The 26th March was a day circled in the calendar for many fans of computerised golf games as the long-awaited next installment of EA Sports golf franchise is released; Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14.
While we normally take a look at the latest golf apps, this week we are previewing this imminent release and looking at some of the key features of the game, ostensibly for the XBox and PS3 systems, but with an eye to whether it would also make a good purchase for those users who would enjoy playing the game as an app.
So, with just a few days to go before release, is the new Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 worth buying?
One of the greatest challenges faced by any team involved in a game that has enjoyed considerable success and numerous incarnations over a lengthy period of time, is justifying a customer spending around $60, or the equivalent of, each year on what is essentially a very similar game to the one they currently own.
In the past few years, EA Sports have become something of an expert at this, rehashing several titles time and time again (with varying degrees of success) to keep punters buying their latest product upon release.
Given that the operation system (if you discount the XBox Kinect and PS3 Move compatibility) for the PGA Tour series has barely changed since its inception over twenty years ago, you do after all still project the ball on each shot via a series of button clicks, how do EA Sports manage to achieve success each year and is Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14, a worthy upgrade over number 13?
One of EA’s key strengths when theyu market a new sports game, is presentation. Their attention to detail appeals greatly to the ‘nerd’ sports fan. Not just in terms of statistical data and player data being accurate and realistic, player representations being faithful and similarly looking to their real life alter-ego, but also in terms of presentation.
The fact is that the new Tiger Woods PGA 14 game is up to the same high standard. The familiar musical sequences between holes and events, fly-by previews, Phil Nantz voice-overs, birdsong, wind whistling through the trees and of course commentary all add to the ambience of the game.
A particularly nice touch is when playing one of the new Historical challenges, the screen presentation changes to reflect that era, so players from the 1870′s will wear tam-o-shanter’s and plus fours and use Brassies and Niblicks as their clubs and the decor and feel of each era has been faithfully recaptured as you play through the challenges throughout the years, with some holes played in sepia with grainy footage giving an ‘old-style’ feel to the presentation.
The courses included are also immaculately represented and the fact that there are now 20 included on the disc does increase the longevity of the game.
In terms of presentation, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 is still at the very top and a benchmark for other games to follow.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 boasts several new features in this version over previous versions:
- Go for the Grand Slam – For the first time, players can compete in any one of a number of historical Major events from all four of golfs major tournaments to see if they can become Grand Slam champion for the ages.
- Step into the Pasy – The “Legends” aspect of the game allows you to play the game as it was in the past, complete with grainy footage, old-style clubs, dodgy hair cuts and fashions, the lot!
- Live Weather – Now you don’t have to select the weather, you can let mother nature decide by using a Live Weather feed to set up conditions on your chosen course as they are right at this very moment!
- Play Against up to 24 players at once online – In the new Tournament mode, you can compete against 24 other golfers at once on the same hole at the same time, with an upgraded stats pack to ensure all competition is as fair and intense as possible.
- The LPGA – For the first time in Tiger Woods, you can now play on the Ladies Pro tour and also in the first Major of the year, the Nabisco Championship.
Long Term Appeal
Any game such as Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14, thrives because it has long term appeal and the new game has certainly made positive strides in this area over earlier versions. The fact you now get 20 courses on disk, 35 golfers, plus LPGA Tour access and the historic aspect of the game with the Legends section, adds new elements to the game, particularly for the single player. These are both engaging and add to the appeal of the game.
For more ardent gamers, the online version of the game, with its improved Country Club function, offers the chance to play online against a large number of competitors however you choose to play. While I have reservations about this aspect of the game (previous online versions have been a tad unrealistic at times as gamers have regularly shot rounds of 54 or less as they hone their skills to perfection) I am hopeful that some balancing of the AI along with a few more random factors may make these kinds of unrealistic scores a thing of the past and level the playing field for players of all abilities.
The final key to the game is playability and this is where Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 always scores well. Whether you are using the traditional click of the button method, or the new Kinect of PSMove controller, swinging the club remains easy to learn but also rewardingly difficult to master. The difficulty levels are set just right (though there is a steep learning curve once you move from the easiest setting onto the more difficult ones) and a player is rewarded for their patience learning the nuances of the game.
The Legends section and the improved online sections also add greater flexibility on playing the game, as does the chance to play on the LPGA tour.
In short, this new release looks like being the best yet. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 was released on 26th March worldwide.
(All Videos courtesy of YouTube, Image Courtesy of EA Sports)