It has been four years since EA discontinued their Tiger Woods golf franchise on the PC. During this long drought, PC golf fans have waited anxiously for the return of this series as they bided their time playing various past entries. The prospect of next-gen graphics, detailed ball physics, real-time weather conditions and a TV style presentation finally available on the PC made for painful anticipation. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 12: The Masters not only missed the cut, it got lost in the parking lot.
Slashing Features Everywhere
Before we get into the meat of the review, the issue of advertised features by EA need to be addressed first. The following is taken directly from EA’s main Tiger Woods 12 page:
Some of the new features:
Masters Moments • Tiger at the Masters • The Caddie Experience • All New Career Mode • New Players • New Championship Courses
After 7 hours of gameplay, I have yet to see a caddie. After a doing a little research by visiting various forums and watching YouTube clips, I finally found out the caddie feature is only available in the console versions of the game. As you can read for yourself, there is no distinction listed between PC and console platforms. In addition to the advertising issue, TW12 plays, looks and feels exactly like Tiger Woods Online. For those of you not familiar with TWO, it is a Free-To-Play online browser game (powered by Unity 3D) supported by micro transactions. In fact, with the purchase of TW12 PC, you receive a free three-month subscription to TWO. Why would anyone already familiar with TWO spend 40 bucks to play the exact same game only with The Masters stamped across the cover and a few new courses? Are we paying EA for a Tiger Woods Offline Mode?
Even if you have no idea what Tiger Woods Online is, the media displayed before launch led PC gamers to believe we were getting a console port with all features included. We were obviously very wrong. The name of this game should have been titled: “Tiger Woods Online 2: The Masters”. If anyone bought Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 12: The Masters expecting to see a caddie feature or a true original PC version, I would suggest requesting a refund from EA.
When playing Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 12: The Masters, you feel alone. While you can hear the gallery (or patrons for you Masters types) cheer or moan only after you complete a hole, you never see anyone. This holds true for announcers as well. Gone are the wise cracking antics of Gary McCord and David Feherty and what you are left with is almost narcoleptic. The most annoying sound in the game are the loud “swooshes” every time you address the ball after a shot. The bunker shot also leave a lot to be desired as they sound the same as a chip out of the rough. The other sound effects are nicely done and the background menu music has a quiet, peaceful melody. The only audio you hear outside of the ambient birds and occasional flowing water are the hole intros. These do add nice touch to the game, but they are often presented with incorrect yardage or par number.
The graphical presentation of Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 12: The Masters is mediocre at best. The difference between the rough and fairway is only the color. While in the rough, there is no sense of being anywhere other than on painted brown dirt. The same can be said for pine straw and any other areas outside of the fairway. When you hit a ball into the rough in previous versions, you could see individual blades of grass blowing in the wind. You saw divots and pieces of grass flying away as the ball was struck. Not in TW12.
Almost all of the textures used for the fairways, especially at Augusta, look like green carpeting has been spread across the course. Bushes and flower plants are blurry and trees look like they belong as assets to a drag and drop high school created art application. Some of the trees, when approached at different angles, look almost flat. Just like the audio aspects, there is no charm or distinctiveness in the 3D environments. Punching a shot out of bunkers leaves a pixelated dusting of sand that apparently disintegrates into thin air.
The golfer animations are clunky and stiff along with how the golf ball interacts with the hole. Instead of the ball bouncing around in or around the hole when hitting a firm putt, the ball simply disappears. After a par or better score, your golfer will walk off the course and acknowledge a crowd that is nonexistent. The reaction shots are heavily delayed which takes away from the atmosphere and drama of the game. In addition, these reaction shots only take place on the green. All other shots simply show your golfer in frozen follow through. Even with all of the graphics options set to Super, it would appear all of the graphical shortcomings of Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 12: The Masters revolve around limited technology provided by the Unity 3D Engine. While the game may look good for a browser-based title, PC gamers expect a lot more in 2011 from a standalone game.
I have never liked ball trails in golf or baseball games. I feel it is a lame attempt to be “cool” and adds nothing to the experience. In Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 12: The Masters, trails are visible by default with no obvious way to turn them off. While I was looking to find a way to edit camera views, I switched to TrueView. I loaded up the game to see if I preferred the change and unexpectedly ball trails were now gone.
Career Mode consists of an ultimately boring run through the Amateur ranks to the Nationwide Tour, qualifying for PGA Tour via Q School, and ultimately, being invited to The Masters. The entire time I had no sense I was vying for something so important as a chance to play Augusta. You never feel like you are in a tournament of any kind. There is no excitement by holding on to a slim lead with two holes left to play with the prospect of a wearing the green jacket in the balance.
Being able to progress through the Amateur ranks into the Nationwide Tour without winning a single Amateur tournament is extremely perplexing although not surprising. Not only did I not win a tournament playing through the Amateur circuit, I purposely finished dead last. I wanted to know if the game would penalize me being the worst golfer in the field and sadly, it did not. After I finished the Amateur leg I was even given EA branded Elite equipment. Our society today has begun a terrible trend of rewarding mediocrity so why should video games be any different. Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 12: The Masters has a few glaring bugs and omissions . Course and shot stats are nowhere to be found. Trophy balls have been eliminated. Almost every green putts as if you are on ice regardless of the noted conditions. Even uphill putts with steep inclines seem to race past the hole when given the slightest nudge past the power putting indicator. Side hill lies are not properly simulated and the ball physics are painfully bad.
The distance projections are broken as there were many times I hit a shot 20 yards past where I was supposed to have hit and vice-versa although this seems to occur when using short irons and wedges. When teeing off on Par 4s, 5s or driveable Par 3s, the game defaults to 90% power regardless of the situation. You must manually hold down the up arrow key to ensure full power is used on your drives. This can bug can easily subtract 10-15 yards for each drive if you are not paying attention. This also occurs on Par 5 approach shots where you will be defaulted to 93% power. Depending on the hole and hazards involved, the 7% difference can lead from a potential eagle, to a disappointing par or worse.
What I did like about Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 12: The Masters was the incorporation of historical feats throughout the history of Augusta National. In Masters Moments, Jim Nantz provides a brief audio tour of a few exciting moments that, as golf fans, we should all remember. You are asked to re-live these situations by taking on the individual shots or back-nine charges of the moment you select. You can attempt to double-eagle the 15th as Gene Sarazen did in 1935, stand in the footsteps of Larry Mize contemplating a 140 foot chip to defeat Greg Norman in 1987, or become Phil Mickleson as you try to duplicate his miraculous shot out of the pine straw at No 13 in 2010. If you are in a hurry and want to quickly complete your round, you can speed up the ball flight and putting animations by holding down the left mouse button.
Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?
No. There are far better ways to spend your 40 bucks, especially if you already play Tiger Woods Online. It would have been one thing if EA was up-front about Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 12: The Masters being a glorified expansion for TWO, but this was not the case. The simple fact here is EA can very well be accused of misleading its customers by advertising features that are not available in the PC version. Once again, PC gamers are left wondering why EA even bothers developing PC sports titles. I say it is time to stop. Stop getting the hopes up of PC sports gamers and just end it once and for all. We can be quite happy with returning to golf titles that were actually good. Games like Tiger Woods 2004, Links 2003 or even going as far back as Golden Bear Challenge and PGA Championship Golf 2000 are far superior in every way in relation to what Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters offers. No caddies, no crowds, no announcers, mediocre visuals, many bugs and an overly simplified career mode make Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters one of the most disappointing experiences of my gaming life.
UPDATE: According to EA, It appears there will be no PC version for Tiger Woods 13 this year.
UPDATE: According to EA, It appears there will be no PC version for Tiger Woods 13 this year.