The Tiger Woods series is struggling to find its way. After sticking with the troubled superstar over the past few years of scandal and an extended slump, EA Sports doesn't seem to know what to do with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 on the PlayStation 3. This could have been a very good golf game, but its identity has been watered down with a lame mode where you play as Eldrick Tont Woods from tyke to today and beyond, and extortionate downloadable content. Gamepad swing mechanics have been nicely overhauled, PS Move support has been jazzed up to improve on last year's already very good motion-sensing controls, and the new Country Club mode promises to help the game establish an online community, but taken together, all the new features don't add up to anything meaningful.
Lil' Tiger may be cute, but the new Tiger Legacy mode needs a lot more than that to be enjoyable.
There isn't much new in Tiger Woods 13. The look and sound of the game haven't improved much over earlier releases, although there do seem to be more nifty shadow effects on courses and a few more commentary lines from main booth jockey Jim Nantz. The core game is essentially brought forward from last year in its entirety. All the main modes of play are back for another round. You can play one-off matches, set up a golfer and begin a pro career, head online for multiplayer tournaments, head to The Masters again, and so forth.
The most significant addition is Tiger Legacy, where you play as the great one in various stages of his life, from childhood to the present day and beyond. Sadly, Tiger's life was extraordinarily tedious, if this game is to be believed. EA does nothing of interest with this feature. All it does is provide different Tiger player models to look at while you shoot your way through boring challenges like dropping balls into a backyard wading pool, hitting target scores in rounds, helping Tiger break Jack Nicklaus' record for victories in the Majors, and so forth.
A much more notable change comes with the gamepad swing mechanics. Standard button pushing has been tweaked pretty extensively in the new Total Swing Control for the gamepad. It works a fair bit like the left-stick-oriented control scheme from last year, but with more options and more attention paid to things like the tempo of your swing and foot position. In other words, it's a little harder to nail long drives that split the fairway, or make accurate approach shots that land you a couple of feet from the cup, especially when you nudge the difficulty above pro. But you get used to the changes quickly.
Move support makes shots like both lifelike and awfully satisfying when pulled off correctly.
While this is a superior system, one that offers you a great deal more control in all aspects of making shots, it isn't so dramatically better that it makes the game a must-buy. That said, it does offer the best putting mechanics in the history of the series. Putting is spectacularly accurate here. The thumbstick perfectly tracks your motions when pulling back and pushing forward, letting you make some jaw-dropping 50-footers, or at least put up some valiant attempts and get close to the cup. Say good-bye to the annoying old days of cursing out your thumbs when a putt inexplicably came up too short or wound up running 20 feet too long because the controls let you down.
Move support is offered, as in last year's game, and it works well. It is clearly superior to the Kinect motion-sensing option offered in the Xbox 360 version, with more accurate movement tracking. Pretty much every move you make is registered, so you don't have to deal with the Kinect frustrations of having to take swings multiple times before they are registered by the game. But they're not just superior to the Kinect controls; they're superior to last year's Move controls, too. Previously, it was a lot tougher to tell just how much oomph you needed to put into these swinging motions when pitching and chipping and hitting out of sand or rough, which often left you coming up short or sailing past the flag. Now, the Move seems to more precisely track your motions, letting you more accurately gauge how hard you need to swing.