After years of golfing supremacy, EA Sports’ Tiger Woods games have had a couple of years in the rough. First came Tiger’s own real-life controversies and then came last year’s edition which spent most of its time trying to extract more money from players for features that should have been accessible from the moment the game loaded. Question is, can Tiger Woods 14 get the venerable series back on track?
Once upon a time, the very least you could expect from a EA Sports game was top-notch visuals – but on the looks front Tiger Woods is a series stuck in a graphical sand trap. There’s little evidence of visual enhancements this year and while it’s not ugly, the golfers’ movements are as wooden as their teeing off clubs while the scenery is just good enough rather than pretty. The option to play courses at different times of day, including mid-afternoon and night time, is where the bulk of the graphical changes can be found.
While the visuals disappoint, the all-important golfing has gained an extra dimension this year, thanks to the new ‘swing style’ system. This gives every golfer, including those created by players, a choice of 24 different swing styles based on how high they hit the ball, the shape of the shot, the balance of control and power, and whether the golfer is right or left handed. It’s a great development that underlines how Tiger Woods still has the edge over its free-to-play rival World Tour Golf when it comes to depth.
Legends of the Majors
Alongside the usual career, quick play and online modes, Tiger Woods 14 also gives players the tempting chance to test their mettle against the greatest golfers of all time in its Legends of the Majors feature. The mode starts all the way back in 1860 and along the way brings in legends such as Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Seve Ballesteros, complete with swing styles based on those of the actual pros. The game even adopts some nifty grainy sepia visuals for the earliest historical rounds to spice things up as you try to match or better these golfing legends.
Tiger Woods 14 also ups the series’ online credentials with some major refinements to its connecting gaming options, not least the expansion in the size of the Country Clubs that players can join, which has ballooned from a tight 25 members to a generous 100. Clubs can also create voice chat rooms so that they can talk to each other regardless of where they are in the game. This year also sees the introduction of the Connected Tournaments feature where players can take part in live tournaments and compare their shots with the arcs of up to 23 other players.
The most unforgivable feature of last year’s Tiger Woods was its use of microtransactions to access content. That approach denied players access to much of the game unless they played for hours to unlock them or shelled out some more cash, an option the game kept reminding you about at every turn like a persistent chugger for the EA Shareholders’ Trust. Thankfully EA have learned their lesson and the microtransactions are gone. In its place there are 20 courses to play from the start and the option to buy more as downloadable content if you want.
Tiger Woods 14 is a definite improvement on last year’s below par effort. The addition of Swing Style deepens the game and the new online features are great as is the swift demise of last year’s microtransaction approach. The Legends of the Majors is also a welcome addition to the mix. The browser-based World Tour Golf might give casual golfing fans all the kicks they need, but Tiger Woods is still top dog for golf fans who want more depth to their virtual golfing.
Reviewed on PlayStation 3