Consoleation Impression-ism: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13
I’ll admit this: I was not at all a fan of the new swing and putting systems implemented in Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf 13 after playing the demo and after the first hour or so with the Collector’s Edition of the game.
Nothing felt intuitive or appropriately introduced, so the change was jarring after what’s generally been the same old thing for the past few years. I was forced to learn things on the fly, such as how the game wanted the swing to be and how to adjust properly for certain situations, like elevation or in-between distances for certain clubs. I understand that golf is a game of trial and error, and that mistakes in swing mechanics or choosing the wrong club for certain situations can be costly, but Tiger 13 really hammered that lesson home early on. If you asked me for a recommendation after the first hour, I would have said to stick with last year’s game.
That first hour has given way to multiple hours of play with Tiger 13, and I’ve learned many of the nuances of the game’s new mechanics. I had to figure out when to transition from my backswing to the followthrough without executing too much. I still struggle with the putting, which is quite difficult to nail down due to timing issues, but my success rate is growing. I’ve become more consistent with my shot quality, I’ve learned how to calculate carry and distance a lot better, and as you can see in the image above, I even carded my first ace. I’m liking the game a lot more than I did and think that the new mechanics were a great decision. It’ll be a bit of a challenge to go back and play older games with the older swing, calculating power and distance by the backswing instead of where I’m aiming and hitting the “perfect” shot. The core gameplay here is the main argument for recommending Tiger 13 for a purchase. It’s a battle at first, but is rewarding for those patient enough to learn how to leverage what’s new.
The career progression in Tiger 13 is better than last year, which is another point in the game’s favor. Each step in the career progression is longer, and it’s now possible for an amateur player to qualify for The Masters if he or she wins the final event of the Amateur Tour. It’s possible to win The Masters as an amateur and earn a PGA Tour Card on the spot, but if not, possibilities such as exemptions for certain PGA Tour events and/or a spot on the Nationwide Tour await. Winning The Masters as an amateur isn’t necessarily the best outcome for a player’s career, as it’s impossible for a player in that situation to qualify for any other major event in that first season. A Top 100 ranking is required to qualify for a major, and I couldn’t crack that barrier until the FedEx Cup postseason events occurred… despite winning all but one event.
Unfortunately, recommending Tiger 13 isn’t clear-cut as the game has issues with bugs and is as much a display of golf as it is a devious microtransaction strategy.
I don’t know how some of the bugs made it into the final version of Tiger 13. There are issues with commentary stuttering and skipping, automatic replays after shots show completely different outcomes, crowd reactions are woefully inconsistent, and there are times when the game actually alters your lie or position after shots. I could see these things happening a time or two, but the frequency of these bugs appearing during my personal experience has been very surprising. One instance was an automatic replay that triggered after I knocked an approach shot stiff, within 2 feet of the hole. The replay showed a ball that landed a good 10 feet from the hole, causing me to scratch my head. The replay of my ace showed a ball that didn’t even go in the hole. Yes, that’s right. I got robbed of my replay on a hole-in-one. It’s frustrating.
The microtransaction strategy is apparently in response to negative feedback from many players and reviewers to forcing additional DLC courses into last year’s single-player mode. The idea is that coins can be earned during regular gameplay, and that these coins can be used to purchase rounds on DLC courses so as not to have to pay for them. Any course that is “fully mastered” by way of accomplishing a certain list of objectives is unlocked for good. These objectives for full mastery require multiple rounds in many cases, and the coin cost for successive rounds on DLC courses increases significantly. This means that a lot of course grinding is necessary to earn enough coins to earn these additional rounds. Yes, technically it’s possible to earn all of the courses, but that requires a steep time investment. Of course, rather than grind, you can buy the courses outright… which is what EA wants in the first place. Thankfully, this year’s game does allow for locked courses to be swapped out of PGA Tour seasons for unlocked courses. The game makes it a point to tell you that you don’t have the right course, however, and asks if you want to buy the course first.
The microtransactions don’t stop there, either. Pins are now power-ups that work for a limited number of uses. Some pins add value to stats, some affect playing conditions, and others add XP or Status Points (for online-based Country Clubs). Coins earned during gameplay can be used to buy new pins or refill tokens for existing pins, but that becomes a conflict when you’re trying to budget those coins for playing on and unlocking additional courses. Collecting the pins can be somewhat addictive, especially since some pins have varying tiers of strength or effect and collecting pins for holes on one course can have a big effect on end-of-round rewards. I like the way pins have changed from decorations in last year’s game to a boost this year, but the conflict is hard to overlook.
Since I bought the Collector’s Edition of Tiger 13, I got some extra courses that “regular” players didn’t get. What surprised me was that the Par 3 course at Augusta National wasn’t included in the regular version and is DLC. Considering that the Par 3 competition is synonymous with The Masters experience, this wrinkle is in bad form. If Augusta National is– or continues to be– the highlight of EA’s golf franchise, then the decision to take out a part of that experience is questionable at best. I was also surprised that EA actually decided to market its “authentic Green Jacket presentation” from the Collector’s Edition as DLC. Those of you who didn’t get it aren’t missing much, aside from 30 seconds of Jim Nantz narrating over a generic cinematic of your created golfer in his Green Jacket as he or she stands in front of an oddly swaying group of unrecognizable former winners. That’s it. Really.
If you didn’t buy last year’s PGA Tour game, then I can recommend this year’s game a little more. The new swing mechanics really do add to the experience once you learn how things work. The new career progression is fun, and the mix of new and repeat courses is a good one. The bugs are tough to overlook, and there are instances where the in-game caddy offers some truly mind-boggling advice, but I’ve had a lot of fun with Tiger 13 and my enjoyment level is actually rising as I play it more. Having said that, if you still have last year’s game and enjoyed that, I don’t think there needs to be any urgency to upgrade– especially at full price. Since any DLC courses purchased for Tiger 12 don’t carry over, you lose them in Tiger 13.
Personally, I’m in a similar situation to that of Kotaku’s Owen Good. I like Tiger 13, but Tiger 12 is going to remain in my library. Last year’s game, to me, did a lot of things right. The caddie, while occasionally annoying, served a solid purpose as he set up shots when I needed them. I loved the focus on Augusta National, chasing Tiger Woods through Masters history and feeling some reverence for one of the most recognizable venues in golf. Hopefully next year’s game can take what worked over the last two years and combine that into one of the best golf games ever designed. Until then, I have two very good to great games to tide me over.
Note: I strongly recommend reading Owen’s review and this one by Destructoid’s Samit Sarkar. Both offer deeper perspective and individual views on Tiger 13, and raise some great points about the microtransactions I mentioned and more.