A trip back to golf’s past moves Tiger Woods 14 into the future with some great new features, but the core game on the links holds pat.

The Good

  • Enthralling Legends of the Majors mode depicts over a century of golfing history
  • Sepia-tone graphics and authentic old-time clubs for historic moments
  • Adds depth with LPGA Tour, night golf, and quick tournaments
  • Shot shaping gives you more control with draws and fades.

The Bad

  • The core game shows little evolution over previous years
  • Inconsistent commentary.

Bigger, not necessarily better. That, in a nutshell, is Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14. After last year’s speed bump of a game that added virtually nothing to the long-running golf franchise save some enhanced swing mechanics and Toddler Tiger, the developers at EA Tiburon packed a lot of goodies into this new release. While the core game buried deep underneath the shiny new wrapping remains very similar to its predecessors from 2011 and 2012, it’s now harder to complain because of catchy new features like the history-lesson Legends of the Majors, all four major tourneys for the first time, LPGA support, and even nifty frills like night golf. This isn’t the complete revamp that the aging game could use, but all of the additions freshen things up just enough to make it worth a buy.

Sadly, Abraham Lincoln's illustrious golfing career has been completely overshadowed by his presidency.

Sadly, Abraham Lincoln’s illustrious golfing career has been completely overshadowed by his presidency.

Most of the experience on the links in Tiger Woods 14 is similar to that offered last year. This is a fairly typical sports sequel, with just some minor tweaks to game mechanics. Shot shaping is probably the biggest addition to the standard gamepad scheme introduced last year. Now, in order to pull off those nifty fades and draws that look so easy when the PGA pros do them on TV every Sunday, you have to push and pull the right stick diagonally. This is a more substantial addition to the game than you might think, because it’s tricky to do this instead of the typical pull-back, push-forward routine. You get more of a sense of accomplishment now when you pull a ball around trees onto the fairway.

Difficulty has been tweaked, and putting is more finicky this year. Where last year’s model refined gamepad putting to the point where it was too easy, here everything is dialed back to make things a little too hard. Putting becomes more comfortable with practice, but it’s still difficult to read greens and to tell how much mustard to put on the ball. If you want an even greater challenge, you can try the new simulation control setting that removes all of the menu crutches, such as the swing path and the putt preview grid. This makes the game brutally tough, although it certainly provides a lot of motivation to players who have mastered the stock game.

Johnny Golfer's parents always hoped he'd grow up to be a doctor.

Johnny Golfer’s parents always hoped he’d grow up to be a doctor.

Other than the above changes, the controls are virtually identical to those in last year’s game. PlayStation 3 Move support remains excellent, continuing with the subtle refinements seen in 2012. Sensitivity and accuracy are dead-on. The only problem is the size of the Move controller, which is just too small to give the sensation that you’re swinging a golf club. Since the weight isn’t there, you can find yourself off-balance more than you would be on a real course. With that said, it’s impressive that the game is so close to real life that this weight consideration is even noticeable.

The same cannot be said for Kinect support on the Xbox 360. It is still frustratingly tough to use Microsoft’s motion-sensing peripheral. The camera doesn’t track your movements accurately enough, and the absence of anything in your hands makes the swinging motion feel deeply weird. Even the menu resists ease of use, refusing to recognize your input so regularly that you soon wind up waving your arms at the camera like you’re warming up for the karaoke version of “YMCA.”

Don't shank it.

Don’t shank it.

Game features are where Tiger Woods 14 shines. The new Legends of the Majors mode of play is a fantastic trip through the modern history of pro golf. You start way back in 1873 with Young Tom Morris at the Old Course at St. Andrews, and then follow a line of key events in golf history right to the present day. History buffs should enjoy everything here, from the sepia-tone graphics in the oldest challenges to the use of authentic clothing and clubs. Little touches have been thrown in to give everything added flavor, like silent-movie-styled intro screens in 1919. A number of top golf legends are present as well, including giants like Sam Snead, Bobby Jones, and both Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer in their primes.

There are some licensing issues with courses and players that cause some anachronisms with the historic challenges, though. But this actually adds to the charm, since modern players in century-old garb provide a fun past-meets-present feel. The only serious negative is the absence of the 1934 Masters course at Augusta in the basic version of the game. This course offers a completely different layout than the modern version of Augusta, so it’s a must-play that ties in beautifully with the Legends mode. Its therefore a shame that it must be purchased separately as downloadable content, or as part of the $10 extra The Masters Historic Edition.

A trip back to golf’s past moves Tiger Woods 14 into the future with some great new features, but the core game on the links holds pat.

By Brett Todd