Share it:Tweet Like the island of Cyprus, the game of golf and I have a complicated history. I remember the pain of being dragged away from the The Tick on Saturday mornings for lessons, the tedium of driving practice, and the slow, meandering grind of 18 holes. It’s no surprise then, that for much of my childhood, my feelings for golf were the same as a session of particularly ambitious amateur dentistry. It was only much later, once I had found my own pace with which to cross the forbidding territory of novice golf (and discovered the magic of Caddyshack) could I appreciate the adventure of tackling a difficult course, the strategy of competitive play, and the satisfaction of a well-executed stroke.
Consequently, the difference between “golf games” and “golf simulations” presents an interesting question for game reviewers like me: realism in the simulation of the intrinsically sucky. Common sense says games are meant to be fun. While playing golf is arguably fun, learning how to play golf is roughly the same amount of fun as being pelted with rancid meat. Much like the difference between Microsoft Flight Simulator and Ace Combat, the difference between “golf game” and “golf simulator” lies in faithful attention to detail.
Click the image above to check out all Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters screens.
Existing titles, from the lackluster Carnival Games: Minigolf to the quirky Pangya Fantasy Golf have offered their own unique, yet limited take on the golf game; only Tiger Woods PGA Tour has consistently taken up the challenge of playable realism (with varying degrees of success) in such a way to merit the franchise its flagship status. The latest of these, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters (TWPGAT12:TM, or simply, The Masters) brings the same level of excoriating realism to new ground — creating a golf experience painfully and begrudgingly accurate to the rage arc every golfer intimately understands.
Fans of past Tiger Woods installments will be pleased with the new and enhanced features of The Masters. Seven new courses have been added; some of these, such as the Royal Melbourne and the Dunes Course at Costa Navarino, are authentic courses that’re realistically rendered in-game. Others, such as the Highlands and the Emerald Dragon Golf Club, are entirely fictional, yet no less epic. However, the best and shiniest of these new offerings is the eponymous Masters Tournament at Augusta; included in this are three new features: Road to the Masters, Tiger at the Masters, and Masters Moments.
“Road to the Masters” replaces the existing Career mode, setting up the player up to acquire the skills and experience necessary to participate in the prestigious and challenging Masters’ Tournament. Creating a player remains easy: design a golfer (mine bore a striking, but thoroughly coincidental resemblance to Kenny Loggins), pick from the five attributes to buff, and tee off at the “Hometown Charity Event.” Complimentary to this introduction is the new “Caddie” feature, who provides advice and options for your next swing (usually this comes in the form of “Safe” and “Aggressive” shots). Safe shots are, well, safer, in that they require the least amount of special swing control, and avoid most of the water traps, bunkers, and other course hazard. Aggressive shots always require a somewhat unconventional use of the clubs — such as a partial-swing or the “Choke” function (which, for the under-45 crowd, means gripping the club lower than normal), and will occasionally put you closer to some hazard. Following the caddie’s advice results in more XP; while this is a good way to orient inexperienced players with some of golf strategy; it becomes a potential crutch, especially at higher levels. To offset this, AI has been improved to more effectively mimic the behavior and playstyles of real-life golfers.