It must be an incredibly difficult task for those fine ladies and gentlemen over at EA Sports to knock out a brand new title, year after year, adding new features, refining gameplay and ensuring that players are offered an entirely new experience with each new iteration. The company has received plenty of flak from the public in the past about its turnaround of annual releases, but in more recent years that seemed to be less and less of a problem as the improvements were clear for all to see; particularly in titles like FIFA and NHL.
However, one series that has struggled to remain fresh with each passing year has been Tiger Woods PGA Tour. It certainly hasn’t been for the want of trying, as there have been plenty of attempts at reinvigorating the series down through the years, some more successful ass others, but it’s definitely one of those franchises we feel would perhaps be much better off becoming bi-annual, rather than sticking to the once a year cycle it’s been so fond of over the past three decades (yes, three decades… it’s now celebrating its 24th year – making it older than many of the players who enjoy it!)
At its core Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 retains essentially the same gameplay mechanics, whether playing with a traditional controller or getting stuck into that new-fangled motion-controlled side of things (for the record, we’ve been trying our best to tackle the game’s many courses using the PlayStation Move controller, but it’s just not for us – perhaps offering an insight as to just why we’re so bad at golf in real life), and the bulk of the changes have come elsewhere, most notably with the sheer amount of content on offer.
This year’s pre-release hype was centred around the fact that players can now take control of some of the most important moments in golf history, tackling historical scenarios faced by some of the game’s greatest players at Major events throughout the years. Now, we have but a passing interest in the real life circuit, so our history isn’t entirely up to scratch, but there’s an awful lot to be said about taking yourself back into the grainy, sepia-toned days of yesteryear to tackle classic courses in their long forgotten configurations with a bag of clubs bearing some of the most ridiculous names we’ve ever heard.
There’s absolutely no denying that, on face value at least, this has been quite a smart addition from EA Sports. Not only have they managed to find something to keep real golf buffs happy by allowing them to follow in the exact footsteps of the greats, but they’ve also enabled themselves to add in a huge amount of additional content without taxing themselves all too much. The only issue is that once the novelty has worn off it’s still the exact same game as the rest of it, which is almost the exact same game as last year’s iteration.
To counteract claims of a simple reskin, lick of paint and a few roster updates, there have been a few other notable additions and changes to Tiger 13. The big one, for us and for other long time fans, will definitely be simulation mode. If, for some reason, you’re not entirely happy with the fact that it’s quite easy to figure out enough of the basics to go around in double figures under par, you can opt for simulation mode, removing all assists and guides, and fend for yourself.
No matter how good you may think you are at the game, it’s a bloody jarring experience at first, and you’ll look far more like your real life self than Rory McIlroy for quite some time before slowly, but surely figuring it out. This addition in itself makes Tiger 14 the most realistic golf sim we’ve ever encountered, however it’s likely that the majority of players will never so much as give it a go, unfortunately. Those who do, and who stick with it, though, will be greatly rewarded, so it’s something we certainly recommend you try.
Tiger 14 also marks the first time a game has featured all four of the Majors, as well as finally adding in the LPGA Tour, making it the most well-rounded of golfing titles to date. And then there’s the expansion of Country Clubs from 25 to 100 members. And the rejigged Career Mode. And night golf. In short, there’s a serious amount of golfing to be done here, and serious value for money to be had, even if you opt for the regular version of the game with no additional courses, and choose not to spend your money on DLC.
So aside from all the extra content this year, what else is new? Presentation-wise there have been a lot of changes, although the game pretty much hit its visual peak last year. We already touched upon the oldschool aesthetics for classic moments, but on top of that the way information is presented to you throughout the game, most notably when you’re not hitting balls, has been massaged in such a way as to feel a lot fresher. You’ll not, for example, be seeing the leaderboard after every hole, rather every three or so instead, saving time and adding extra impact to checking out the standings. Another nifty feature is the fact that the time you choose to tee off will determine the way the light behaves for the duration of your round, adding dynamic reality to proceedings in a genuinely impressive way.
More casual players who aren’t interested in creating their own pro and slogging through the small-time events for their shot at the Green Jacket will be happy to learn that there’s a nice new Quick Tournaments option, specifically crafted to allow you to play the final round of a given tournament, stepping into the shoes of a pro under a particular scenario. You might be tied at the top going into the final round, for example, or find yourself needing to claw back a handful of shots from the overnight leader in order to emerge victorious. With the amount of gamers now hitting their mid-30s with families and children and all that other silly grown-up stuff, it’s a welcome addition from EA.
Now, we’re aware that it’s all been very positive stuff so far, which perhaps finds itself at odds with our introduction to this review, but aside from all the lovely new features (and they are lovely – have we mentioned the 24 player online play where your opponents are represented by little more than a shot arc, allowing everyone to play at their own pace?) we really can’t help but feel that the Tiger Woods franchise has hit something of a wall. Obviously that’s simply a reflection of how great a job the team has done of late, but we’re struggling to see where exactly it can go from here, on this generation or the next.
Tiger Woods 13 was a real master class in digital golfing, and this is more of the same with a whole heap of additional content. If you’ve already got last year’s game it’s difficult to suggest you run out this instant to pick this up unless you’ve seen and done everything there is to see and do and are desperate for a new challenge.
There’s no denying that Tiger Woods 14 is simply wonderful. Clear care and attention has been made to try and offer something new, but in that respect it falls short. In every other aspect, however, it ticks all the right boxes. Coming up with a score for the game has been trickier than usual, but after much deliberation, we’ve decided that it needs to be taken on its own merits – so feel free to subtract half a star if you’re a touch golf jaded, we won’t argue.