Gaming Review: 'Tiger Woods PGA 14' (Xbox 360)

EA Sports' latest entry in the Tiger Woods series does just enough to come in on par.

Tiger Woods 14

Developer: EA Tiburon
Publisher: EA Sports
Available on: PS3, Xbox 360
Release Date: March 28, 2013

The Tigers Woods PGA franchise harks back to the early days of EA Sports, a time when its annually-updated series received only incremental improvements, rather than the revolutionary overhauls that have worked wonders for the last few instalments of FIFA.

Tiger Woods PGA 14 is another case of evolution rather than revolution, but the new features it brings to the table will certainly be welcomed by those with a genuine passion for all things golf.

The core gameplay remains largely unchanged. Polished-up mechanics and improved online features were to be expected, but the inclusion of all four Majors and the new Legends mode makes this perhaps the most complete golf game on the market.

Tiger Woods PGA 14 is an in-depth golf simulation, rather than an arcade take on the sport. The series' focus has always been on strategy and realism, with finely-tuned physics and authentic swing control for players to master, and the latest edition does nothing to buck this trend.

This attention to detail is what has made the Tiger Woods titles so popular for so long, but it has also deterred newcomers and casual players. Spurning the chance to make the game more accessible with the inclusion of an arcade-esque casual mode is something of a missed opportunity on EA Sports' part.

There's a tutorial to bring newbies up to speed on all of the basics, but it's too brief to be effective. Players are essentially thrown in at the deep end and given little guidance on how to improve their handicap throughout the game, with nothing in the way of specific feedback on why you came in under-par.

Patience is the essence of the game, and the dedicated player will master intricate mechanics through trial and error eventually, and that's when Tiger Woods PGA 14 becomes very rewarding. There are few more satisfying experiences to be found in the world of sports video games than putting away your first eagle or birdie.

The option to take part in live connected tournaments with players from around the world is one of Tiger Woods PGA 14's headline features. Multiple golfers can take part in the same competition simultaneously, but other players' progress is denoted only by their shot arcs and approach lines, to prevent courses becoming congested.

Country Clubs make a return to the series, allowing players to take part in tournaments with a group of friends in tow. Clubs can play host to up to 100 members this time around and text chat is now supported, not that you'll find yourself having too many in-depth conversations using the controller input.

Clubs add some additional longevity to the game, but there is little incentive to dip your toes into the online waters unless you are playing alongside friends. EA Sports has done little to stimulate the growth of a dedicated community, so competing with strangers holds no more interest than challenging the computer.

Career mode is the meat of the single-player experience, giving players the chance to guide a fledgling golfer to the dizzy heights of success at the Majors. There isn't a great deal new to be found in this year's instalment, but the opportunity to secure a Grand Slam makes Tiger Woods PGA 14 a more complete offering than its predecessor.

The inclusion of the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) for the first time in the series is a nice touch, enabling players to create female avatars. Perhaps EA Sports will bring a similar feature to its FIFA series in the not-too-distant future considering the profile of women's football is on the rise. That would certainly be interesting.

Legends mode gives players the chance to take on some of the sport's all-time greats, and also serves as a kind of in-game history of modern golf, complete with sepia tones to give it a vintage feel. This is easily one of the best new features the developers have introduced, and one that will delight the diehards.

Tiger Woods PGA 14 does just enough to come in on par. While many of the new features are refreshing, they aren't quite thirst-quenching.

There's room for improvement where the online modes are concerned, with the sense of community sorely lacking, and EA Sports has done very little to make series newcomers feel welcome.

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