Sunday , April 21 2024
There is so much to like and yet it is hindered in so many ways.

PlayStation 3 Review: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14

Playing Tiger Woods PGA Tour golf seems to be, on a yearly basis, an example of the absolute best and worst ideas for videogames coming together.  How a franchise can do so incredibly much right—like the all-important look and feel of actually being on a course and the hazards involved—and then so completely detract from the experience with all the other aspects of the game—like not being able to choose whether to drop or rehit a ball hit  that went into the water—isn’t just perplexing, it’s insanely frustrating.

It is fantastic that this year, for the first time ever, all four courses that will be played in this year’s Majors are represented in the game.  Beyond that, the experience of swinging the club (even on a controller’s analog sticks) and getting instant feedback to let you know if you’re doing it well or poorly is outstanding.  The (annual) update to the physics makes the ball’s flight and swing arcs feel more in sync.  The graphics aren’t spectacular, but they’re really very good.  Night golf (new this year) is moderately amusing, and the career mode feels as robust as ever.

There is, in short, so much that is so right about the title, and EA Sports just chooses to throw it all away with a myriad of deficits one can’t imagine they didn’t spot before the game shipped.  Besides the aforementioned issue of dropping the ball vs. rehitting (something I have complained about in the past and will continue to do every year until it’s included), the main issues appear with EA’s insistence that the game make you feel more “connected” to other golfers.

By this I don’t just mean the online (although that is certainly a part of it), I’m also including revamped screens between shots and after holes which purport to give you an idea of how you’re doing in your tournament in comparison to everyone else.  The idea behind the screens is to give you a better, real-time, idea of where you stand, and that’s a good notion.  Sadly, the result is a bunch of meaningless statistics like the number of putts people have made or the best putts per hole average.

As an example, on the face of it, this putts/hole thing sounds great, until you realize that they include the numbers for people who haven’t yet stepped out onto the course that round.  This means that if you have an early tee-off and are on 18 with a spectacular (because you’re an awesome putter) 1.2 putts per hole average, you’re still going to find yourself trailing miserably the four dozen people who have a 0.0 putts per hole average… because they haven’t yet seen a green.  The issue is worse when Tiger Woods just shows the leaders for overall number of putts… because you don’t know whether the guy with 20 putts is done for the day or only on six and having a god-awful round (with 0.0 you at least know they’re not on the course).

Even when you’re setting up your shot, you’re treated to meaningless statistics as the game utterly insists on comparing your drives and number of fairways hit to every real (not computer) player you’re currently playing against… even when you’re playing against no one.  Thus, on a par three, who cares that you got the ball 20 feet away, putting you in first place amongst the non-computer players, you’re also in last and your birdie putt isn’t going to be easy.

We also don’t need a “how the hole has been playing today” card that illustrates the number of eagles/birdies/pars/bogies/double bogeys computer players have gotten when you’re the first person to reach it on a given day.  Amazingly, if you’re the first person to reach the hole that day, all the numbers are zeros.

Make no mistake, the idea here is great.  The idea of being able to instantly compare yourself to how everyone is doing that round is brilliant, but the game really needs to be smart enough to not show you the numbers if they’re worthless.

The issue is obvious and I just can’t believe that no one saw it.  I can’t believe that no one tried to play a round of golf on their own, prior to the game being finalized.

The game also sports an online pass and expanded Country Clubs.  If you play online regularly, this could be fun.  If, however, like me, you get an error message when you try to use your online pass code, you find yourself automatically thrown into a country club with no say about it and no way to remove yourself.  Actually, even if you don’t sign up for a club, you’re automatically thrown into one.  You can’t even pretend like you’re not a part of it as some of the mid-round statistics you see in the game tell you how you’re doing in comparison to the other 99 people in your club (the limit has been upped from last year’s 25 max).  My solution was to create my own private Country Club.  This doesn’t decrease the amount of info you’re shown about how you’re doing in comparison, but it does give more privacy.  As for the online pass error – redeeming the code directly from the PSN store as opposed to in-game worked.

Moving on, one of the big things this year is “Legends of the Majors,” which offers up nine golf legends and allows you to take them down.  It unlocks them in the game and the various eras in which they exist.

It is fun, but definitely feels like an extra — the meat and potatoes remains the Career mode, and it is all hampered by obvious deficits, and not just the wonky calling of the game by Nantz and Feherty; I think we’re all used to foolish calls in play-by-play now.  I applaud the notion that even in the fairway the lie might not be great, necessitating you actually looking at the lie before every shot, but there are times (I saw it more than once in the sand), where the club ought not even strike the ball the way things get lined up by default.  In the real world, one would move where one was standing and re-setup if they weren’t going to hit the ball, not setup and then look for ways to tweak their swing.

Add to all this foolishness long load times—even between shots—and the result is disheartening.  It is a shame, because the actual golf you get to play in between all the foolishness is so much fun.

With 20 courses in standard edition of the game—25 in the Historic Edition (26 if you count August Par 3 Course)—there is a whole lot of golf available in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14, and playing golf in Tiger Woods is fun.  Sure, there are issues here and there with the play, but the real problem is the packaging.

Yes, it is true that the game has been expanded, but it has happened myopically.  It is a one-size fits all setup and it just doesn’t work.  And, honestly, I don’t know that it works even if you’re the right size.

I would love to see next year’s version fix what doesn’t work rather than add other stuff, it would be far more valuable.

Both editions of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 are rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on Xbox 360.

About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.

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