I’ve been spending a lot of time lately with The Masters: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12. The game is addictive enough that it’s pushing me over my review deadlines, and there’s a lot to like about the game. Many of my concerns from the last couple of Tiger Woods games have been addressed with this year’s title, from presentation improvements to the ability to play without the questionable Focus meter to delivering a pretty rich Career Mode that’s blown me away. On the surface, all is well with Tiger 12… but there’s one major change that I do not approve of and could potentially be a forebearer of things to come.
First, a little background. In Road to the Masters, which is the new Career Mode in Tiger 12, you have to earn your PGA Tour card before hitting the circuit. You battle through an Amateur Tour, the Nationwide Tour, and then endure Q-School with the hopes of cracking the Top 25 in that event and getting a spot on the Tour. Once you get your Tour card, the golf season functions like it has in most other years. There are events every week to take part in, and in order to qualify for The Masters, your golfer has to be in the Top 100 in the EA Sports Golf Rankings. The overall goal in Tiger 12 is to become the best golfer in the world, overtaking such talent as Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, Ian Poulter, and many others. To move up the rankings, you not only have to play consistently well… but you need to play often.
Unfortunately, an improvement that was made to Tiger 12 in implementing DLC courses into the Career Mode was taken a bit too far.
Yes, it’s great that DLC courses are now a part of the actual schedule for your career, rather than simply for online play or for casual play. This adds value to the downloadable content. The problem is that the courses are tied to specific events on the PGA Tour schedule… and if you don’t either own or buy the DLC courses required, your player is forced to skip that week of action. There are no substitute courses, and skipping weeks can be costly to your overall ranking. This is a bad precedent, as the game basically locks out events if players don’t pony up more cash.
In other words, to get the full Tiger 12 experience, as it’s intended, you need to pay considerably more than face value for the game. This is worse than Online Passes and launch day DLC that arguably could have been on the disc. There’s nothing on the box to indicate that you’ll need to buy these courses, either. Unless you’ve read reviews– and the reviewer actually calls this to your attention– you’ll have no idea that this tactic even exists until you’ve earned your Tour card and see an event as being locked because you don’t have the course. Defenders of this tactic claim that missing a week or two isn’t a big deal and that it doesn’t have much effect, or they counter that even tour pros take weeks off due to fatigue or other reasons. These explanations are ridiculous. There are better ways that DLC courses could have been implemented, including allowing for alternate courses if the DLC course hadn’t been bought or adding the DLC-specific events to the Tour schedule once the courses are purchased.
I’ve spoken little about DLC when talking about previous Tiger Woods golf games despite its obvious inclusion and the potential for microtransactions. In years past, you could use actual cash (or Microsoft Points) to buy items from the Pro Shop if you didn’t have the XP or virtual funds to do so. Costs for DLC courses also had been rising considerably, but buying them was completely optional and had no bearing at all on single-player action. With Tiger 12, the rules have changed. DLC now has a direct bearing on the retail product. It doesn’t add anything; it merely completes the package that you already paid $60 or more for.
Sadly, this tactic spoils what’s an otherwise fun and addictive golf experience. I love playing Tiger 12 and, unlike some of my colleagues, don’t feel the need to criticize it because it doesn’t do enough that’s new or because the formula feels tired. I think that it’s a great game… but EA’s DLC approach hurts the overall value significantly. How much? We’ll see when my final review is completed and published.