DLC course then three months later I realize I’m not even playing the core game anymore and find myself deleting the courses to free up hard drive space. If your interest in this franchise goes beyond the casual golf game. ..if you desire to setup your own country club and manage your own tournaments and have lots of friends willing to do the same then look no further than Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14. Everyone else can probably have just as much fun playing the game (and the DLC) they purchased last year, and I’ll continue to wait for some truly significant game changing update in next year’s edition.