Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters Review
Posted by James Newton
The second cut is the deepest
Last year's Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 saw Move support patched into the game post-release, and although the core game was solid, the Move controls were a letdown. Six months later, EA has brought the Tiger back out of the cage for Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters, but can it make up for last year's errors?
Well, yes and no. Hopes for a completely Move-led effort this year are dashed almost immediately: you need a DualShock pad just to get past the title screen. After that you can choose to stick with DualShock or switch to Navigation alongside Move, and there's much less of picking-up and putting-down that hampered the flow of last year's effort.
One of the major new features that streamlines this year's outing is the addition of caddies to suggest shots and clubs, leaving you to handle the swing. This means you're usually presented with two possible shots, already aimed, with the option to add a custom shot for complete freedom over the club and shot direction. Generally the prepared shots are all you need, letting you focus on nailing the swing without fiddling about with shot position, and gamers keen to show off their shots will appreciate the feature.
When it comes time to grip the controller, the system is very similar to last year's, albeit with a few tweaks. Point Move downwards, press T and let rip, with the orientation of the controller and speed of swing rotating the club face and adding draw or fade to your shot. You can now use Focus mode with Move, letting you take the pressure off key shots or add distance to drives, though how much you'll use these depends on your difficulty.
While the essentials of the swing are decent, the small delays in each stage of the swing are off-putting: you must wait a few seconds for the game to register you're pointing downwards, then another second or two before you can start your swing. It sounds incidental, but is enough to break the flow of the shot process, and feels like an unnecessary hindrance.
One of the bigger criticisms of last year's Move outing was the lack of analogue shot direction control with Move, and while this feature is present this time around, it's still not perfect. To see where your shot will land, point Move up and press Move and T; to move your shot cursor, aim Move in the required direction and hold T. While it's possible to aim gently in each direction to aim, an on-screen pointer would have been helpful; instead you must play an awkward side game of steady hands in which you attempt to manoeuvre your cursor into the desired area. Normally you can stick with the caddie shots, but putting generally comes down to your own intuition, so a more well-developed shot placement system would have been welcomed.
Whether on the fairway or in the clubhouse, there's an inescapable feeling that this is still a golf series developed for traditional controllers and tweaked for motion controls: menus are twitchy with Move and your caddie repeatedly mentions the Shot Stick on your DualShock, for example. While EA Tiburon's execution of Move controls is superior this time around, it's still behind the controller support for John Daly's ProStroke Golf, which was built from the ground up for PlayStation Move.
Where Tiger continues to stand head and shoulders above his rivals is in the same areas EA always excels: content and presentation. Bringing in The Masters tournament for the first time brings a sense of occasion to the game that's missing from yearly updates, and plenty of archive footage helps recreate the big-day atmosphere.
One of the stand-out elements of this year's package is the new Masters Moments, a selection of key matches from Masters history that challenge you to relive famous feats of old. It'll be familiar to anyone who's tried the Michael Jordan mode in NBA 2K11, only its scope is far wider: the challenges reach right back to the 1930s, and you can pass with one of two medals, depending on whether you come close to emulating the original moment or recreate it perfectly. As far as scenario modes go, it's one of the better ones in games of its type, with unlockable content along the way.
There's also a full career mode for your created character, starting off as a rookie and earning experience by taking part in tournaments with the overall aim of earning an invitation to the Masters, an aspiration that will take countless hours of gameplay to realise. You can also take on Quick Play modes on any of the available courses and the online play is as solid as ever in an EA Sports title.
Rounding out the excellent presentation is brand new commentary from Jim Nantz and David Feherty, plenty of precise speech from your caddie and the usual slick TV-style shots, replays and camera angles.
For all its qualities, playing Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters with Move feels like an alternative rather than an integral part of the experience. Shot placement is still fiddly, though this is less of a problem when using caddie mode, and to navigate any menu comfortably you'll need a pad or Navigation. There's still a little unwelcome delay when setting up for shots, and you don't have quite the same level of control as in John Daly's ProStroke Golf, a title with far less money invested in it than EA's effort.
Tiger's effort for 2011 does a lot right: the career mode is lengthy and enthralling, the presentation is top-drawer and the addition of The Masters at Augusta brings a sense of ceremony that we never realised the series had missed until now. Move controls are still disappointingly under-developed though, and although EA Tiburon has all-but nailed the swing mechanics it's still to prove it can build a wider experience around the controller.