Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13: Young Tiger

On The Downswing

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 prepares for the twilight era of its star’s career. Meanwhile, the game itself hits a high point.

By Drew Toal • April 5, 2012

The Tiger Woods saga appeared to have reached its sad, drawn-out endgame. The once-undisputed grandmaster of the links hadn’t won a tournament since 2009. He seemed to retreat into himself, shambling down the fairway and nursing a host of nagging injuries, miles away from the Tiger who once seemed invincible.

But Electronic Arts stuck with him. Perhaps sensing that the heyday of its popular brand has passed, the latest iteration of the publisher’s flagship golf series, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13, incorporates a “Tiger Legacy” mode. Here, players can forget Tiger’s decline as they relive the big moments in his golf career, beginning with his appearance on The Mike Douglas Show at age two. In convincing sepia tones, players control little Tiger as he chips into an inflatable swimming pool in Earl Woods’ backyard. It’s an engrossing time lapse for those curious about how Woods made it to the top.

EA’s premortem retrospective may be premature. Pro golf’s popularity, even today, is fueled by Woods’ every move. So when Tiger showed signs of life a few weeks ago, winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the sports world was aflutter with talk of his reclaiming the Masters green jacket that was once his birthright. Woods’ renewed interest in not sucking has certainly caused rivals to take notice, and will undoubtedly be a boon to television ratings—and sales of this game. Everyone loves a comeback story, even if it’s the man who has never been an underdog his entire life.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13: Teeing off

Without the Kinect motion-sensor accessory, Tiger Woods 13 is a serviceable installment to the series. The single-player mode allows for quick one-off matches or a campaign-style career. You win challenges and reach pre-set goals to unlock improved equipment and increasingly egregious golfing outfits. In a similar fashion, the new Course Mastery segment lets you unlock courses with coins earned through continued play. 

The shot-making mechanism is more complex than in previous editions. The swing meter is particularly sensitive to tempo and “swing plane,” and you can alter your stance depending on the situation—especially helpful when punching the ball out of greenside bunkers, to the twisted amusement of the despicable Jim Nantz (the game’s default commentator).

This is all more than satisfactory, but with the Kinect, the Tiger Woods experience elevates to a new level of full-motion golfing ass-kickery. Shielding your eyes with your left hand, you can gaze down the fairway and plan your shot, or crouch down and check the lie. Your swing motion actually affects the shot’s trajectory, and while the ball is in flight, Jersey Shore-style fist pumps create favorable ball spin. It’s challenging, but not so much that players fed up with constantly slicing the ball into the trees will be throwing an imaginary six-iron through the living-room window. The voice command menus are helpful and responsive, although an option to verbally berate the caddy for his abysmal putting advice wouldn’t be unwelcome. 

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13: Augusta National

The best new geegaw lets players create their own country club. This mode initially had me skeptical, because country clubs are obviously some of the worst redoubts of monied, chauvinistic Anglo-fascism in the world. (At the moment, Augusta National—the annual scene of the The Masters—is considering admitting its first female member. In 2012.) As emperor of your own country club, though, you can admit all the social undesirables your heart desires. The club can be public or private, serious or relaxed. This online space allows players to test their skills in tournaments against friends and strangers, with the game helpfully tracking the results. The only complaint here is that you’re apparently limited to one club membership at a time.

Like many casual golf fans, I’ve been considerably less interested in the professional game since Tiger’s much-publicized declawing. Observing a locked-in Tiger as he crushes the will of his opponents is a sight to behold. Watching him play now, though, is sort of like watching an unhinged Bobby Fischer play chess against Boris Spassky in 1992, or an ailing Muhammad Ali fighting Larry Holmes in 1980. It’s clearly the same person, but his game is a shadow of what it once was. It’s depressing. So if Tiger can’t summon up the old powers this weekend at The Masters, at least I can take some solace in seeing him choke the life out of my pixilated, polo-shirted avatar in the game that bears his name.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13
Developer: EA Tiburon
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Price: $60
Rating: E

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383 Responses to “On The Downswing”

  1. riobravo79 says:

    Wow. That plaintive expression on Lil Tiger is breaking my heart.

  2. Binsbein says:

    Was expecting a Xenoblade Chronicles review, pleasantly surprised to see a Kinect ga….Sorry I can’t.

    • dreadguacamole says:

       If you have a Wii and any interest in JRPGs, go buy Xenoblade. It’s not perfect, but really, really good.

      • Binsbein says:

        When I didn’t know if Xenoblade was coming out in the West or not, I…uh ‘acquired’ it but I doubled down and pre-ordered the actual US version too so my questionable decision is okay now!

        • doyourealize says:

          I, too, hacked my Wii to play it, but actually ordered the European version from the once-reputable GAME online.  Glad to hear you bought the US version, though.

  3. Dorand says:

    Didn’t tiger win a tournament a week or two ago?

  4. Shain Eighmey says:

    Honestly, I’m still not really sold on the appeal of Kinect. 

    • Dorand says:

      The idea will be great when they can make it much more accurate. The movement tracking is so so and it loses people a lot. Even the voice commands alone often take 3+ tries.

      • Shain Eighmey says:

        That was my experience with it at launch. I was able to try it in the store and it kept losing me. Mind you, even if it did work I’m still skeptical about the idea that I even want to dance around to play a game, which I mostly do to relax. My gaming is similar to my reading, it’s an unwinding exercise. 

        • doyourealize says:

          I’ve got a Kinect, and the only thing I’ve used it for is the dance games, which are pretty fun when drunk (and my fiance loves them, so it’s worth it.)  I also use it to voice my conversation options in ME3 when I want to put my controller down.

          I’m interested in checking out this game, though.  Tiger Woods golf was the first game that I really enjoyed the Wii motion-control for, so maybe that will carry over to the Kinect.  I’d never say Kinect is a serious piece of gaming equipment, but if it can be fun every once in a while, I’ll take it.

      • Drew Toal says:

        Yeah. At first I was having similar issues. I’m decently smooth with it now. And I only occasionally have to scream “Putt preview!” at the screen more than once.

    • Binsbein says:

      Not sold on hardware gutted by MS to meet baseline consumer demand? Shame.

    • whataworkout says:

       I think it is a very cool bit of technology, but it just isn’t quite up to providing a control experience on par with an actual controller.  I am intrigued by the Crytek game in development; it is built from the ground-up for the system and doesn’t have the look of a glorified tech-demo. 

  5. ElDan_says_Fuck_Disqus says:

    I own Tiger 11 and 12, because most of my friends have them, but I think I’m comfortable just giving up on the series at this point. Driving is fun enough, but putting feels like a really elaborate Geometry problem.

  6. Poor says:

    Tiger, I am more prone to be inquisitive, to promote discussion. I want to find out what your thinking was. I want to find out what your feelings are and … did you learn anything?

  7. Southern_Discomfort says:

    Picked up the demo today after watching some Master’s coverage and MAN has this gotten more complicated since the last one I owned back in 2008. I hate it, but I think I can grow to like it.

    I do think Tiger’s days as the standard-bearer of pro golf are starting to wane, though it depends on McIlroy or even Leonard starting to dominate on a level they just aren’t at yet.  But that doesn’t really have much to do with this game, does it?

  8. No commentary about EA’s heinous DLC methods for this game? For people who don’t know, you don’t receive all of the courses with the original game. Instead, you have to keep renting (that’s right, renting) the course until you complete some near-impossible achievements. This means to get all of the courses in the game, you would either need to commit hundreds of hours of play, or spend hundreds of dollars. Classy, EA.

  9. skellatour says:

    I am very surprised to read that playing with the Kinect worked well for you. I tried the demo and thought it was a terrible mess. Is there a difference in the way the game plays between demo and retail, or was there some setting that you changed to get it to work well?

    For instance, it did not seem to make a bit of difference how fast I moved my arms, my swings all had the same amount of power-from Happy Gilmore hacks to the smallest arm waves.

    • Will Bortolin says:

      I played the demo and own the game. Kinect controls are indeed a terrible mess. If Drew thought that he was controlling anything about his shots, he was imagining things. It’s a total joke. But I like most everything else about the game.

  10. Doug Wykstra says:

    So you rated this an E, but the review sounds more like a C+.

  11. benben114 says: