This year’s iteration of Tiger Woods ditches the underwhelming Ryder Cup of the previous version and replaces it with The Masters Tournament. EA went all out in showcasing the prestigious Masters Tournament and course at Augusta even going so far as displaying Tiger Woods’ name in smaller font underneath the dominating words, “EA Sports: Masters” on the box art. The entire career mode of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters is centered on the ultimate goal of competing in golf’s greatest tournament. There are 16 championship courses on the disc with an additional 20 courses available to download. The player will compete against 23 real world golfers throughout the career mode.
Many staples of previous Tiger Woods games return this year including one of the most in-depth character creation modes in any game. Players have the ability to morph the default physique and facial features into scarily accurate representations of themselves or anyone else they desire.
Tiger Woods 12 has fully voiced commentary from the familiar David Feherty from past games and adds the iconic voice of Jim Nantz. A new addition is the fully voiced caddie that assists the player in choosing a club and shot strategy. Like most sports games, the voice commentary can get repetitive which may tempt some players to turn it off completely.
The most annoying aspect of this game is having to grind through hours of tournaments and challenges in order unlock clubs and clothing that give skill bonuses. This is a requirement if the player wants to have any hope of winning more advanced tournaments and online competitions.
Another glaring detraction is the integration of downloadable tournaments. When playing through the career, the player will be invited to certain tournaments. If the tournament is selected, the game will stop and ask the player to purchase the downloadable pack in order to unlock the match or skip the event. Seeing a good amount of career gameplay blocked off unless additional fees are paid is inelegant. A more subtle approach such as available downloadable content being displayed in the main menu would help the overall immersion once the player is in career mode.
Previous Tiger Woods games had the player’s time divided between the career PGA schedule and surpassing fictitious local pros in Tiger Challenges. Tiger Woods 12 does away with those immersion-breaking dual game modes and seamlessly integrates them into the game.
The player starts out in the beginners EA Tour before moving on to the real life Amateur Tour and Nationwide Tour. After conquering these initial levels, the player attends Q-School, the tournament that determines which golfers can move on to the PGA Tour and ultimately The Masters Tournament. During career progression the player will have options for golf training sessions and sponsor challenges which replace Tiger Challenges.
Different sponsor challenges will give the player access to new equipment including prototype clubs and clothing that can improve the character’s abilities. Sponsor levels are increased by making certain challenging shots or winning specified tournaments.
The new caddie feature is the biggest innovation in Tiger Woods 12. The caddie will recommend a club and suggest different strategies for any particular hole. He might recommend either hitting a power shot over a copse of trees or play it safe and want the player to hit around the trees at the cost of an additional stroke. The player has the option of following his advice or not. Just like real life, he is not perfect but as the player progresses so does the caddie. This new feature is great for making the often inaccessible game of golf more newbie friendly. Even veteran Tiger Woods players will find the caddie a helpful aid during difficult holes. There is an option to turn the caddie feature off for those that wish to play through courses without him.
The core mechanics of aiming the shot and swinging the club are unchanged. Using the left analog stick to control wind-up, swing and follow-through are very intuitive. The slightest nuance of movement and speed of the swing are translated into the resulting trajectory and spin of the ball. Putting is equally responsive and natural feeling.
The graphics are even more polished than previous games. The courses are accurately portrayed right down to the correct greenery on the periphery of the fairway. Jagged edges have been improved compared to earlier versions and the character models’ movements appear natural and lifelike. The spectator models look a bit odd as they all move and sway in unison instead of randomly.
The most noticeable change to the sound of Tiger Woods PGA 12 is the omission of the blaring “EA Trax” soundtrack that was better suited in an action game. The ill-matched music has been replaced in Tiger Woods 12 with more suitable gentle piano numbers. The sound effects of the club striking the ball have been made more crisp and lifelike compared to the reverberating impact of previous years’ games.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters does not make any ground shaking renovations to an already solid package. The new caddie feature adds realism and makes it easier for new players to learn the game of golf. Crisp graphics and natural sounding audio make for an amazing presentation. The career mode is streamlined and adds to the seamless immersion that Tiger Woods veterans and rookies will both enjoy.