There is no cute golf metaphor to sum up the frustration of having played a few rounds of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14. A number of nagging problems and annoying glitches mar an otherwise good product. Much of the promotion surrounding this latest Tiger promised a much more difficult and realistic golf experience; perhaps this is why EA has graced us with numerous unnecessary loading and saving screens, broken sounds, and a lot of time angrily staring at Pebble Beach’s beautiful sandy beaches.
From the beginning tutorial the problems begin. The commentary, provided by Jim Nantz of CBS Sports, is choppy and broken, resulting in a series of guttural grunts from Mr. Nantz rather than any helpful information. Zooming in or out, moving too fast across the screen, or any other stressing operation causes the ambient noise to skip and lag. The same problem happens with the background music during loading or saving screens.
The in-game presentation is likely the best part of the game, but it still carries problems. The courses are beautiful and lush, with great attention paid to the course surroundings. Unfortunate the same attention to detail wasn’t paid to the commentary, resulting in a stilted and bland ‘meat and potatoes’ description of your last shot. The character models are nice enough but still a little too inhuman for current capabilities of modern hardware. The new “Live & Dynamic Time of Day” feature allows for night, dusk, and dawn golfing, as well as playing at the local time for a specific course.
The new simulation difficulty setting is the most realistic and truly demanding setting in sports today. Golfers are unable to zoom to set up their shot, and must rely on what is within eyesight of the current lie. Wind direction is given, but speed must be determined by the flag. A PGA Pro offers two tips on what club you should use and where you should aim for, but they are often conflicting and come with their individual risks. For a long-time Tiger Woods fan or a golf purist, this is an absolute goldmine.
The gameplay is mostly the same as other Tiger Woods installments, and is very accurate, fluid and workable. Fade or draw golfers can get key positioning with use of the Total Swing Control, and each have their power, positioning, and loft applied to their shots with dynamic results. The character creation system works well and has a number of good looking possibilities.
Much of the game is centered around a Career Mode where you create a golfer and take him or her through amateur tournaments up to the PGA. This mode is a lot of fun, and the character leveling and building works nicely and awards the player fairly. However, besides the training matches, golf rounds, and character building, there isn’t much else to the mode. Allowing for some sponsorship deals or media coverage, things of that nature could really spruce up this fun but plain mode, a missed opportunity that leaves Tiger’s career mode behind other sports franchises.
The new mode Legends of the Majors allows players to step back in time through the history of golf, playing against or as some of the greatest golfers of each era. From the very first major championship at St. Andrews to the current ascendancy of Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson, this mode gives golf fans and newbies alike a great experience both in gameplay and in history. Tiger Woods 14 has also included all four Major Tournaments for the first time ever, and has licensed all of the banners, logos, structures, and branding for those tournaments, displaying a nice touch of realism and detail work.
Last year’s Country Club feature, an online group of friends who play together, has been expanded from 25 to 100 members, and your golfer is automatically placed in a country club after your first full round. In Connected Tournaments, players can play online with other players in tournament or tour play. While the number of participants in a match is nearly limitless, up to 23 other shots will be shown on your screen, giving the player some opportunity for comparison or bragging rights. In Tour Play, players will be allowed to enter tournaments based on their ranking, and receive points for their play. Winners will be tallied at the end of each month.
With all said and done, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 is likeable and has a lot of fun features. However, the audio and lag problems are so frequent and annoying that it makes playing not worth the trouble. Perhaps these problems can be solved through upcoming updates, something that would elevate the status of this game tenfold, but as of now, Tiger 14 is just a poor product. Golf is only so much fun and only has so much appeal, and when it has interspersed within it jerky elevator music and Jim Nantz’s vorpal screams it just loses a lot of it. Golf fans, sports games collectors, go for it. Otherwise, save your money.