At EA's gathering for press people in the New York, one could race around the city, shoot up Mexican drug cartels, even build a city from the ground up. Oh, and you could also play some golf as well.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 was on hand, and I should have been excited, since I'm a hardcore golf fan. But the thing is, I'm hardcore Mario Golf fan. It's been my go to go for over a decade now. There's something about the simplicity and atmosphere that I turn towards, especially when I'm having a particularly rough day, to just chill and unwind.
Alas, Nintendo's output of Mario games has been quite high as of late; we've gotten way more installments that conform to the "Super Mario Bros" classification in the past 7 years than the 14 years that came before. But it's been positively ages since the last proper Mario Golf installment; since 2003, Toadstool Tour on the GameCube.
I've never given any of the Tiger Woods games a shot, since I could care less about actual golfers, but due to the reasons stated above, I figured now might be a good time to finally become indoctrinated. And my timing, or should I say EA's, has never been better.
I asked who plays Tiger Woods, and the answer from the EA rep was "everyone". It's by far their most casual title to appear on a proper console. And it shows, via the extra drop-dead simple control scheme (which is even more stripped down than what you find in the Mario Golf games, much to my surprise).
Still, another reason why I never got into the Tiger Woods games is because I assumed that it was a hardcore simulator, much like Madden and the like, which prides itself on realistic depictions of actual people and ultra detailed, accompanying stats. There was simply an assumption that knowing and caring about such stuff is a key part of the experience, and going in blind would be a bit of a barrier.
That's where the brand new Legends Mode mode comes into play. It's basically an additional campaign mode, one that accompanies the standard tour that has been in the game since wherever and is more or less an interactive history lesson on the game as a whole.
Legends Mode spans six eras that encompasses the formation and evolution of the sport. As you play, you assume the mantle of nine different legends who basically led the way and shaped the world of golf. Each golfer has his own unique attributes, like his own signature stances and swings, which was mostly a result of the technology at the time. And because certain golfers were around for a whole, like Jack Nicklaus, you play him multiple times (hence the difference in the legends to eras ratio).
The way he plays in the 60s is different than how he plays in the 80s. New Jack hits the ball harder, but it's sometimes hard to tell where it will land. Old Jack lacks power, but makes up for it with accuracy. He also looks different of course; every golfer has been painstakingly modeled to ensure the greatest degree of historical accuracy as possible.
Again, technological advances play a major role. Due to changes in how clubs were developed and manufactured, the physics behind how balls are hit and travel are thusly different in each era as well. Even the courses are different; older ones are more raw. So the challenge comes in conforming to the play style that was allowable at a certain point.
In the Legends Mode, you both play as the person and also experience seminal moments in their careers. To advance, you have to play certain challenges, which are moments ripped right from golf's history books. When it comes to time to advance to the next legend, there's essentially a boss battle of sorts; you are then forced to go against the golfer that you've just been playing as.
In addition to the legends, you also have pretty much every single pro that's out there today. Another huge addition that the game's makers are proud of is how all four of the men's major championships are represented, for the very first time: the Masters Tournament, the U.S. Open Championship, the Open Championship, and PGA Championship. Plus, also making its debut is LPGA, or Ladies Professional Golf Association. So it's not just a men's club.
Aside from everyone looking they way they do in the real world, the environments themselves look quite splendid. It's not quite the rolling greens of the Mushroom Kingdom that I'm used to, but it's as equally serene, the perfect place to zen out to. One really nice touch with the Legends Mode is how everything is in black and white in the very beginning, to mirror the archival footage that exists of that time, and it stays consistent like that as you march forward in time.
Can't say much about the music; another great thing about Mario Golf is the ultra catchy audio, and I don't think they type of music is present here. Oh well.
Another big addition is the ability to play in the dark. Apparently night golf is a thing that the kids are into; it's hard to get an accurate assessment of the green under the stars, but it's most just for fun. With a glow in the dark ball accentuating the mode.
There's not much to say about golf. It's one of those thing that just seems boring or lame, till you give it a shot. If you're like me, you mostly play the cartoony iterations, like the aforementioned offerings from Nintendo, or Sony's own take, Hot Shots Golf. But, if you're interested in seeing what the sport is all about, especially those who led the way, or simply just want another game to just sit down and chill with, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 seems up for the task.