Crickets chirped in the background. As I surveyed the ground between my glow in the dark ball and the pin, I figured this would be an easy putt. The night air smelled fresh, with a light breeze – my open window at home made this evening round of golf all the more authentic. I slowly pulled back, and followed through with a light putt, giving the glowing ball just enough force to make it six feet to the hole. Almost in slow motion, I watched that same glow in the dark ball curve around the hole, ruining my chance to nab an eagle. With that, I calmly sat the controller down and took a long drink of my margarita. A birdie is acceptable, right?
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 will seem very familiar to returning fans. First of all, it’s golf. If you were expecting baseball, please read Tony’s review of MLB 13: The Show here. Being as most sports games are a yearly thing, fans have a few options. They can buy every annual release so they can experience (and possibly complain about) the seemingly-minor changes or skip every year or so and bask in what feels like a breath of fresh air. This is my second tour in a row with Tiger. In fact, I gave Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 a rather glowing review. While the changes still seem minor this year when you look at them on paper, they put Tiger 14 in a prime position to finish the course under par – again.
Immediately upon loading up the game, after the “tour of new features” anyhow, the player is presented with a user interface nearly identical to last year’s game. There are a few changes in that menu, but there is nothing actually new about how the game looks when navigating the menus. So this is the first bit of familiarity. Not a bad thing at all though, as it worked quite well last year.
Of course the career is, again, a familiar aspect returning this year as well. It wouldn’t be a golf game without being allowed to create your virtual golfer in your own image and hit the green with an assortment of current golf legends, would it? Of course not! I will say, EA Sports needs to add longer goatee options to match mine, but I digress. The career is where I personally spent about 90% of my time. It’s the backbone of the game to me, and even after winning that green jacket once you can just keep on golfing.
What is new about the career this year is the ability to set your tournaments to “live weather”. My first half dozen games, I just figured it was a great way to play golf at night. In case you are keeping tabs, golfing at night is also new and is quite possibly the greatest addition to the Tiger series. So after six or so dates with my caddie at night, I decided to look up the weather at the California course I was playing on. Six mph wind, night time. The game matched the actual weather. It seems like an insignificant thing, but night golfing aside, it’s a feature that seemingly makes the game feel more complete. Not in a “this is new, cool” way either. But it genuinely makes Tiger Woods 14 seem like a more complete experience and playing with the feature on is the next step in making the Tiger series more authentic and immersive.
Back to the night golf: it is without a doubt my favorite part of Tiger 14. Being as I tend to play games at night, all of my career matches (with a few exceptions) were played at night. It adds a fresh aesthetic to a game that already looked amazing. Watching the glow in the dark ball zing through the air as you lay into it at the start of a hole is an absolute treat.
Outside of the career, last years “The Story of the Legendary Tiger Woods and How He Grew Up With Golf and Became the Man He Is” mode has been replaced with “Legends of Golf.” This is a history lesson for people unfamiliar with its rich past or for those that want to relive those moments. Some of these events are “play a round as x golfer” or “hit the ball within the circle”, though none of them give you coins or your club status points for completing. The photographic filters to make these game moments feel more age-appropriate are a nice touch, but ultimately, this plays second (or third even) fiddle to the career and online modes of Tiger Woods 14.
As was just mentioned, the online portion of Tiger 14 is still a big deal. Clubs returns from last year so friends can gather into groups and compete either amongst themselves or with each other against other clubs. This year, a club chat function was added. For Playstation 3 players, this acts like an in-game cross-game chat; so each player in the club can be independently playing their own game in Tiger Woods, but still chatting. Xbox 360 gamers get this luxury too, though for them it’s not quite as ground breaking.
The other notable addition is playing online live with other players. You no longer need to sit and wait for your opponent to take his turn, you both start taking your shot at the same time. It’s probably the best sounding addition on paper, but as I don’t personally golf online much, it was just a “neat addition” to me. For those that do play a lot online, it’s probably one of the biggest mechanic overhauls this year.
Everything added to Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 is significant enough to warrant a return investment for those that picked up Tiger 13 last year. The live weather option is certainly a fitting step forward, and the online enhancements are just that: enhancements. But those are all things you expect to be added, not frivolous things that are unnecessary. Tiger Woods 14 makes its way through this yea’rs course just barely missing eagle.
Note: This review was written based on game play on the Playstation 3. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 is also available on the Xbox 360.