If you’re a PlayStation Move early adopter, chances are you could use a good core title. Sony has been cranking out titles like “Sports Champions,” “Start the Party” and “Move Heroes,” casual fare aimed at families or groups of adults. They’ve also made sure to add Move support to their lineup of shooters, such as “Killzone 3” and “SOCOM 4,” with mixed results.
If you’re looking for a deep single-player title with passable Move support, “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters” offers up a robust single-player campaign with motion-based controls that feel much more immersive than sitting on your couch moving a couple of thumbsticks.
Before I go further, a disclaimer: I am not a golf nut. My work on The Press Democrat’s sports desk and having been raised by an avid golfer mean I know the rules and terminology, as well as many of the PGA Tour’s golfers and courses. But outside of driving ranges and practice putting greens, I’ve never put together what I know golfed a round in real life. While I loved Sunday’s crazy back nine at Augusta National, I’m unlikely to watch golf on my own and wouldn’t be as intrigued by “The Masters” if it lacked Move support.
Unlike last year’s “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11,” which added iffy Move support via a downloadable update, “The Masters” includes it from the get-go. As a result, we get a more streamlined Move experience that doesn’t require frequent recalibration of the controllers and generally works. That said, because this is the first “Tiger Woods” developed with Move in mind, it’s still rough in spots.
In general, playing “The Masters” (rated E, $60 on PS3 and Xbox 360, $50 on Wii) with Move is a great deal of fun, thanks in large part to the addition of a caddie who helps you line up your shots. Seasoned golf-game vets will likely want to disable the assistance and line up their own shots, in part because the caddie isn’t always spot on. But it’s clear that Electronic Arts’ Tiburon studio knew that Move might bring in a new audience, and it’s nice to see them working to make us feel welcome.
As the title indicates, this year’s “Tiger” revolves around the Masters, with the core single-player game casting you in the role of a promising amateur who hopes to one day play at Augusta National. You’ll start off as an amateur, go through qualifying school and join the PGA Tour all before you get to have Jim Nantz narrate your exploits at the famed course. (To thumb my nose at Augusta’s racist and sexist past, I created a strapping, exotic-looking Amazon of a golfer.)
If you’re impatient and just want to play Augusta, the game lets you bypass career mode and play classic “Masters moments” from the get-go. In addition to reliving nine key holes from Masters history, you can replay Woods’ four wins on the course, trying to beat his competitors as well as Woods’ original score.
As I said above, the Move implementation is not without its faults. Navigating “The Masters’” menus with Move was frustrating enough that I frequently found myself reaching for the standard DualShock controller. Most frustrating, though, is that controlling how much power your golfer puts on each shot is much less precise with Move. When I played “The Masters” with the standard control scheme, even though it was a lot less exciting, I felt pretty confident I was applying close to the recommended level of power to each shot. If my caddy suggested 83 percent power, I could hit the ball with something in the 78 percent to 88 percent range. Hitting 100 percent was easy.
With Move, though, I found myself rarely hitting 100 percent off the tee, which is what’s often recommended. I’d raise my imaginary club up high and swing it fast and furiously in an inelegant swing that’d make Happy Gilmore blush, only to be told I’d struck the ball with 87 percent power. I’d still end up in a decent spot, so the net effect wasn’t particularly tragic. But it’s frustrating that “The Masters” offers no feedback system to tell me what I’m doing wrong.
The net result is a passable golf game that’s appealing and accessible enough for duffers and nongolfers, yet difficult to master, much like the actual game of golf. After the patched-in Move support for “Tiger Woods 11” left a lot of gamers wanting more “The Masters” is a step in the right direction, even if it doesn’t quite get there.
More nettlesome is “The Masters'” clumsy attempt to integrate downloadable courses. When your game launches with 16 courses and 20 more, some of them courses from past games, are for sale on launch day — and awkwardly pitched within the core game itself — it’s time to rethink your approach to downloadable content. EA likely included more courses on the Wii version of the game because Nintendo’s console has never been friendly to downloadable add-ons. But it just ends up looking ridiculous that the $50 Wii game includes more courses than its $60 kin on PS3 and Xbox 360.