PS3 Review – Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters

March 29, 2011Written by Jonathan Leack

In 1997, Tiger Woods won his first Masters tournament, and instantly became one of the most feared competitors in golf history. A year later, EA Sports released Tiger Woods ’99 PGA Tour, and similar to real life Tiger Woods quickly dominated the golf simulation market. Since that point in time, over a dozen titles under his name have been released, each adding new layers of content to the pre-existing package, and now that time has come again for the yearly EA Sports title to release. But is Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 worth your hard earned money, or has this golf simulator landed in the bunker?

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 is the first title in its franchise to feature one of its sports’ greatest stages: The Masters. The main item of interest in the game is a mode called Road to the Masters, where you are able to create your own character from the ground up and work your way through dozens of tournaments and challenges before making it to the world-renowned Masters tournament. Character creation includes numerous options, and it’s simple to edit your character’s face, body, and style to your liking. Upon building your character, you’ll be faced with a slew of hurdles to complete as you work your way up the ladder of success. Along the way, challenge completion fuels sponsorship, which in-turn earns you new equipment and clothing. Hopping into the Pro Shop to change the outfitting for your character as well as choosing the style of gear and equipment you’ll use is very satisfying, and makes each stepping stone along your tour enjoyable.

While Road to the Masters is where you’ll likely spend most of your time, there are a ton of other features worth taking into consideration. Under the main menu you can find game modes including Tiger at the Masters, The Presidents Cup, Inside Augusta Nation, and more. Tiger at the Masters is the most noteworthy, and puts you in control of Tiger Woods as you attempt to replicate his success during his several wins at The Masters. Each year relives the experience quite well, as well as providing a brief interview with Tiger himself to provide insight into the magnificence of each title. There’s even a mode called Master’s Moments where you can expect to experience some of the most memorable moments in golf history.

The golfing experience in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 is true to the sport. For each shot, a caddy will follow you around giving you recommendations and tips as you attempt to get the lowest score possible. The caddy is very helpful, but at first offers only satisfactory recommendations. However, as you learn the greens of each course, so too does your caddy who will be leveled up to aid you even further. Some of the most major factors such as ball spin, lie, physics, and more are excellently crafted, and golf aficionados should feel right at home.

Unfortunately, being true true to the sport doesn’t mean it’s perfect, and you’ll quickly find that the game lacks heart. Great moments often go unnoticed, and being on beautiful courses is just like real-life: quiet. There’s a noticeable lack of energy in the game, which might be great for keen golfers, but anyone looking for excitement will instead find serenity, something that’s synonymous with the sport, but not with satisfying video games. While it doesn’t drag down the experience, it does make long play sessions dry, which especially hampers the multiplayer experience given your buddies don’t enjoy the golfing experience as much as you do.

There are several ways to interact with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12, ranging from your standard three-step shot, the analog-stick method, as well as full PlayStation Move support. The three-step shot, being the oldest style of the bunch, works sufficiently, but isn’t recommended. Analog stick controls are great, and are as easy as pulling back either of the two sticks to define the power, and then pushing forward in a direction for hit angle. Every slight movement is calculated into the swing, and it takes some practice to learn how to keep your movements straight unless you’re attempting to hook or fade the ball intentionally. Controls are a bit cumbersome at first, but the act of swinging is satisfying, so those great chip-ins make you feel like you did something great

Move support has been implemented out of the box for the first time in PGA Tour history. The controls are great, reading each movement you make accurately. Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks for Move. First of all, if you choose to use a Navigation controller, you’ll still have to leave a full PlayStation controller kept on to make it work. We found that this quickly drains the batteries of all of the PlayStation input devices, and becomes a real nuisance. Second, all R1 and R2 related functions are impossible to do with the Move setup, so while other games remap those inputs as necessary, this game doesn’t. Strange to say the least.

The game doesn’t particularly hold your hand with learning the concepts, so the first couple hours can be slightly overwhelming. Thankfully, you are given the ability to define how difficult gameplay is, and how well the A.I. characters will do when competing against you. Better yet, those who choose to play on harder difficulties are rewarded with additional experience, so as you grow as a golfer, you’ll be tempted to turn the difficulty from Pro to Tour Pro or even higher. However, be careful, as increased difficulty greatly affects shot sensitivity as well as impacting some of the helpful features that make great scores more easily achieved.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 is a beautiful golf game. Each of the over 16 courses are rendered not only accurately, but beautifully as well. Character animations are smooth and seamless, quickly making the simulation even more believable. The menus and UI are well-presented, offering solid interfaces to navigate through without hassle. There is some noticeable skipping of framerate from time to time, and given the game’s lengthy draw distance, pop-in and texture rendering is apparent. These factors are pretty common, and it would have been nice to see a cleaner presentation, even if it meant dropping the visual quality slightly to make it happen.

Jim Nantz’ first attempt at commentating for the Tiger Woods PGA Tour series is very successful, and David Feherty returns to help Nantz broadcast in the most realistic way possible. The spectacle of watching golf on television is well translated in the experience fo the game. Each course is introduced in an elaborative way, giving players insight into the details and/or history of the course. The atmosphere of nature along with the clapping of crowds of people have been well implemented. Music fits the mood well, and while there aren’t many tracks, they’re smooth and fitting.

If you wanted to, you could play a different mode in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 every day of the week for over two weeks. There are so many different venues to explore in the game that you might wonder where to even begin, and maybe stick to Road to the Masters for your first few days as you build up a character and explore some of the game’s finest features. Online includes tournaments, matchmaking, and lobbies for your to engage in. GamerNet allows you to upload some of your best moments in video form, create challenges for others to enjoy, or participate in the content of other players. 16 courses and 24 golfers are included, coupled with dozens of game modes to enjoy ranging from the standard Match Play to Battle Golf, and even some mini games like T.I.G.E.R. and Capture the Flag. Most of all, The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club is one of the greatest venues in golf game history.

If you’re a fan of golf, then Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters is practically a no-brainer. With a wealth of game modes, over a dozen beautiful courses, tons of options, and an accurate golfing model, you’ll be overcome with joy as you hop onto a par 5 at Augusta National and start swinging. Barring the well-delivered commentary, the game atmosphere can feel tepid, and memorable moments aren’t capitalized enough. What you end up with is a precise golf simulator full of features, but lacking emotion. If you’re looking for a golf game to get your hands on, then this is a safe bet, but if you’re just stopping by to see if Tiger Woods has anything special in store to drive you to pick up a club and play, then you’ll just have to wait another year.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ More content than you can swing a club at.

+ Brilliant commentary and presentation.

– Visual hitches, and a sincere lack of energy.

8 out of 10