At its best, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 reminds you how skilled professional golfers are. Whether hitting seemingly impossible recovery shots that keep a round alive or sinking the occasional 50-foot putt, the game has a way of heralding the talents of the world’s best. At it’s worst, however, the latest Tiger Woods title is the glitchiest iteration of a long-running, stagnant EA Sports property.
EA encountered a problem with the Tiger Woods series: they got it right a long time ago. Unlike the Madden and NCAA Football titles that the developer releases annually and that are riddled with gameplay problems — the notorious inability to run the ball effectively, the leapfrog linebackers, etc. — the look and feel of Tiger Woods were both perfected years ago, leaving EA to experiment with new game modes and control tweaks. This season’s (like most years) are also unsuccessful, but the game’s bugs have started to show more clearly with this release.
The core gameplay is the same as always. Create a unique golfer and work your way through the PGA tour, beginning as an amateur and winning tournaments to bolster your reputation. The familiar path through the amateur ranks, the Q-School, and eventually the pro circuit, leave much to be desired as succeeding is a battle with boredom rather than attrition. Challenging player development and AI gameplay are what makes the NBA 2K and MLB: The Show career modes so captivating. Tiger Woods lacks even the hint of difficulty without significantly ramping up the level settings.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 has finally washed its hands of the misguided caddie feature while adding a new game mode: Legends of the Majors, which allows players to assume the roles of famous golfers through the years and attempt to repeat their amazing feats. The inclusion of era-specific technology and sepia-toned graphics do little to elevate the gameplay above a simple challenge mode, which the series has featured extensively in the past. The old-school equipment shortens drives and iron distances, making the navigation of courses slightly more challenging, but any longtime Tiger Woods player will find Legends of the Majors superfluous.
What stands out most about Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 is its laziness and incessant glitches. During one of my first rounds, I overshot the green of the 17th hole and slammed into a spectator, only to have the game freeze and require a hard restart (of both the system and the round). An isolated event, without doubt, but previous Tiger Woods games had scant problems. More apparent is the laziness of the announcing track. Following a round in which I finished 12 shots under par, the voice track kicked in, “This game can be rough. Best to forget rounds like that and move on.” The game frequently confuses good and bad results with comical responses from the announcing crew.
Perhaps most telling of the game’s lack of ambition came from a minor announcing faux pas. Following a birdie early in a round, I heard, “That takes them to minus five on the tournament”. You likely missed the mistake here, them. I have to imagine that supplying “unique” commentary every year for a new Tiger Woods game gets tiresome. You can only go into a sound studio and say things like “That takes Tiger to 5 under for the tournament” or “That takes Tiger to 6 under for the tournament,” etc. ad naseum so many times before you give up trying, but this is the first game in which that lack of precision and care shines through.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 inhabits a complicated space in the series’ lore. On the one hand, it features the same impeccable gameplay that has defined the games for years. However, this year’s edition stands as the most inconsistent Tiger Woods title to date. At the end of the current console generation’s lifecycle, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 feels like it was made by a developer resting on its laurels, already working on something bigger and better. But the problem for the series remains: how do you improve upon perfection?