2012-03-27

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 – Can Kinect Compete On The Links Wtih The Wii

by Yo Snyder

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.