For decades, the preliminary boot-up of any sports game would unceremoniously dump players off at the main menu. Taking a cue from NBA 2K11‘s exhilarating opener- which followed Michael Jordan from an anxious locker room to the court of the NBA Finals, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters cultivates a similar fervor. Within seconds of inserting the game into the drive tray, players are transported to the eighteenth hole at Augusta, where four-time Masters winner Woods and rival Anthony Kim vie for the tournament’s green blazer. At its core, the sequence still acts as a tutorial for the title’s new feature, yet also foreshadows some of the thrills generated by the game’s taut competitions.
Developer EA Tiburon has missed few opportunities in their transition from PGA Tour 11‘s pursuit of the Ryder Cup to this year’s Masters challenge- making the coveted contest the objective of the title’s career mode. From the game’s recreation of pivotal Masters shots, opening cinematic, loading screens, and meticulous recreation of Augusta’s merciless structural design, the studio subtly articulates the prestige and grandeur of the tournament. Before heading to Georgia, players are required to excel in amateur leagues, pass through qualifying school, earn their PGA Tour card, and qualify for the main event. It’s a protracted journey which makes each new plateau of professionalism feel like an accomplishment. Through the trek, players are presented with periodic Tiger Challenges, which reward duffers with both sponsorships and equipment. Smartly, the game removes much of the XP grinding which was prevalent in PGA Tour 11; owners of last year’s game can even import their experience into this season’s iteration.
Beyond the title’s career mode, the Masters play a role in two other components. Inside Augusta National allows user to study the nuances of the course, where they’ll be given give tips for each hole. Masters Moments presents nine historical scenarios, each challenging players to replicate the achievement of a pro; success in the series grants users an automatic entry into the prestigious tournament.
Both time-strapped and inaugural Tiger Woods players may appreciate the title’s caddie system, which recalls Madden NFL 11‘s accelerated play calling. Before every stroke, gamers are given a selection of recommended shots, color-coded to indicate risk. Pressing the top bumpers on the controllers delivers a visual preview of the ball’s landing area- factoring in ball lie, elevation, and wind. As a players level of course mastery increases, so does the expertise of your caddie; although occasionally they’ll refrain from offering counsel. Of course, players can always dispense with the advice altogether, and calculate their own tactics to get on the greens. A few other clever mechanics benefit busy gamers- from being able to skip past the post-stoke trajectory to have the ability to save mid-tourney.
Whereas previous Tiger Woods titles have revealed the minutiae of the sport in the higher difficulty settings, PGA Tour 12 has ratcheted up its short game. While keeping the dimpled sphere on the fairway remains relatively effortless, challenge has been added to approaches and putt. Here, the slightest hook or slice on the analog stick translates into a veering shot, with power being especially tough to control.
While integrating DLC courses into Tiger Wood‘s core campaign was long overdue, the actual implementation is dubious. During a career, players are given the opportunity to purchase five additional courses. Spend the cash, shoot below par, and your rank will escalate. However, players who decline the offer will often see a slight drop in rank. While this design decision isn’t a deal-killer, it does feel unnecessarily punitive to players who just spent sixty dollars on a new game.
Graphically, PGA Tour 12 adds few minor enhancements- rendered grass now sways with the passing breeze, while character models emote a bit less robotically. Coinciding with the addition of the Masters Tournament is commentary by Jim Nantz, along with returning announcer David Feherty. While each broadcaster offers a robust collection of insightful comments, the duo rarely feel in sync, infrequently exhibiting any interaction. Hopefully, next year’s dialog can convey a sense of synergistic conversation.
Despite an awkward DLC-pushing ploy, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters returns as the requisite golf simulation for enthusiasts of the sport. Between the incorporation of the eminent tournament and a host of small tweaks designed for both newcomers as well as the busy players, this year’s iteration of the long-running series offers a respectable upgrade which justifies the price. Much like the game’s prominent athlete, EA Tiburon has prodigiously chipped one past the hazards, landing just inches from the pin.