It is Masters weekend in Augusta and I am well and truly in the mood for golf. To celebrate, I’ve been trying to get to grips with the latest Tiger Woods title which features a revamped career mode and the chance to wind back the clock and play against some legends of the game. Step through the jump to check out my Verdict.
Upon booting up Tiger Woods 14 you are presented with the usual glut of messages about connecting to EA servers and enabling autosaves before magically getting thrown straight into a tutorial. Having not played the previous title for a couple of months, I got stuck into the tutorial to see what everything was all about. Lo and behold, the tutorial lets you take control of figures such as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus as you learn about the different swing types you will come across in the game. It gives you a perfect taste for what lies in wait once you get into the game.
Before you can start playing properly though, you are propositioned about the EA Sports Season Pass, after deftly ignoring that I found myself at the main menu. On one side I could choose from the various game modes, while the other had various ads for the DLC with a one in particular catching my eye showing off ‘The Masters Historic Edition’ which would give you access to features found in the special retail edition of the same name. It features four additional courses along with the Augusta practice course, Par 3 course and the 1934 course. It sounded like a reasonable pack, not one I would necessarily jump at right away, but something for the hardcore to get their teeth into.
It got me wondering what other course packs were present. A lot of the pre-release hype had surrounded the fact that this year’s edition of the game featured 20 championship courses, more than in any other year. While a good number of courses to ply your trade on, there was clearly more to be had beyond the Masters based DLC. Before getting my career under way, I took a look at the in-game shop and was frankly appalled at what I saw. Amongst the litany of individual courses were three bigger packs. The aforementioned Masters pack, a TPC 4 Pack and a 14 Course Pack.
Clearly there are plenty of other courses available, but to get the complete set through the three DLC packs, you would have to spend 5600 MS points. When you take into account the awful MS points purchasing system, you would probably have to fork out £50 to get the packs. That is ridiculous, add in the fact that all the packs were available when the game was released and you will probably be left, like me, with a very sour taste in your mouth.
It is a situation which sits badly with me, you wouldn’t expect to pick up FIFA and find that only three-quarters of the teams in the Premier League were present, or buy Madden NFL and find out that one of the divisions was only available as DLC. This is what it feels like when fully grasping how much is in effect missing from the game. I can forgive the Masters pack because those courses are normally part of the special edition at retail, and I could readily accept fantasy courses appearing as paid DLC. When courses like Celtic Manor and Wolf Creek are only available as paid DLC, it grinds my gears. Yes you could buy each course separately for 400 MS points, but it doesn’t sit right with me.
That might be a bit of a rant, but it is an issue worth highlighting. You certainly don’t get as much bang for your buck as you should when you buy the game. However, what you do get is a very well crafted game.
When you create your golfer as you embark on your career, you are able to fully customise your swing options as you are informed about in the tutorial. You can then choose whether to take part in the men’s PGA Tour, or if you created a female character, you can try your hand at the LGPA. Each route has amateur and qualifying tournaments to progress through before getting to the big leagues and the relevant Majors. As you progress through the ranks you unlock new events to play in and if you complete various goals you will rise through the tour stages until you become a Pro.
Golfer progression in career mode isn’t limited to the tour you are competing in. At the end of each round you receive XP and when you reach a new rank you can invest in improving your skills and equip newly unlocked clubs and clothing. Another neat feature is the option to tweak the number of rounds per event you can take part in, your tee-off time and decide if the weather is pre-determined or based on live weather reports.
What did confuse me at first was not being able to ask your caddy to automatically set up your shot for you, I will readily admit that I came to rely on this in Tiger Woods 13. It certainly makes things more rewarding on the course, though I personally struggle on the greens. Fortunately at the lower difficulty levels you can use a Putt Preview to get an idea of where you shot will go on the green. You still need to ensure you get your swing right though otherwise it will all go wrong.
Outside of the career mode you can take part in quick tournaments with a wide variety of customisable options of pre-determined game positions come the final round. At the moment you can take part in a live Masters challenge where you will be competing against the scores of the pros. Some of the difficulty options are pre-set here, no Putt Previews for me. I can only assume that this way of playing is reflected in other tournaments throughout the year, or at the very least I would hope it is present for the other Majors. Accessing this also puts you in the Connected Tournament mode where you can watch the shots taken in real-time by other people playing the same course. It is fun to see yes, but for me, this isn’t much of a selling point.
The other part of the game really worth exploring is the Legends mode. Here you go back through time taking on various challenges against historic legends from the 1873 Open to the era of Nicklaus and Palmer to the modern game. I’ve only completed a few challenges so far, but I am already finding it much more enjoyable than the history of Tiger Woods mode found in last years game. Playing the Old Course at St. Andrews with classic 19th Century clothes and clubs (they had some strange names, that’s for sure) in a grainy sepia toned overlay is quite an experience. You will at times play as golfers of the past while some challenges put present day figures such as Rory McIlroy into these historic settings.
This really is a great golfing experience, but I do wish the DLC issue wasn’t quite as striking as it is. However the variety of courses included offer a great level of challenge and the inclusion of the LGPA is a positive step for seeing a greater gender balance in sports games. I’m not a massive golf fan, but playing a bit of Tiger Woods always serves as a great way to unwind and get away from the hustle and bustle of many other games.
Verdict – Head Shot
Platforms Available – 360, PS3
Platform Reviewed – 360
Please read this page for more on our scoring policy. This copy of Tiger Woods was purchased at retail.