With much of the core game unchanged from last year letís focus on the changes to this yearís game. EA has labeled the swing changes to this yearís game as the most significant overhaul in a decade. As you step up for your very first shot youíll notice a white arc around your golfer Ė this is the all new swing plane meter. As you swing your club ideally you will follow the arc of the swing plane, because swinging your club under or over the arc will result in a hook or slice. Luckily following the arc is quite natural, and with a little practice youíll follow it regularly.
The tempo of your swing and the length of your backswing also play a more prominent role in each shot this year. Near the top of your backswing the arc of the swing plane meter changes from a white line to a red one, with the red area indicating the overswing zone; shots from this area have more power than a standard shot. The tempo of your swing is also measured and factored into the resultant shot - with a fast swing the shot will go further, a slower swing has the opposite effect. Fast and slow swings are also more inaccurate, so the goal is to get a perfect tempo swing.
At the bottom-left of the screen you get immediate feedback on the tempo and backswing of your shot, along with a line indicating how straight your backswing (by either analog stick or Move controller) was. Checking this after every shot gives you a clear idea of what youíre doing right or wrong, and makes it easy to improve as you play.
There is one significant new game mode, called the Tiger Legacy Challenge, which literally allows you to relive Tigerís career. You start off as a two-year old Tiger, strutting your stuff on the Mike Douglas show just as the real Tiger did back in 1978. If you play through all the way to the end of the Legacy Challenge youíll have the chance to break Jack Nicklausís record of eighteen major championships, making Tiger officially the greatest golfer of all time.
This mode is broken up into ten eraís and presents multiple challenges from Tigerís life within each era. Examples of the challenges are; as a toddler you chip the ball into the pool in your backyard, in Tigerís early years you sneak onto the course to play golf against your dad, and in Tigerís junior years you go through distraction training where a horn sounds through each of your backswings. Soon after that youíre battling for junior titles, dominating the amateur circuit, winning Tigerís first major and reliving other highlights from Tigerís storied career. Other sports stars such as Marshall Faulk (NFL), Jeremy Roenick (NHL), Dwight Howard (NBA) and Wayne Rooney (the English Premier League) all make an appearance too, just to spice things up a little.
Whether you play online or offline youíll earn coins for every round you play. These coins can be used to buy boost pins as well as rounds of golf at downloadable courses Ė of which there are many. Boost pins come in four types; golfer, boost, course and refill. Golfer pins grant a boost to all skills of a specific golfer, either a created golfer or one of the twenty-two pros in the game. Boost pins can increase specific skills (like accuracy or power), or grant more shot previews, or improved lies. Course pins are pins for every hole on a course Ė by collecting all eighteen youíll earn more status for every round you play at that course. Refill pins are used to replenish your stock of any depleted pins in your collection.
As mentioned above you can also use coins to buy rounds at downloadable courses, though the price is steep. The advantage to this is that if you achieve gold course mastery at that course youíll then have free access to it. Achieving gold mastery of any course is going to take a lot of time though, because you have to perform feats such as one hundred pars, or eighty career GIRs or FIRs (greens in regulation and fairways in regulation). Only the most committed will be able to earn gold course mastery of a downloadable course just with coins; most people will have to buy the course with real money instead.
You still earn experience for your on-course play, with experience points used to level up the skills of your golfer. Before each tournament you can still participate in sponsor challenges which earn you new gear in the pro shop once completed, as does completing in-game challenges from your specific sponsor. All of which helps make your created golfer a match for even the most seasoned PGA veterans.
The Move controller is supported again this year, and while the controls are perfectly natural and largely functional, they still donít feel quite right. The biggest issue for me is that you still have to swing a little too hard, and wind up a little too far for it to be completely comfortable. Although the Move is incredibly accurate in mapping your motion, this can actually be a handicap unless your technique is flawless. A slight twist in your wrist will result in hooked shots or pushed putts, making the analog-stick controls that much more user-friendly. A more relaxed control scheme with the Move would be more fun, but in a serious game such as this it is probably out of place, and is unlikely to be implemented any time soon (unfortunately).
The Tiger Legacy Challenge is a new and robust game mode, but it doesnít deliver anything particularly new aside from a few different character models. Hitting a ball into Tigerís mumís handbag may have been how he spent his time as a kid, but it doesnít equate to a lot of fun in a videogame. All of last yearís Masters-centric modes ĎMasters Momentsí, ĎTiger at the Mastersí and ĎInside Augusta Nationalí are all gone too, so EA has taken away with one hand what it gave with the other.
Itís something weíre probably stuck with long-term, but Iím not a fan of games promoting the sale of additional content within the game itself like EA have done here with downloadable courses and boost pins. These items are promoted with full-page advertisements in the game, and to me they negatively impact on the overall experience. EA has always been a massive self-promoter, and you still get the full page EA Sports logo on-screen between shots, so it looks like this is a strategy EA wonít be abandoning any time soon.
Another disappointment in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 is that most of the issues from last yearís game have returned unaddressed. There are still no playoffs in tied tournaments and as mentioned above in-game advertising is back and more noticeable than ever.
The graphics are up to the same standard as last year. Courses look authentic, including the trees and flowers that line each hole. The fairway is always clearly defined, while the rough, bunkers and water are obvious enough that you can avoid them. Character models are a bit of a mixed bag with some players looking exactly like their real life counterparts (Tiger, Jim Furyk and Zach Johnson), while others arenít given the same care Rory McIlroy, Boo Weekley and Ian Poulter).
Although the sound was an area of weakness last year, it has received little to no improvement this year. Jim Nantz and David Feherty deliver the commentary again, and while they do a decent enough job with their lines it is not always implemented well. Sometimes on putts of less than a foot theyíll get really excited, while some of over thirty feet pass with little fanfare. The commentary isnít used to add excitement or tension to tournament play either, which is one area EA could really improve it.
Overall Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 is still a solid game of golf, but one that makes few (if any) significant strides over last yearís game. The biggest additions come with caveats; new swing controls feel awfully familiar and while there is one robust new game mode, three are gone from last year. Country Clubs are a welcome addition however. If you have last yearís game then it is genuinely hard to recommend Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13, but for everyone else it still offers the best game of golf going around.
Review By: Mike Allison