Since much doesn’t change in the world of golf (they still use clubs, for instance), it usually takes more than a roster update to justify a new “Tiger Woods” installment each year, making the series one of the perennially fresher entries into the annual sports game genre, as new ideas become an expectation for fans.
“Tiger Woods 12” is a great example of this, as the famed Masters tournament was finally added, and the luster it provided to the game made it arguably the greatest golf experience yet. In comparison, “Tiger Woods 13” added a mode that let you play as a freaky looking child version of Tiger Woods. Suffice to say, it was less successful in providing that same feeling of a complete experience, and golf fans were left with little reason to abandon the 2012 edition. Until now, that is.
Because now comes “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14,” and with it the most complete and engaging translation of the sport of golf to video games the world has seen. The biggest factor contributing to this is the heavy emphasis on golf legends in the game, exemplified with the Legends of the Majors mode. Similar to the historic moments mode in the “NBA2K” games, here you can play through some of the biggest events in golf history, ranging from the dawn of major tournament play in 1860, to the Jack Nicklaus dominance of the 70s, all the way to the Tiger Woods era, and everything in between.
Spanning over 140 years, there’s hardly a major moment that is left out, making the mode an interactive textbook history of golf. It’s also highly enjoyable to attempt to meet the win conditions of each scenario (there are two for each moment), and the variety of the challenges is creatively impressive. Bonus points are awarded for the period accurate clothing and looks, which includes graphical filter changes like sepia tone or Technicolor to make each period uniquely stand out.
The other big new feature is the fact you can finally compete in The Masters, The US Open, The Open Championship, and the PGA Championship in a single season, meaning golf’s grand slam is yours for the taking. I’ve never realized how the inability to achieve this milestone hurt previous installments, but now the game’s career mode feels truly definitive.
Also fighting for the team of welcome additions is the new LGPA season mode. For the first time, you can undertake a full career of the female golfing tour, acknowledging that not only do women play golf, but some of them even play golf video games.
Whichever tour you enter, if you dare, there’s a new mode to play called Simulation that truly creates the most difficult golf game yet. Crafted within the fires of difficulty hell from the recommendations of the most hardcore “Tiger Woods” fans, for the average gamer, Simulation will lead to scores so high you could beat the Miami Heat with them, and games so ugly they may actually affect your membership to a real country club.
There’s more, of course. The usual graphics and physics updates apply, online modes allow for simultaneous tournament play, online clubs can support up to a 100 members, and overall presentation is much improved, including the addition of expanded dynamic time conditions, meaning you can play at dawn, dusk and even night (which, according to Ty Webb, can get you in trouble if done with the dean’s 15-year-old daughter).
It all comes together to form what I’m not hesitant to call the greatest golf sim ever (ironically beating even “SimGolf”), and the champion apparent for sports game of the year considerations. While it’s true that many of the new additions feel like things that should have been in the series years ago, now that they are finally available, there is the real sense in playing this game that you are playing a fully realized title, where no ideas were sacrificed or held off until next year.
That being said, this isn’t “Mario Golf” or “Hot Shots.” Even outside the new Simulation mode, this is a game for purists only, as the shot system carried over from last year’s title makes every stroke a challenge, and some holes and courses can range from daunting to seemingly impossible. Frills are few, and frustration is abundant in this game. However, if you’re the kind of person that can watch a whole day of golf willingly, or play the game yourself, this is the title you’ve been waiting for.
I don’t know how they’re going to top this game next year, other than knowing that somehow this year, they’ve managed to top all the ones before. Many times, the “Tiger Woods” games are content with playing it smart and laying it up to remain a champion. This year, it takes a couple bold swings and comes out something else entirely. A legend.