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Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters
Score: 87%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Tiburon
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 4 (Network 2 - 4)
Genre: Sports (Golf)/ Simulation/ Arcade

Graphics & Sound:
Once again, the next version of Tiger comes to your console, and once again it looks great. Admittedly, you may want to keep in mind that each year the game more or less contains very similar visuals, but this year features the Augusta National Golf Club as one of the many courses. For the most part, all of the visuals of EA Tiburon's Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters - from the green of the grass to the Nike swoosh on Tiger's ball - comes through with flying colors. The character models look great, and once again you'll be able to import a game face onto your created golfer to truly personalize him or her.

I should mention that there were a few parts of Tiger 12 that did bother me visually, however. One glaring problem I had was with the overly giant bark texture on one style of tree. You may ask, "What were you doing in the trees?" My reply... I tested the PS Move controller as well (see below). Another thing that annoyed me to the point of writing it here was a bit less blatant, but the fact that the shirts of the golfers seemed to always flap in the wind at the same rate got to me as it would have been a nice visual guide to wind conditions other than the digital readout. By the way, they look pretty cool beside that.

As far as the audio goes, the announcers on the course do a pretty good job once again. The slow-natured pace of golf allows for pretty seasoned calls. Jim Nantz and David Feherty are again are the voices in the booth. The ambient sounds and fx are nicely done too... not to over the top to distract from the game. The new caddie feature that helps guide you on each shot also sounds pretty good, but watch out for his advice at times.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters once again tries to raise the bar with the new addition of the Augusta National Golf Club and the greatest tournament in the world, the Masters. EA dubs the new Season Mode "The Road to the Masters," which is a bit strange in the respect that the game was released only a handful of days before the tournament begins this coming weekend (at the time of this writing, of course). Still, you'll once again begin building your golfer's stats in an attempt to be the greatest of all time and take on the best in the world. You'll begin with EA's very own fictional tournament to get your start on the road to the PGA. As you progress through each section of this single-player experience, you'll be able to upgrade your golfer's stats, or change the difficulty level to suit your needs. Continue to win and you just may be invited to the Masters Tournament at Augusta National.

Another way you can automatically be invited to play in Augusta, GA is to successfully complete a series of challenges taken straight from the archives of the Masters. You'll have to recreate winning shots or game-changing holes from the likes of golfing greats from the past and present. There are other challenges available within The Road to the Masters as well, coming from your sponsors before each and every match.

I was highly disappointed, however, that in order to fully play everything available within Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters, you'll have to actually pony up additional money to download extra courses. If you choose not to, you'll just skip ahead in the season, likely leaving you with a feeling of betrayal as you do.

On the upside, another cool feature of this year's title is that you'll be able to play in live tournaments, whether they are as often as daily, or even playing along with the pros (again, if you want to play in the "real" Masters tournament, you'll have to get your copy of the game fast) in their tournaments from week to week, you can post your virtual scores against real scores.

Online features once again include the ability to take on other virtual golfers in Stroke Play, Match Play, or other standard types of games like a Skins Match. You can also hook up with a teammate and play Best Ball or Alternate Shot, among others. As before, you'll also be able to upload your own historic shots to EA's Gamernet for others to see and try to beat, which can be an addictive time waster (but fun at that).

As mentioned, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters allows you to switch between multiple difficulty modes. With four modes to choose from, there are options for everyone. The key is that the higher the difficulty you select, not only will you likely have more fun, but you'll also begin to earn more XP that can be used to build your golfer's attributes. In addition, as you ramp up the difficulty, you'll notice certain elements of the game begin to drop off which helps make it more and more realistic, or at least as realistic as you'd expect a Tiger Woods game to get. In addition, you'll be moving back in the tee box, which will become more and more evident if you don't build up your golfer's power to match the added distance that is needed to get to the green in regulation.

From my point of view, knocking the ball down the fairway is quite easy. Even with a very green, freshly-created golfer that has default (and extremely low) stats, you shouldn't struggle keeping the ball in play. The new caddie feature helps direct you to one or two possible shots, each posing different levels of risk, and you can also choose to create your own custom shot. Because of this, many of the questions that arise from approach shots are eliminated and most of your effort will have to be focused on matching the amount of power to use.

On the green, the difficulty gets noticeably harder. Depending on the course's slope and conditions, things can go from fairly easy to extremely difficult in no time. The frustrating point with all of this is that your caddie's advice isn't always very accurate. The range of accuracy is determined with red, yellow, and green indicators. While this is actually a neat feature, at times, you may find yourself wondering how a close put has more doubt than a longer one which displayed with a green icon.

Game Mechanics:
Whether on the green or at the range, you'll be in total control of your golf swing in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters. What can sometimes be frustrating actually helps add to the realism of the game. Of course, using the standard controller allows for a similar experience as you've been used to since the days of the analog controller, but the new PS Move controller and PlayStation Eye camera is an experience worth at least trying if you can find someone to borrow it from.

While I won't go as far as to say you need to go out and buy them to play Tiger Woods 12, but the fact that you can golf in your living room is, in fact, pretty cool. Just keep in mind that what I said is true, you are in total control of your swing, including the miss-hits, hooks, and slices. Unlike the Wii controller, the PS Move actually can pick up rotation of the controller. What this means for you is that you'll have to keep your wrists straight and your swing a pendulum to cleanly hit the ball, from the initial backswing all the way to the finish of your follow through, even on the putting green.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters is a pretty good game and worth picking up for fans of the series just to play on the new Augusta National championship course. The overall features of the game are pretty good and, assuming you increase the difficulty level as you get better, the replay value of this one is high. Practice will always make things better, but be prepared to mimic your bad habits in the virtual world as well if you choose to use Sony's new controller. Can Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters and the PS Move make you a better golfer in the real world? I doubt it, but it sure is fun trying.

-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

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