Tiger Woods 14 review

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Sunlight streaming through vast pine trees that tower into the sky, lining the fairway as you address your ball. It sits up proud and as you look towards the crest where a flag proudly flutters with the wind, the burning question grips you; 9 iron or wedge? The breeze picks up. Should you wait or take advantage of the gust?

Tiger Woods has been receiving annual updates for nearly as long as Tiger has been playing and whilst Tiger’s recent return to form has been met with mild fervour by his critics, the videogame carrying the name of the once highest grossing sportsman on the planet has never really seen a similar dip in popularity. It has a monopoly on the gold market and for good reason, as year after year players rush to grab the next evolution of the must have franchise and each year EA refines the gameplay, experimenting with new ideas and improving those that proved popular with previous iterations.

This time around much has been kept from 2012’s offering in Tiger 13. Country clubs are back but now with a maximum member count of 100 – up by 250%. Pins collected within the club allow boosts to be placed before a round to ensure your golfer has every edge with inter club tournaments, and you can text chat to club members no matter what game mode you are in. A sort of exclusive in-game party chat. Better get your lolspeak ready.

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History can be fun.

Shot shaping is back and now the arc of the swing and your input on the stick has a more indicative and natural way of shaping your strike with the ball. Fade and Draw are now inputted by diagonally moving the stick rather than relying on pre determined statistics of each golfers control ability. Golfers with inherent control in the ‘real world’ are easier to pull off distinct draw and fade shots, as they have a greater margin of error when swinging. But with the right skill in flicking the joypad, newly created golfers can pull the same shots with ease. A requirement to judge when to stop the backswing for required power is a dubious move as it can be very hit and miss and almost intuitive in its method for a videogame, but practice ensures that the new method is adopted as superior to its predecessor.

In 2013 you played through Tiger’s life from child prodigy to old man. A stand out feature at the expense of its Career mode, its omission is unsurprising for new content in the shape of 2014’s Legends mode. Here you literally play through a history of golf, reliving key moments of the sports legends from 1873’s first ever Open, the golden years of golf right through to Tiger’s own golden years. It’s a very nice replacement for the life of Tiger mode in 2013 but the Career mode is now pushed further into obscurity by it and the new online daily connected tournament.

Connected tournaments sync with your chosen club so you reap benefits for you and it, providing you place well of course. A clever feature now allows ball tracking live from everyone playing at the same time on the same course on the same hole (presumably on the same server). It’s quite the motivator when on the fairway on your own at dusk, watching virtual arcs sweep through the air as dozens of players from around the world take their drives.

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Golf in the dark.

Which conveniently brings us to another highlight; real time clock cycles. Now you can elect to play at the correct world time for the course, even through to glowing balls at night under a full moon. More than just a gimmick, it’s a natural evolution for the franchise and one that should be on the EA’s ‘keep list’.

EA Sports games are renowned for their eye popping realistic graphics and while every one of the players look like their real life counterparts, they still look a little too plastic compared to say the in game engines of others such as Battlefield and such like. The courses however as sumptuous and incredibly detailed, as blades of grass move in the breeze in time with the garments on the golfers. A small detail but one that serves to enrich the authenticity of the experience more than you would think.

The weakest area without Kinect would be the commentary track, repeating itself with uninspired vocals from the commentators. It feels lazy, rushed and just plain boring – recycling after barely an hour’s play. With Kinect however, as much as voice commands work seamlessly (“zoom in” “change club” “address the ball” and so on) the actual body tracking element is woeful. As un natural as it is to stand perpendicular to the screen, one can at least see the benefit for Kinect’s sake. The trouble lies in the juxtaposition that Kinect can clearly track you as in the bottom left your hands will glow yellow and red. It tracks you perfectly in the Kinect viewer as you take a swing too. How the Xbox translates said swing a quarter of a second later is baffling. It’s compounded from Tiger 13 Kinect, as the evolved swing shaping requires a greater degree of accuracy. It just doesn’t work. Judging shot power is infuriating. Aiming with a closed fist requires the patience of ten nuns and the frustration felt looking at the TV, hand above your eyes (your zooming in to the flag) only for Kinect to assume you’ve had enough and zooms out and then back in again when you drop your  hand, tears of rage fill your eyes as it’s been ten minutes lining the shot up. It has no improvement over last year’s release which makes the ‘better with Kinect” strapline even more ironic. Bear in mind that we are great advocates of Kinects potential, but after a full night with four lads, Tiger Woods 14 and half crate of beer – it’s reputation is in tatters.

Tiger 14 will no doubt sell incredibly well and with good reason, an almost hidden career mode gives way to the Legends and Daily Connected tournaments. Sublime representation of the finest courses in the world and for the first time, every US Open available to compete in means there is plenty of content to play through solo. The Club Championships are now a real highlight providing the one club you do join has a good community ethic. As ever, most items in the Tiger stable have been polished and glossed, a handful of features have been omitted in favour of a wealth of online improvements. In short, Tiger truly is back.

Game details

Game title: Tiger Woods 14
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Available for: Xbox 360, PS3
Developer: EA Sports
Publisher: EA Sports
Strengths: Slick presentation. Strong online component. Legends mode.
Weaknesses: Kinect just doesn’t work this time around.
Score: 7 out of 10
Score breakdown

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