Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters
The Tiger Woods PGA Tour series has been adding modes and courses, as well as tweaking the mechanics and presentation, for years now; culminating in the latest release, The Masters. It's absolutely overflowing with content, and whilst it is starting to show it age slightly it's also certainly the best version so far.
The headlining addition this year is the inclusion of the Masters tournament and the Augusta National course, allowing you to relive classic moments from the tournament as well as play it for yourself. On offer are several modes to experience this prestigious competition. Masters Moments provides nine challenges where you attempt to recreate miracle shots and match low scores, Tiger at the Masters allows you to play as Tiger Woods through the tournament between video interludes, and then there's the restructured campaign mode where you work your way up from amateur, competing in all manner of tournaments including the Masters on your way to becoming a PGA professional.
These new modes and the restructured campaign compliment the already comprehensive setup. Returning are all the online features from the previous year, including the persistent online Gamernet challenges that encourage you to beat a player's shot and upload your own challenges, as well as the full array of online and local multiplayer modes to appeal to any and all golfing enthusiasts. Mini-games, simultaneous stroke play, and online tournaments offer a massive catalogue of online options.
If you're more the lone wolf type though, the campaign now titled Road to the Masters offers the perfect challenge for you to move through the golfing ranks, playing through each of the included 16 courses and with a huge DLC cache of additional course to bolster the options. However, the inclusion of tournaments in the Road to the Masters that require DLC is an intrusive and frankly criminal way of encouraging extra purchases. Thankfully these tournaments can be skipped but it's a glaring gap in your golfer's portfolio.
Hole to hole play in-game has also seen some improvements and additions. The superb analogue controls return where you use the left analogue stick to swing your club, but the physics have been tightened which will affect your ball's bounce and roll to a more realistic degree. This is where the new caddy system comes into play. A caddy will now join you on the course, providing assistance on shots. The caddy provides you with a selection of shot trajectories red for more risky shots, yellow for medium, green for safe that you can select which control the direction and take account of bounce and wind; all you need to do is hit it straight and with the right power. It does an excellent job of increasing the pace of the game and lowering the point of entry for beginners. Veteran players may find it off putting and intrusive initially but if you're dead set on going it alone you can choose to ignore the caddy and perform custom shots, although using the caddy's advice on getting out of bunkers or the rough is often too tempting to ignore.
Also making a return are the focus meter and the experience points for levelling up your player. The focus meter allows you to add spin and power to shots as well as putt previews on the green, and remains an important risk reward balancing tool offline and on. Experience is gained at a far quicker pace this time around. Achieving firsts with the likes of birdies, eagles, hole in one etc. offer huge bonuses of experience points, as do completing tournaments. The result of which is your custom created player is ready to take to the online modes far quicker.
The remaining major addition to Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters is the way unlocking new kit works. As you play courses you and you caddy develop mastery of each, improving the kind of shots your caddy recommends and unlocking new sponsors. Each sponsor has different kit for your custom golfer. From clubs to socks, each sponsor offers equipment, clothes and accessories, some of which boost your stats. It's a welcome change to spending your hard earned experience points.
Otherwise, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters offers the same experience of the previous versions. The visuals have seen a slight improvement to textures and lighting, but the presentation remains very artificial and is crying out for a new engine. The new commentators are excellent though, keeping up with the action and for the most part making accurate analysis.
The changes certainly shape a more comprehensive golfing experience and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters lives up to its name sake and delivers the best version so far but it does raise the question of where the series will go next. For now though, you can be safe in the knowledge that golfing has never been so fun or authentic.