Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters Review

By Mike D'Alonzo - Posted Mar 30, 2011

Imagine Madden without being able to play the Super Bowl or MLB: The Show without a seven-game World Series. Since the advent of golf videogames, which goes back almost all the way to the invention of the computer, the Tiger Woods PGA Tour franchise has been the flagbearer for all things great, but that single, defining event has, until now, eluded it: The Masters.

The Pros
  • The Masters is finally playable.
  • Still the most rich golf experience in gaming.
  • Surprisingly deep game with loads of stuff to do.
The Cons
  • You will want to strangle your caddie.
  • Certain parts of the game are harder than playing actual golf.
  • Putting will make you want to kill someone.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters Review:

Imagine Madden without being able to play the Super Bowl or MLB: The Show without a seven-game World Series. Since the advent of golf videogames, which goes back almost all the way to the invention of the computer, the Tiger Woods PGA Tour franchise has been the flagbearer for all things great, but that single, defining event has, until now, eluded it: The Masters.

Finally, after all this time, Augusta National is here for you to play, Amen Corner and all. The long-missing final jewel in golfing's crown has finally made it to consoles, and it is, in and of itself, a wonder to behold, but not without its problems.

This One's Right At The Flag Stick...

If you've played even a single Tiger Woods game over the years, then the game mechanics of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 should be familiar to you. It's always as if no time has passed between iterations of the game, and that's in a good way. Sure, every year comes with tweaks and 'improvements,' but the core gameplay has remained the same for a long, long time now. This means that, if you've spent the time and effort to get good at the game, it will still come pretty easy to you, and you should be able to get to the meat of it quickly.

It is for you, then, that the new caddie function will seem especially useless. Instead of you choosing your club length and aim yourself, there's now a little helper that tells you what he thinks would be the best scenario, given your lie and distance. And, to his credit, he gives you a couple of choices, which essentially breaks down to you taking the easy way out and losing a stroke or two, or being a little more bold and trying to tear the course a new one. Here's the problem, however, with that. After years of playing the game, you will already be likely to attempt (and make) shots that no actual golfer in their right mind would even try.

Now, this is a risk/reward scenario, and you might shoot yourself in the foot, but when it pays off, it pays off in a big way. Your caddie, however, doesn't seem to see things the way you do, and even the 'risky' shots he suggests are going to put you in a hole, from which you might never recover. You can disable the caddie function, and I highly suggest you do so, especially if you're a veteran player, because you'll be looking at a lot of long, difficult putting if you listen to your caddy. This is especially true since, and you are not told this at the start, your caddie improves his judgement with your gameplay, so he starts off not being a particulary good one. I can be my own not-particularly-good caddie, thank you.

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He's Got A Lot Of Work To Do Here, Billy...

Speaking of putting, I'm just going to put this out there. Putting in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 might be harder than putting in real life. This is not a good thing. The putting mechanic in the game is maddening, providing you a circle that your caddie thinks is the best place to aim if you want to make the shot. However, as we've already discussed, your caddy starts off addle-brained, so you're going to be missing a LOT of putts, which, when you've done the work of getting within 10 feet of the pin and then five-putting the green, will cause you to scream and throw your controller. This is especially true at Augsta, which has the toughest greens ever known to man.

Now, here's the rub. To qualify for the Masters as a golfer you've created, you've got lots to do. First, you need to win some amateur tourneys, and then get to the Nationwide Tour and do well there, before you're admitted to Q School, and finally elevated to the PGA Tour. Having done all that, you'll still need to either rank in the Top 100 EA Golfers on the Tour, or finish a series of Masters Moments (similar to Madden Moments), recreating famous shots and rounds in Masters history, to get to play the tournament. If it sounds like a lot, it sure is. What it shows is that the game is both ridiculously deep, and, occasionally, insanely difficult.

Two of the Masters Moments, both recreating Tiger Woods's feats on the course, are maddeningly hard enough to make you think about stopping your career altogether. In one, you'll have to score at least a -4 on the 13th through 17th holes at Augusta, and, on the other, you'll need to shoot at least a -5 for an 18 hole round there. By the time you accomplish this, after tens of attempts, your desire to play The Masters might be dampened.

Earning The Green Jacket

That would be a crying shame, however, because Augusta National, as presented here, is rich, lush, and beautiful. Sure, there are 14 or so other championship courses in the game, including Whistling Straits, TPC Sawgrass, and Pebble Beach, each more gorgeously rendered than the next, but the work EA has done in replicating Augusta is simply breathtaking. You will know for certain why the winner of The Masters is regarded as the best in the sport, because the course is a monster. Fairway traps and bunkers are placed precariously everywhere, and the rolling hills defy you to try and master the most difficult course in the game.

It would be a crime not to mention both the excellent work done in replicating Augusta's putting surface, and also to howl in wordless wonder at how difficult they are, both in the game and in real life. Seriously, if you think you know what you're doing after years of playing Tiger Woods, you will be humbled here by greens that are best enjoyed by a masochist. Shots that land five feet from the flag roll away to end up with a sick 40-foot putt, missing close will cause the ball to roll off the green or end up in some weird no man's land from which you might never recover. No green in regulation is safe, and the greens at Augusta are so fast that missing a half-inch to the outside of the cup often results in a second putt from 15 feet away, no matter how lightly you swing.

If and when you get to The Masters and win, it will be the single greatest accomplishment of your videogame golf experience, no lie.

Signing The Scorecard

As always, the presentation of the game is fantastic. In addition to the beautiful graphics, the create-a-golfer feature is first rate, and the announce team of Jim Nantz and the return of the amazing David Feherty makes it feel as if you're watching the game on television. The immersive aspects of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12, especially when played on a large HD television, are among the best in gaming, full stop. You will never have experienced such a pretty golf game without actually going out and playing.

Sponsorships and the pro shop still exist, allowing you to outfit and accessorize your golfer however you see fit. You will earn XP through good gameplay that allows you to up your scores for power, accuracy, etc. Since those scores really make a difference, it will behoove you to play as well as you can all the way through.

In the end, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters would be worth a buy if just to finally get to play The Masters. That it's a very deep and rich game to boot only makes it all the better. That there are problems with some of the gameplay means that it's not perfect, but it's still the best golf experience you can have sitting in your living room.