Tiger Woods 12: The Masters Sets Record for Franchise

April 18, 2011 in Golf

Thumbs up, I'm still rich.

EA Sports has announced the first week’s sales of Tiger Woods PGA Tour ’12: The Masters has set the record for highest selling video game in the 14-year history of the franchise.

With Woods’ scandal in full blossom during the release of the game last year, sales struggled and EA even came out saying that Tiger needed to improve his game or they may have to search to find a new spokesman for the game going forward.

The wins haven’t come yet for Woods, but the Augusta National Golf Club opened their doors and turned a whole new audience onto the game.

EA reported that 225,000 copies of the game was sold in the first week, a 17 percent increase from the previous highest-selling editioin, Tiger Woods PGA Tour ’08 and a 200 percent increase from 2010 sales of the game.

With the anticipation for the year’s first major and subsequent thrilling finish, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the game had continued success as people try to find any way possible to set foot onto the hallowed  grounds of the Georgia Jewel.

Also, Woods’ own play seems to be improving, finishing in a tie for fourth place at Augusta and showing signs of regaining his previous form.

The game, also available on the Apple iPhone and iPad brought in record sales, grossing more than any other sports app in its first week of availability.

Tiger and EA both better be thanking those green jackets in Augusta for letting them use their track, it seems to have paid off, but what will the folks at EA Sports do next year to one-up the 2012 version?

Review: Tiger Woods PGA ’12: The Masters (Xbox360)

March 31, 2011 in Golf

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 Course.

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.

The Caddie.

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.

Overall Impressions.

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.

The Tiger Woods PGA Commercial is Real

March 26, 2011 in Golf

ShortGame99

The newest edition of the Tiger Woods and EA Sports series, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters, comes out on Tuesday. If you have been watching March Madness the past couple of days you no doubt have seen three commercials over and over.

When watching a game on CBS, you probably feel like you’re watching basketball games in between Masters ads, which the network is so keen on showing during every timeout. Although I must admit, I get pumped every time I see one; I just assume it must bother people who don’t golf.

Other than than the Masters commercials featuring different Masters champion saying how cool it is to win, there is that annoyingly catchy Napa Know How spot that people either love or hate. I still don’t know in which group I belong.

Finally, the third commercial you must have seen over the past few days has been this one, for Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters:

What’s unique about this commercial is that Augusta National opened its famed Magnolia Drive and allowed the EA Sports guys to bring in cameras and actors to actually play the course for the promo.

These Green Jacket moments had no green screen. “James from San Jose” really did blast out of the sand on No. 10. “Thomas,” the guy representing “you” on No. 18 really did drain that eight foot putt – and he did it left-handed. And ShortGame99? The crew needed three takes for his majestic tee shot on the famed No. 12, but the 12-year-old boy really did drive the green.

The commercial, shot in a one-day shoot in February, was lucky enough to have the actors who play James from San Jose, Thomas and ShortGame99 with some golfing chops.

Personally, I’m jealous of each of the actors, but no more than ShortGame99 who got to play No. 12, Golden Bell, my single favorite hole in the United States.

“He’s an incredible golfer,” Evans said, of the actor who played ShortGame99. “We only needed three takes with him and he put all three on the green.”

Interestingly enough, the actor who plays Thomas, the everyman like you who sinks the putt on 18 to win the Masters, is a right-handed golfer, but the shot called for him to play lefty so the camera could get the shot it needed. Using the same towers CBS uses during Masters week, which are permanent structures on the famed course, EA was able to capture Thomas’ putt on the first take.

“Augusta National, throughout the entire process, were world class partners in terms of the level of access to their club,” Evans said. “They don’t take it lightly to have a crew of photographers and directors and actors and producers and production assistants running around their course.”

For Evans, an avid golfer and fan, having the opportunity to shoot on the Georgia Jewel was special for him.

“It was really very neat,” said Evans, who was at Augusta National with the crew. “I’m a big golfer myself, and it’s like making a pilgrimage. For golfers, it’s the gold standard.

“The Masters and the ability to play at Augusta National has been our No. 1 requested feature for the last 20 years,” Evans said. “What we tried to do with the spot is put people in the shoes of somebody who now can play in The Masters Tournament.”

Lucky.

The game comes out Tuesday, March 29. I’ll be at the local GameStop at midnight following the NCAA Championship game to get my copy. I suggest you do the same.

 

Augusta National to Headline Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2012, Literally

January 5, 2011 in Golf

I found it kind of ironic that over the past two weeks of collecting links and story ideas while on my break that the one that caught my eye and piqued my imagination the most 1) occurred yesterday and 2) was about a video game.

As I mentioned in my welcome back post, I spent a good amount of time traveling the same road four times in the past week.

State Route 32 is not the most entertaining drive so I delve into some different activities as I make the drive, one of which is checking Twitter on my iPhone.

Usually, this is simply a time-passer meant to get me from an hour outside of Athens to an hour or so outside of Cincinnati where everything starts to look familiar again, but yesterday, I spent that time reading up and hearing for the first time about EA Sports’ and Augusta National’s announcement to include the most revered golf club in the world on the newest edition of Tiger Woods’ video game.

Tweets kept pouring in about how excited everyone was to get a chance to drive down Magnolia Lane and play Augusta National Golf Club.

Then, it went from the ridiculous to the sublime when links to the video ad were came out. I had to pull over to the side of the road to download and watch the video. It did not let me down.

And an added bonus, no Kelly Tilghman talking about the Masters, (no offense to TIlghman who’s great, but she doesn’t bring about the feelings of the Masters like…) but Jim Nantz.

Hello friends, welcome to a tradition unlike any other…

I already pre-ordered the game and will be at GameStop to pick it up at midnight.

I love the Tiger Woods PGA Tour franchise. I spent a lot of my college career playing that and FIFA, so the game has a special place for me. Now with Augusta, I will be able to play my two favorite golf holes in the world, The Road Hole #17 at St. Andrews and #12 at Augusta.

Aside from the pleasure of playing the course, I’m excited to use my personalized Chris Chaney golfer to do some of the other things EA Sports is making available. From the press release:

  • Masters Moments – Play through memorable, historic moments as players try to measure up against some of the sport’s greatest legends.
  • Tiger at the Masters – Relive each of Tiger’s four wins at the Masters by attempting to equal or beat his scores in each round of the Tournament.
  • The Caddie Experience Behind every great golfer is a trusted and reliable caddie. Players will have a caddie by their side on every swing, providing strategic advice, from shot selection to reading greens, helping them become a more successful golfer.
  • The Closest Thing to Being There – For the first time ever, EA SPORTS™ utilized a new state-of-the art laser scanning technology at Augusta National Golf Club to laser scan every hole featured in the game. This will provide players with the most authentic digital representation of the Tournament and Par 3 courses. Every tree, every azalea and every undulation in every green was recreated down to the smallest detail.
  • Broadcast Presentation – Feel the emotion of every swing as called by the all-new commentary team of Jim Nantz and David Feherty, who headline a completely revamped TV broadcast presentation package.
  • Career Mode – The all-new career mode will closely mirror the journey of an amateur golfer’s rise through the ranks and chase the title of Masters champion.

It would be really awesome if Augusta allowed you to do a drive down Magnolia Lane and walk around in the clubhouse, maybe even stay in the Crow’s Nest during your career mode. But it’s still the first year for it, so hopefully there will be some improvements. How cool will it be to try Tiger’s chip on 16 or Phil’s shot from the pine straw on 13 or skipping it across the water on 16 like the pros do on practice rounds?

What’s interesting about the whole thing is that obviously the Masters and Augusta National are headlining the game, but the namesake is no where to be found. With sales down 68% according to reports, EA is claiming that there shouldn’t be much made of the fact that Woods is not pictured on the front cover (seen above) unless you want to think that the little guy hitting an approach shot is Eldrick. Woods will be pictured on the Collector’s Edition of the game sold only on PlayStation 3.

As for the game, we know Bubba Watson used the 2011 version to prepare for Celtic Manor, now maybe guys like Rickie Fowler, Sean O’Hair and others who were given their invite to the Tradition Unlike Any Other a couple weeks ago can prepare virtually. Of course, they’ll have to talk to Tiger and see if they can get an advance on the game, which comes out March 29, only a week and a half before they tee it up for real.