Video Game Review: ‘Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14’ Misses the Cut

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CHICAGO – I rage quit “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14’” multiple times. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, and I think the franchise has put out quality games in the past, but when it came to putting in this year’s edition, it wasn’t uncommon for me to miss my hit window, short my putt, stand up, turn my Xbox 360 off, and storm outside in search of an adorable kitten to boss around. I mean, golfing has always been a frustrating experience - but in real life if you get a cart, a nice day, five or six (or nine) brews in the back of that cart, and some good friends, you’ll very likely have yourself a quality afternoon where you don’t care about what your stroke count was and how many holes you 9-putted. Video Game Rating: 3.0/5.0
Video Game Rating: 3.0/5.0

But “Tiger Woods” cares. And when you miss in “Tiger Woods”, either due to a mis-timed hit, or the game not properly recognizing how far back you drew your putter before pushing forward, it’s the easiest thing in the world to shut it off and never think about it again. I hate to say it, but the frustrations of “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14” greatly outweigh the joys.

The mechanics are solid enough, and even though it seems damn near impossible to hit a perfect drive, after a few holes you’ll get the hang of it and be able to play mostly serviceable golf and feel in command of your game. Like the previous “Tiger Woods” editions, you take note of the wind, elevation, and distance to the hole, and then line up your shot using a combination of the directional pad for location, control stick for spin, and left and right bumpers for fade and draw. You then use the left stick to pull back and push forward in time with your Golfer’s own swing in order to get the most of your hit. Rinse, repeat, and you have yourself a decent game of virtual golf.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14
Photo credit: EA

I say decent because there are some pretty hefty caveats. Putting, despite the always helpful “Putt Preview”, far-too-often is an exercise in frustration - especially short putts where you’ll assume you hit the ball hard enough for it to make it into the hole, and it won’t move very far at all - simply put, the putt meter has problems that will cost you at least a stroke or two per tournament. It’s also become noticeably more difficult to accurately hit mid-distance shots. One of the better strategies when playing “Tiger Woods PGA Tour” in the past, would be to select a club just below the recommended distance, then over-hit it using power boost, ensuring the ball wouldn’t go way past its target. When you attempt this now, sometimes you get half a swing meter and other times you get a full one where half of it is red - and this lack of consistency makes it incredibly frustrating for casual golf fans like myself who know *what* to do, but just not *how* within the context of the game - as a result, mistakes made on the course come from a lack of accurate distance and swing information versus a lack of swing skill.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14
Photo credit: EA

But the real problem held within “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14” is that, well, the game is not very compelling. There are a decent number of new features and updates to the game, but since a lot of it revolves around the same incredibly frustrating golfing mechanics, they too, become exercises in frustration. The big addition this year is the “Legends of The Majors” mode which gives you a series of challenges featuring Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, along with lesser known legends like Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Young Tom Morris, Sam Snead, and Seve Ballesteros. While there’s a lot of cool content here, including some quality history lessons courtesy of Jim Nantz, it essentially boils down to playing the same, frustrating, golf gameplay from every other mode with a grainy, old-timey filter over it. There are other additons, too. For example, the career mode is deep, and made the whole “pin” system far more accessible in years past - you can equip several “pins” that give you stat boosts to drive, putting, accuracy, etc, but unfortunately none of those boosts make you feel more comfortable swinging accurately or just how much touch to put on your putter.

Online, EA Sports has upgraded the number of players you’re allowed to have in a club-house, which is cool, but a lot of the online play seems to reward time played over actual skill. “Tiger Woods 11” had an intuitive feature where your skills would rise soley based on your performance (and equipment) - which I thought was probably the best way to do it - since your skills are as good as you actually are. But for the past two years they’ve gone back to earning XP to upgrade your stats, which is far less compelling since the majority of the best players online will be rocking a 99 overall in every one of their stat categories and be hovering somewhere around 10 under par for a given tournament. Thus, there’s really no point in playing online competitively unless you’re a diehard golf fan with the time to invest.

I’m completely aware I’m being a bit…nit-picky here, but I think of all of EA Sports Franchises, “Tiger Woods PGA Tour” has the most to prove. You’re taking arguably the most “boring” sport and attempting to sell it to gamers who are used to being consistently engaged every second. Great sports games; “Madden”, “NBA 2K”, “FIFA” “MLB: The Show” all have some feature that grabs you by the neck and won’t let go. Franchise, My Player, My Career, Ultimate Team, Online Tournaments. “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14” doesn’t have its killer mode. It’s fun to play against someone else, but after one or two or three missed shots that aren’t technically your fault, you may just want to go outside and do something a little more exciting…like watch grass grow.

“Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14” was developed by EA Tiburon and released by EA for Xbox 360 and PS3 on March 26, 2013. video game critic Paul Meekin

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