Polygonal Gene Sarazan stands on the 15th hole of Augusta National, hitting from the rough to create a dramatic double eagle that would secure a playoff win within the 1935 Masters. Augusta itself has changed through the decades, the location of Sarazan’s “shot heard ’round the world” altered in 1961 with the increase of the green-guarding pond. Augusta’s 1935 incarnation remains in Tiger Woods 14, if you are willing to spend the money.
Sarazan is part of the Legend of the Masters mode, tracking golf’s historic Majors dating back to 1873, forward into 2013. It is digital beauty in motion, crafted with sepia tones, grain, and silent film-eqsue replays where appropriate, yet missing Augusta’s 1935 course. Legend of the Masters goes far enough to institute period authentic ball physics and club names (Baffing Spoons are a must), but absurdly skimps on a course, the most imperative element.
Standard $60 game players are cheated out of the authentic experience, required to spend an additional $10 for a collector’s edition to completely replicate Sarazan’s famous shot, or play the shot from the modern Augusta. We have reached a point where EA is willing to force modern revisionism in front of dollar signs.
It is a dramatic shame that this sole PGA golf franchise has been pieced and sold out. There is nowhere else to go with EA’s stranglehold of the PGA license, the wild heyday of licensed golf simulations behind us. EA capably knows and exploits this. On top of the vintage Augusta, there remains $50 worth of added courses to acquire. Even the create-a-player career mode is chipped away, requesting DLC courses to continue with shady language insinuating their requirement. As it turns out, you can readily select a course already on the disc as a substitute. All of this is capped by an online pass seems wholly unnecessary, especially given the putrid multiplayer performance.
Tiger Woods 14 is a free-to-play game in an audacious $60 (or $70) shell. EA’s corporate tinkering has lessened over the years, although still stands supreme over the product itself. It becomes harder to invest when corresponding courses are recycled year to year without any offer to carry over. If you paid for a course last year, you will need to pay again for access in 14. If nothing else, cascading advertisements over the menus have been removed. Oddly, so have many of the clubs with real world sponsors, most now branded with an EA logo. That +2 club shaft of power no longer comes from Nike.
Outside of the consumer end, Tiger 14′s development has expanded to offer LPGA tours and thus appropriate roster inclusions. Long overdue or not, implementation is clean and complete. Presentation, while still anemic, is expanded to include a better HUD, consistent dictation of position on leaderboards, and brings CBS’ David Fehrety for his own brand of comical commentary.
Gone is the higher difficulty by default, this despite the swing system that is cloned from Tiger 13. On normal, Tiger 14 allows an experienced franchise player to whip through tournaments with scores in the low teens. Bumping up a notch sees sensitivity on the smart swing stick design implemented tighter, although still a cut below Tiger 13. Menu selections need tweaked to find a balance.
The execution, pulling back and pushing forward for a sharp, tight swing, remains as powerful as it was since 2003. Those tweaks, including speed and backswing strength, have only extended its life. Simplicity is often brilliant, and in this series, that hallmark remains the revolution golf games needed. Driving (pun intended) the swing are character stats and equipment boosts, although siphoning the mess of numbered points, coins, cash, and XP into something useful can be daunting. A shoddy in-game manual does not cover what those all add up to.
Through all modes, they cower under the might of DLC in some capacity. Reminders of what you are missing will forever be frequent. Imagine reliving Tiger Woods’ 2013 escapades on Pebble Beach in Tiger 24, only to be told you need the course. That is where this franchise is headed, and it is hardly upward.