The excitement of the playing the newly minted best course in America was so high on the list for me that I had my edition of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters reordered three and a half months in advance of its release Tuesday.
As with any golf fan, the dream of stepping on the tee at the famed Georgia Jewel is a dream I will always hold in high esteem, even if the likelihood of it happening is equal to marrying Scarlett Johansson.
Luckily for you and I, the good folks at EA Sports opened their checkbook and the Green Jackets at Augusta National Golf Club opened their minds and allowed Bobby Jones’ crowning achievement to be made immortal on a video game.
If the commercials over the past few months, which have ratcheted up significantly throughout the past two weeks, haven’t gotten you even more excited for the game as well as that little toon-a-mint in a weeks time, you need to check your pulse.
Augusta, for me, was a dream realized in 2007. My high school golf coach had obtained some badges for a Monday practice round, but work restraints did not allow him to go. He sent out a mass e-mail to the kids and dads on the team saying the first to respond could have the four badges he had procured from the yearly lottery. Coming about my love for golf honestly, my father responded within two minutes of the e-mail being sent. With that, we were off to Augusta for a Monday practice round. (More to come next week.)
Like any good fan, I took mental pictures all day and it remains one of the most memorable experiences of my life. As it happens, memories fade and only certain parts stand out, of course, unless we are reminded of something with great detail.
That’s exactly what Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters did for me.
Without further ado, on to the review.
The journey began last Augusta when EA’s lead scanning technician Shannon Yates travelled to Augusta National for a 10-day stay. While there, Yates used three laser scanners on every hole to take 360-degree views allowing the game to have every piece of the National perfect to six millimeters. Also, the famed greens are scanned to be within one millimeter of the actual course.
The set up is amazing. One thing I like about the Tiger games is that you can hit a shot to anywhere you want conceivably. You can literally face backward and hit the ball down Magnolia Drive. Of course, you can’t see the ball go down Magnolia Lane, but the point is that you can look around the course, which is more than likely the reason you purchased the game.
You turn around on the first tee and see the putting green, the clubhouse and the magnificent oak tree. If you’re into looking around the National, turn off the Tour atmosphere before playing and look around and take in the sights. All the cabins are there. It’s very well done.
There are a couple of new features in the 2012 edition of the game that we haven’t seen before in the franchise.
The first one that catches your eye is the new caddie feature. On every shot, you get your very own voice of reason giving you a few options for your upcoming shot. There is usually a “safe” shot where you lay-up and a riskier shot where you might hit a driver or three-wood. The idea is pretty cool, but those aren’t your only options. Like every other game, you have the chance to shape your own shot by going custom.
The biggest asset, in my opinion, of the caddie feature is that the shot he suggests for you shows you the flight of the ball like you would see on a broadcast. In reality, the flight really doesn’t mean much for your swing, but I like to see the shot visualized and it is something I try when out playing a real round, so I thought it was cool to have on the game.
The Career Mode.
Immediately upon starting the game for the first time you see one of the commercials for the game, only this time it transitions into last year and Tiger’s search for his fifth green jacket. Right out of the gate, you’re thrown into the 18th hole, needing birdie to win the Masters. You get the patented Tiger heart beat vibrating your controller and for the first time, you have the focus option, which stops the vibrating and makes your landing area more precise.
Although I’m skeptical as to whether you can actually lose this first challenge, it’s a pretty cool start to the game.
After slipping on Tiger’s fifth green jacket, you head to the main menu where the rest of your rounds will start. Assuming you can withstand the urge to go to ‘Quick Play’ and run to the first tee at the National, you will create your own player and begin your career.
The career mode is pretty cool overall. It is called “The Road to the Masters and you don’t just get a free pass to play in the Masters, you have to earn it. Beginning as an amateur, you need to win a local am event to get on the Nationwide Tour.
While on the Nationwide Tour, you need to win two events, come in the top five twice or come in the top 10 three times to earn your spot in Q-School. Another cool thing about the Nationwide Tour is that the leader board is full of names you recognize. For instance, I was doing battle with Jhonnatan Vegas.
Once in Q-School you need to come in the top 25 to earn your card and then you’re off to play with the big boys, but a spot on the Tour doesn’t guarantee you a invite to the Masters. You need to do one of two things to tee it up for the first major of the year: rise up the rankings to be inside the top 100 in EA’s world rankings or complete the Masters Moments.
The Masters Moments.
Another addition to the game is the Masters Moments where you need to recreate great shots in Masters history. For example, you can try and make eagle on No. 13 like Arnold Palmer did in 1958; chip in on 16 like Tiger did in 2005; hit the shot from the pine straw on 13 like Phil Mickelson did in 2010; chip in on 11 like Larry Mize in 1987, among others.
A note of caution: I pretty well steamed my way onto the PGA Tour on the “Pro” difficulty level. The game suggested I move up to “TOUR Pro” to challenge myself, the second hardest setting behind “Tournament.” I did and it makes the game exponentially harder. No longer can you spin the ball in mid-air, show your putting line on the green or use a power up before hitting the ball. As I began being accustomed to the changes, I decided to try my hand at the Masters Moments with Chris Chaney, my created golfer.
It’s really hard.
As with every create-a-player, you need to accomplish objectives and in turn you get experience points to add on to parts of your game. Having on had the game for a few days, I have increased my player by a lot, but not enough to master the Masters Moments.
There are two ways to pass the Masters Moments. You can either “pass” or “master” them. Now, passing isn’t too difficult. It might take you two or three tries to do it, but mastering them is really difficult. If you’re like me and need to master them to feel at ease, plan on wasting a lot of time and restarting the challenges because they are tough using your created player.
Bits and Pieces.
Upon completing a round at Augusta National, you get an offiical Masters scorecard with all your scores and your name on it, which I thought was pretty cool in an 8-year-old kind of way because it has my name on it and stuff.
Now onto a couple things I didn’t like.
First of all, even though I’ve made it to the PGA Tour, you can’t play all the events. Of course, I wasn’t eligible for the season-opening Tournament of Champions because I hadn’t won the previous year on Tour, so I had to skip that. I understand that, but the third tournament of the year I was forced to skip because I did not purchase the course the tournament was played on. I understand the logic of it, but I don’t see why you can’t play the course the four rounds for the tournament and then have to buy it to play recreationally. It’s not that big of a deal because you still play the majority of the events, but it would be nice to have the opportunity to play all of them.
Another thing I didn’t like was that I was unable to use the Photo Game Face feature. I don’t know if it was because of my own ineptitude in uploading the pictures or what, but I did try and I did fail. I have used the feature on a previous version of the game, but couldn’t do it on this one, which, again, was a bummer, but not a deal breaker.
Full disclosure, I’m a big fan of Jim Nantz and David Feherty, but the announcing is still as generic as always. It would take a lot more work and money coughed up by EA to get the right comments at the right time. As it stands, after a few rounds, you’ve recycled all the phrases, so I think we’re still a few years away from that.
The game is “as advertised” and probably a little more. The reason most will buy this game is for Augusta and rightly so. The namesake of the game is right around the corner and everyone wants to take their shot at the most prestigious course in the country.
That being said, the game is so much more than just Augusta. I think the new career mode is a major step up from previous versions. I like the challenge of building up your created player to one day have a shot at winning the green jacket. As you play more, the game realizes your skill set and suggests moving up a difficulty level. I fear I am coming up on Tournament difficulty and believe I may struggle with the nuances of the swing motion as the sensitivity increases as the difficulty does.
For sure this is as tough a Tiger Woods game as there has been for Xbox. The new way to putt is ten-times harder than the older versions and without the putting line, everything inside 20 feet is no longer a gimme. I’m not proud to say that I have four-putted on multiple occassions.
Is the game worth the wait and $63?
Yes, no doubt about it.
It’s easily the best golf game I’ve ever played and I daresay the best video game I’ve played. If you’re a golf fan, do yourself a favor and run out and pick it up. You can thank me later.