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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters PS3/Xbox 360 Review.

Tiger is back for another fine performance in The Masters

A year has already passed and with another year beginning, EA brings us another rendition of Tiger Woods with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 The Masters. This years edition adds several new features as well as improve on other features from the past game. Xbox 360 owners will be sadden that the Kinect is not yet supported in this version but who knows it may be supported in the next game or possibly with a system update. As for PS3 owners the game has always supported the Move controller even before the Move was even released with last years game. While not everyone may like golf in general, PGA Tour offers something for everyone new and old.
When you first start the game, you will be introduced to a homage of one of Tiger's past moments in The Masters tournament which you take control of. It's a great addition but I found that performance in this event suffers with framerate drops and can easily be noticeable. After that you are taking to create your own golfer. Most of the features on your golfers physic are done via a slider grid in which you can customize it to your liking. Choosing your hairstyle though can be a bit difficult as the golfer model is wearing a hat and you can't take it off until you go to your golfers settings and remove it or choose from different head wear.

PGA Tour is all about customizing your character with different types of gear and golf clubs. As you play through the game you will get different sponsors if you meet a certain criteria. These sponsors will dress you up from head to toe with hats, shirts, pants, shoes even socks and watches. You will also unlock clubs which also give you an extra boost in the game. However you do not have to wait for the club to be unlocked as you can go into the EA store and purchase the club for a price. Do keep in mind that these cost real money. As you play through the game you will also earn XP which you can use to spend on your golfers skills such as power and speed. There are many skills that can help your golfer out throughout the game but spending XP on one skill means that after a certain amount the XP amount will go up meaning you have to spend more to keep working on said skill. Don't be frighten though as you can get XP from almost every single corner of PGA Tour 12.
There are 2 ways to spend your skills. One way is from the screen pop up after you beat a game or a challenge. The other is to go to the customize club mode. In this mode you will have the options to customize your your clubs from every angle even on ball spins. Spending any XP on this screen will show you in better detail how your shot might improve if you plan on spending your XP on a certain skill. This is a very useful tool in PGA Tour 12 and one I recommend using very constantly.

There are several play modes on PGA Tour 12. The Master Mode takes your golfer from rookie to play in the masters. You will play from several different Golf Courses around the world until you reach your goal. In the beginning you are pinned up against weaker opponents but as you proceed you are pinned up against pro golfers who will give you a harder challenge. While playing Master Mode, you will have several options to choose from before heading into the real tournament. In one mode known as Practice mode you will go face to face against a pro golfer in a set of challenges specific to that course. Those challenges vary from course to course and while hitting Birdies and Eagles will win most challenges, there's more that you have to do or prevent your opponent from doing in order to win because they might just sneak up behind you. The other mode is a Sponsor challenge. Both these challenges last for only a few rounds and they are a great way to earn XP to take on the tournament which requires time and patience when playing. Tournament mode requires that you play through all 18 holes of the course and there are no retries.
Another mode is to relive Tiger's moments in The Master's Tournament from years past. These challenges relive Tiger's glory days and for each year there is a short interview with Tiger about those days in his life. You can also take part in the Master Moment challenges. These are challenges which were set by Pro Golfers past dating back to 1935 in the shot heard around the world to 2010 Phil Mickelson's shot at the Masters Tournament. These challenges unlock new content if you master them meaning if you manage to recreate that moment you will unlock said content. Of course there is a lesser award for coming close but you won't unlock anything besides extra XP for your golfer. Unless your golfer is well customized in the skills department and you have unlocked extra gear that gives you a boost, playing these events is just a waste of time.

There are also several quick play modes. In the Play Now mode players can play as their favorite golfers on any events and courses available with all sorts of options to choose from, even the ability to change the weather to real time weather. You can also participate in The Presidents cup, an event in which the US plays against another Nation with 2 of their best golfers.

Tiger does feature multiplayer options from playing with 4 friends at your house to playing online in Live Tournaments or you can choose a quicker option with online match making. Tournament Mode features several tournament which means there is always a tournament going on at any time of the day but at times you may not find one. What's great about Tournament mode is that you are not only tied down to your created golfer but you can choose from several other golfers to play with as well.
I do miss the days where in a golfing game all you had to do was press buttons but now a days you have to use the L-stick to make a shot which is not bad but the control system can be pretty anal about the sensitivity. Even a nudge on the L-stick can send your shot the wrong the direction and this is most annoying when you can't make the put shot at only 1 foot away. The camera controls are also very awkward as you cannot use it to see the obstacles that lie in between the shots. If you are new to the series it will take you time to master it and even if you are a veteran, at times you will miss those very important shots. I recommend using a controller with a smooth L-stick. I had to borrow another controller because both of my PS3 controllers get slightly stuck when pressing down or up. I know that my dog chewed on these and that might be what caused this problem but that's besides the fact.
This years edition of TWPGAT is suppose to feature 3D grass but that is barely noticeable when playing a regular game. The game plays in 720P which is still a disappointment in my book as I’ve said before the difference between 720P and 1080P are night and day. Up-scaling isn't a bad option and I do hope that EA takes this route in the near future. Character models aren't all that great from the previous year and the crowd could be a little more involved throughout the game. There was this one instance where my golf ball flew into the crowd and hit a person on the leg and the person covered his head instead of holding his leg. This is rather funny but it does take away from the experience if you wanna start chucking balls into the crowd just for fun. Also while playing by yourself without a crowd, the golfer will still make his regular gestures such as: waving, raising his hands up and looking at the crown when there is no crowd. I think instead of 3D grass EA should focus more on the golfers models and making the game play in full 1080P if not upscale.
All I can say about the sound is that it's there. The announcers talk during the tournament they are not as specific as specific about your shots than in other sports titles. The crowd cheers but only cheer when you hit the ball. They don't go wild when you make the shot to the green or make a close call. If you hit the ball to a grassy area but the ball manages to get to the green you will only hear the crowds aw but not a hooray if it gets to the green. The sound effects are great but it's nothing out of the ordinary. The only one I say did a good job was the caddy who explains all the shots in detail and what his recommendations are. They could have gone deeper with his explanations but for the level that it's at it's decent.
Another negative that EA needs to work on is the loading. Every time you start the game you will run into the checking trophies screen which lasts for a few seconds. Loading matches doesn't last long which is great but the saving matches screen is where they need to shorten the loading feature. It's fine if it saves your game but why does it always have to save your settings if you didn't change anything. You also cannot skip when the caddy is talking which only take about 5 seconds of your time but it's still annoying that you cannot just skip him and he's every where in the game even online matches.
Gameplay time however TWPGAT 12 doesn't fall short. On top of the trophies and achievements you will also get to collect pins throughout the game which are awarded every time you complete an in game challenge. There is also a to do list for every course in the game which if completed gives you extra content and XP for your player. Every time a list is completed your caddy will also give you extra pointers on that same course for the next time you come and play. Online is solid although not different from an in game tournament but instead of competing against the computer score, you're competing against another human's score. Each tournament can last upwards of 30 minutes each and each challenge can last up to 15 minutes assuming you don't hit the retry button or lose.
Verdict: Buy

With so many modes and so much to do you will be playing TWPGAT 12 up to this time next year. Pins add an extra element of gameplay than just your regular achievements and trophies and the to do list will make you go back to each course to beat all the challenges. Graphically the game isn't amazing but the game is very fun to play. Whether you are a rookie or a veteran of the series there is something for everyone to enjoy.

GamePlay: You don't have to be a golf fan to enjoy The Masters as it simple to play yet hard to master but getting there is so much fun. 10/10

Graphics: Nothing has really changed from last year besides the 3D grass but playing at 720P, you will hardly notice the difference. 7.5/10

Sound: The sound is not the best with the announcers not getting deep into the game and the crowd cheering at the wrong time for the wrong reason that it actually takes away from the experience. 6.5/10

Performance: The game performs very smooth and the controllers are solid through most of the game but at times you will run into that little tap to the right that will force you to miss your shot. Loading times can also be a pain even if it only lasts for a few seconds. 8.5/10

LifeSpan: There are so many achievements in the game you will be kept busy for a long time and each time you play, you will only be sucked more and more into the game. 10/10

Total Score: 85/100

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