Has it really been twelve months since I sat down to Review Tiger Woods 13 and ended up writing something along the lines of “it’s good, but there isn’t all that much new stuff”? Well apparently so, but while time has flown by in the real world in the world of the Tiger Woods series things have made considerably slower progress. With only a handful of interesting new ideas the odds are stacked against the latest in the insanely long running series, so are these new features enough to warrant another lump of cash in EA’s direction?
Much like the NHL, Madden and FIFA games the issue with making progress on this sort of series is the fact that the sport doesn’t change much from year to year. Golf is golf, and aside from a few new venues cropping up every so often and some new young golfers riding through the ranks there’s very little for the developers of Tiger Woods to easily pick up and run with. There’s no option to add new perks to electrocute fellow golfers if they look at your funny, and no laser-guided clubs which will give you a sure-fire hole in one despite it being a 500 yard par 5. So instead of looking to the future, EA instead chose to look to the past. Quite a long way into the past. 1873 in fact.
This manifests itself in the Legends of the Majors mode, taking you way back to the beginning of golf’s biggest competition and pitching you against some of the biggest challenges ever seen. The journey through the ages is fascinating, seeing old fashioned clubs with some truly bizarre names, while the footage takes on a grainy sepia effect to match the times. As you progress through the more recent eras the presentation changes to match, and although the challenges are plentiful and tricky to master once you get nearer to the current era the novelty has worn off a bit and it just becomes another set of challenges on a long running golf game. It’s a fun addition, but not enough to suggest this is a huge leap forwards.
Other single player options pretty much match previous iterations, so you’ve got a single round at a course of your choice from the available collection (although this is dented by the DLC model that makes you pay extra for some courses…) as well as a long and challenging career mode that lets you go from a local nobody right through to a Masters legend. These options do have a couple of nice extras, such as a women’s LPGA golf tour and the ability to play at night with glow in the dark balls, and your golfer can now specialise in draw, fade, high or low shots, but the structure itself is much of a muchness. In terms of additional new stuff it’s starting to feel like the Tiger team are struggling for ideas, but redeem your online pass (sigh) and there are some other bits and bobs to take a look at.
While the nice additions from earlier games remain such as the online Country Clubs (the clans of the golfing world), the key addition here is live tournaments. Joining one of these competitions lets you play round the course along with a host of others who are playing at the same time as you – these are often open for 24 hours or more but the popularity of the series should mean there are always fellow golfers to swing with, so to speak. While playing these games you can see the paths of other players’ balls as they fly through the air; this lets you laugh at the guy who’s just sliced his tea shot through the window of a nearby nursing home or get quietly cross with the player who skillfully sinks a 200-yard approach shot. You can chat to the other players too, which is a nice way to add a social aspect to an often lonely game genre.
And… that’s pretty much it. Move support is impressively good once you get the hang of it as long as you don’t have any low-hanging light shades nearby. Live weather hooks into an online weather service and lets you play a round of golf using that course’s exact current weather (fun with the Scottish courses) and the various times of day give the already gorgeous visuals a whole new dimension as light changes during the game, but if you’re already playing Tiger 13 it’s tough to suggest there’s another £40 worth of game here unless it’s a game that never leaves your console. As usual if you’re a couple of years behind with the series or haven’t played a current gen Tiger Woods title then this will be a much bigger leap and will feel like a much newer experience.
Essentially, this comes back to my opening line: it’s good, but there isn’t all that much new stuff. A very enjoyable game, but one that’s really finding it tricky to stay fresh year after year.
Reviewed on PS3