I’ve noticed a trend as of late with EA Sports titles, recent games like SSX, Fight Night Champion, and FIFA Street all try to connect gamers, reward gamers, and tell a story. The same holds true for Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13. Virtual golfers are now more connected to each other more than ever in the game, as you play you gain various rewards, and while last years Road to the Master’s told the story of the Master’s Tournament, this year we get to re-live the life of Tiger Woods in Tiger’s Legacy. This year doesn’t just see change come to how you play Tiger Woods PGA Tour, but there are also big changes that alter the way in which the game is played.
Got a question about our time with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13, ask us in our VGR Hands-On Q&A.
This year the development team made major strides forward to create a more challenging and realistic control scheme. Total Swing Control revamps the entire swing mechanic allowing gamers full controls over every aspect of a swing, from the tempo, to the swing plane, and power. Total Swing Control sounds real daunting at first, but the truth is, it’s not only fun to master but once you understand it you’ll be playing unlike you’ve ever played before. Total Swing Control begins with your shot setup. You’ll notice right away the normal aiming marker that you can move around to place your shot, but now you can alter your golfers stance, opening or closing their stance allowing you to create draws and fades. And then to finish off the shot set-up you can now move you stance forward or back to alter the ball’s location, which in-turn alters the shots trajectory. As I said this sounds real daunting at first for casual fans of the series like myself. But that is why you have a caddie, pressing Y will give you all the suggested placement and stance set-up information, and once you start getting a grasp of the system you’ll be able to set-up your shots without the help of your caddie.
Now moving on to the actual swing. In this years game the tempo and speed of your swing plays a major part in the power of your shot. Fast tempos will find your shots getting more distance while with slower tempos your shots will fall short. The new swing mechanic also takes into account your thumbstick positioning as you move it from your backswing through your follow through. Angling the thumbstick through your follow through will cause you to slice or hook your shot. To help you get your swing down correct there are many on-screen assists. For starters the swing meter will show you how far back your back swing should be, but also helps you figure out the correct track in your swing plane you should take. After the shot you’ll get feedback on the track you took, compared to the track you were aiming for, plus you’ll see your tempo and if you over or under swung. The bottom line is the swing mechanic is not only challenging but gives you a much more realistic experience. And while you might have a bit of a learning curve, using the caddie assistance you’ll be able to grasp the new swing mechanics after a few rounds.
Sticking with controls for a moment, this year Xbox gamers get to play the entire game controller free with a Kinect. Using full body tracking and voice controls you can control all aspects of the game and I must say they felt pretty natural and intuitive. With voice commands you can ask your caddie for help and to enter aiming mode. Using your fist you can move the shot marker around to aim. Putting your hands together like your holding a club will make you address the ball, and then the Kinect will track your back swing and follow through. I was surprised how well the Kinect tracking works, and it was quite fun. Though I will say I kinda felt like the swing was “dumbed” down, as every shot seemed close to perfect even when I tried to be off the mark. But compared to other Kinect enabled games Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 is much better and much more fun and is a good reason to dust off your Kinect.
This year there are many rewards up for grabs in the game. As you play you’ll earn the normal XP to improve your skills, but now you will also be earning coins. Coins are a virtual currency that allows you to buy pins (special boosts) and even rounds of golf on any of the DLC courses, yes if you play enough and earn enough coins you can play the DLC without spending MS Points. Coins can be earned in many ways, from completing challenges, to mastering the courses of the game. Earning coins is a really nice addition, it gives you a great reward for playing all aspects of the game and gives the chance to experience even more of the game.
Pins are another nice new addition. Pins come in packs that you can buy or win. You get a starter pack when you start the game to give you an introduction to the pin system. Each Pin gives you a special boost to an ability, like better driving stats, or better recovery stats. Each pin is consumable, so once you use it up you’ll need to use a different pin or you can buy refills with your coins. There are also course pins you can unlock which aren’t consumable, unlocking a course pin enhances the abilities of your other active pins when at that course. Pin packs range in price in the in-game store and if you achieve gold mastery of a course you’ll get a free pin pack as a prize.
This year, being social is a big part of Tiger Woods PGA Tour. There are many options to play the game with your friends or just play solo against gamers from around the world. For starters you can create or join a Country Club. Being a part of a Country Club will help you tremendously to earn coins. As you play the game and earn status points in your club, you’ll not only help your club’s rank improve but you’ll be ranked against your fellow club members. Each week the top club member will be crowned Club Champion and receive coins, but also a chance to represent the club in a Club Championship tournament against other clubs.
Online Country Clubs are just one way to interact with others. If you want to go solo you can take part in weekly tournaments against other Xbox Live gamers. These tournaments give you a chance to show off your skills but also a chance to earn more coins and work on your course mastery objectives. I really enjoy these constant running online tournaments that EA Sports has included in their games, such as SSX and now Tiger Woods PGA Tour. It gives you a chance to play against others in a fun way and at your own pace. Plus it gives you more chances to earn in-game rewards.
The last big new addition to the game is Tiger’s Legacy. This story driven mode takes you through the life and legacy of Tiger Woods, starting off as a two year old on the Mike Douglas show and going through 2019 as the Tiger of the future as he wraps up his long legacy. The way the mode works is Tiger’s life is broken down into sections such as Toddler Tiger, Junior Tiger, Pro Tiger, Future Tiger, plus a few more in-between. Then each section has a handful of events. As toddler Tiger you’ll find yourself doing different training challenges in his back yard, like landing chip shots in a pool, or nailing close approaches from his sandbox. The further along you go the older Tiger gets and you’ll be playing some of Tiger’s most memorable tournaments. It’s a fun mode and there are some neat camera effects that give you a good sense and feel of the 70′s, 80′s, 90′s, and today.
For the most part there weren’t many drastic changes made to the remaining parts of the games. The game’s career mode Road to the PGA Tour is pretty much the same. The only real change is how you start your career, you can start in one of three amateur tours, and try for a chance to enter the Master’s as an amateur contender. Depending on where you place in the Master’s as an amateur, will dictate the next steps in your career. Events in Road to PGA Tour unfold as they have in the past, you can play training matches, then do a sponsor challenge, then go to the event.
Visually the game has received some tweaks but doesn’t make the big steps we have seen in years past, though we are entering the end of life for current consoles so this isn’t a major issue. The lighting system has been improved, and you’ll see some impressive lighting effects from bloom to glare and sun shafts as your rounds unfold. There is also a new particle system, it’s hit or miss on how it looks, balls landing in sand or water give off a similar particle splash and it’s just a different color, though shots from sand traps do give off a pretty good-looking sand spray. The tweaks and changes made to the visuals of the game continue to create a visually stunning golf experience.
The game’s animation system has been updated to give you better visual feedback on your swing, the animation now ties directly to your thumbstick movements, allowing you to see the plane in which your swinging. There are a few wonky glitches though with animations, as at times during my down swing the animation wouldn’t be fluid and would skip or jump.
I feel sports game developers always have a difficult task creating new games each season. Sports don’t change much from season to season and keeping the virtual experience fresh is always a challenge. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 though offers up quite a few changes and additions that keeps the franchise fresh and gives gamers countless hours of play. The new swing mechanics are very impressive. I feel all levels of gamers will be able to grasp the new Total Swing Control system and many will not only get a new challenge but also see their game improve. The other big plus in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 are the social aspects, be it the Online Country Clubs or just taking part in the daily, weekly, and monthly tournaments. Also all the in-game rewards, be it boost pins or the new coin system will give you a sense of accomplishment as you play. I really like having the ability to use coins to buy rounds of golf on the various DLC courses. This give you a great way to experience all the game’s courses without having to spend extra money. My only real issues come in the visuals department, animations once in a while do some funky things, and you’ll notice your swings will jump or just look off at times, I think this might be due to your thumbstick tracking and how the animations are now done live to reflect your swing and I found my thumb track wasn’t always the best. The other thing is water still hasn’t been shown any love, water just looks off and unrealistic. And with so many courses having beautiful water features it would be nice to see the water system improved next year.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 is the most realistic playing and one of the most socially fun game’s of the Tiger Woods franchise, and is a great addition to your gaming library.
Got a question about our time with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13, ask us in our VGR Hands-On Q&A.
A copy of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 for Xbox 360 was provided to us for this review from EA Sports.