Invariably, whenever I mentioned to someone I working on a review of Tiger Woods 13 for the Xbox 360 with Kinect, the first thing they asked was, “Will it help with my golf swing?” The very idea of the Kinect’s motion controls being used in a Tiger Woods golf game apparently had visions dancing in people’s head of a video game that will help them get better at the real game. They had the same visions with Tiger Woods on the Wii, especially after MotionPlus was included. However, you have to actually hold the controller, which really doesn’t help you with the grip of an actual golf club. With Kinect, potentially you can actually hold a golf club and swing away (carefully) in your living room. Sure, sounds fun and like it might help with your game on the links in reality. But can it? No. It’s not going to help you be a better golfer, but it can provide a nice alternative for those rainy days when the real thing just isn’t feasible.
Tiger Woods on the Wii was a revelation. Especially last year, it so perfectly emulated real golf with its precise and responsive motion controls that on higher difficulties it felt just like playing real golf; frustrating. I’d slice my shots over and over. I’d constantly misjudge short chip shots and often just barely miss a putt do to a slight tweak in my swing motion. It was just like my real golf game. Tiger Woods 13 with Kinect doesn’t have that kind of precision and accuracy, but I still found it enjoyable to use. While it’s best to get through the menus using a controller, once you hit the links, Kinect provides a fun way to enjoy some virtual golf. Granted, on lower difficulty levels no matter how you swing, the ball will get hit with full force, and on higher difficulties it’s tough to get any sort of touch shots to register properly - so just better off going for the full swing no matter what. However, I still got a kick out of swinging with and at nothing in the middle of my living room. Voice commands are also a nice touch for being able to quickly select new clubs or for getting a putt preview, and while motion controls for setting up precise aim on delicate shots and tricky putts is finicky (it’s far more accurate with a controller), it works well for the most part. It’s doesn’t compare to the precise accuracy of using a Wiimote, but Tiger Woods with Kinect is a fun way to enjoy the game, especially if you’re looking for a simplified version of the game.
It feels simplified because once you switch over to using a controller, things get much more precise, demanding and difficult. However, this is also where “real golf fans” will find the most enjoyment, I think. The new “Total Swing Control” mechanic gives players a lot of fine, detailed control on how they strike that dimpled ball. Everything from backswing to momentum to tempo to the swing plane is measured and has an effect on where the ball goes. On the higher difficulties, I was lucky if my ball ever found the fairway. You can even change your stance to add more fade or draw, and you can adjust where you want to hit the ball. This gives experienced golfers a chance to replicate some of those amazing shots the pros do. If, that is, you can figure out what all of the feedback you get on your swing actually means. There’s plenty of info about the new swing mechanic, but very little help on how to use it effectively. The same is true of the Kinect controls. Finding out what works, what things are, and how to use them is really left up to you to figure through trial and error. It makes the initial learning curve a bit frustrating, but once you start figuring stuff out, it’s easier to appreciate the nuances of the new swing mechanics and the fun simplicity of using Kinect. Still, a little direction and help on how to use stuff as opposed to just bullet points on what stuff is would have been nice.
Speaking of getting a little direction, I’ve always found it fascinating how many people only think of Jesus Christ as just a “good teacher.” Some think that Jesus was all about just giving us some bullet points on how to live a better a life. However, he did much more than just share a few highlights and pointers, he showed us how to live a better life, and then made it possible for us to follow his example. Yes, he had some good teachings to share, but he lived what he taught, and he instructed others how to do the same through his mentorship of the disciples. Then, he gave us the greatest demonstration of who he was and what he was about when he died on a cross and rose from the dead to pay the price for our sins. In fact, his death and resurrection is what cleared the way for us to not just hear teachings about how to be better, but for us to actually be better; free from sin, free from death, and blessed with eternal life…if we want that. When it came to giving direction, Jesus did so much more than just talk about it in some teachings, he showed exactly the way we need to go. To say he was only a “good teacher” really misses the point.
However, when comes to the point of what Tiger Woods 13 is all about, the meat of the game is really found in the career mode, which plays out similarly to past versions. This is still where most people will spend a majority of their time. You can also go online and participate in tournaments and play with other golfers, but at least for me, golf is more of a “play with friends” sport, so playing random people online doesn’t hold a lot of appeal for me. For those who are interested, you can also play through Tiger Woods’ childhood in the Legacy mode. Truthfully, this didn’t hold a lot of appeal for me either. I was more interested in developing the legacy of my created golfer as opposed to reliving the repetitive and mundane practice sessions Tiger endured to help prepare him to be the golfer he is today. This year also has the addition of online “Country Clubs”. Think Car Clubs from Forza 4 or clans or platoons in some of today’s popular shooters. The nice thing about these clubs is they can help you earn some of the DLC courses much faster than you could on your own, and it also gives you a fun way to compete with your friends even if you’re not online at the same time (think the Autolog feature of Need for Speed for RiderNet for SSX).
Speaking of DLC and new courses, EA took some flak last year for how they handled that issue, but I’m not convinced this year’s approach is an improvement. There are several courses that you can see in the menu but you can’t play. What you have to do, if I understand it all correctly, is earn enough coins (which you can do faster as a member of a Country Club) in order to play a round on that course in order to complete some course challenges and when you’ve completed them all you’ll attain “course mastery” and then you may just end up with “unlimited” access to that particular course…and it all seems rather convoluted to me, and honestly, I just feel like I’m being teased by being able to see courses that mostly likely I’ll never have the time, motivation or expertise to unlock without paying actual money for them. Not being a huge golf fan familiar with all the courses, I probably won’t be motivated to do that either. It’ll be interesting to see how fans react to this approach.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 provides players with a fun round of golf with some of the top players in the world on some of the best courses. There’s an amazing amount of control available for hardcore golf fanatics via the new “Total Swing Control”, and there’s simpler fun to be had with the Kinect integration of this year’s title. Having been a Wii faithful when it comes to this series the past few years, it was nice to see things with an HD sheen, but I miss the realistic experience of the Wii’s motion controls, plus, I enjoyed some of the extras there such as mini-golf and frisbee golf. If you want HD motion controls that are more on par (see what I did there?) with the Wii, perhaps the Move controls on the Playstation 3 will fit the bill. I can’t really speak to that as I haven’t tried it, but when it comes to controls that I’ve tried, I still think the Wii has the edge. I’d be pretty content hanging on to Tiger 12 on the Wii as there isn’t much in this version on the Xbox 360 to warrant an upgrade. Kinect is good, Wii MotionPlus is better. The 360 has better graphics, the Wii has more game modes and fun stuff to enjoy with friends. It just seems to me that perhaps this HD version of the game should take a few cues from the “inferior” Wii version when it comes to motion controls and some of the other areas where the Wii excels. If, however, you don’t have a Wii and prefer your game not to have motion controls, then Tiger Woods 13 on the Xbox 360 should satisfy your very real need for some virtual golfing fun.
Score out of 7:
Graphics: 6 - There’s no denying this game looks good. The character models are life-like and animate smoothly. The courses look lush. The lighting in beautiful, especially when the sun sets. There are a few frame stutters at times, and the occasional texture pop-in, but this is a really gorgeous looking golf game. (Of course, I may be more impressed because I’m used to playing it on the Wii).
Sound: 5 - What can I say, it sound like golf, and it’s still nice to have Jim Nance as a commentator. However, it was kind of distracting when the commentary suddenly cut-off as I went to take my shot. I mean, it’s nice that they didn’t want to break my concentration, but I never hear them stop like that during real golf games.
Controls: 5 or 6 - This depends on what you use. If you use Kinect, it’s a solid 5. It’s responsive if a bit simplistic; but still a whole lot of fun. For more of a “real” golf game, using the analog sticks of the controller. You can finesse and fine-tune and finagle shots like never before, which makes this control scheme a difficult to learn but ultimately satisfying 6.
Gameplay: 4 - The lack of any sort of basic tutorial on the new swing mechanics hurts, as does the fact that I miss frisbee golf and being able to play mini-golf. Doing Tiger Woods’ workouts as a kid doesn’t make up for that.
Story: 5 - It’s fun to get your golfer up through the amateur ranks to the the Masters. Not exactly a plot, but it gives you something to work for.
Content: 7 - Golf is just a fun, enjoyable, family friendly game.
Final: 5 of 7 - Kinect is a nice addition to the game, but it doesn’t quite reach the same lofty heights of the Wii and it’s control scheme. Turn Kinect off, and you have an in-depth, challenging, realist golf game that can really make you feel like a pro when you pull-off a particularly challenging shot. On it’s own, there’s not enough here to make me want to upgrade from the Wii’s excellent Tiger Woods 12, but if you’re looking for some HD golf with Tiger Woods, and don’t have a Wii or a Playstation with Move controllers, this isn’t a bad option; it’s just not great either.