The perennial sports series tends to evolve at a glacial pace. Modes and features are regularly scrapped and brought back into the fray, but it’s rare that a developer will gamble with a complete overhaul of the broad gameplay experience. Take EA Tiburon, which obviously took the criticisms lobbed at Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13’s Tiger Legacy mode to heart, offering a Legends of the Majors mode with the release of the game’s follow-up, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14. This was the right move. Though last year’s entry in the series was a commendable title, it faltered somewhat while introducing its new swing system, as the deterministic caddies stripped away much of the shelf life and challenge from the game.
The new Legends of the Majors mode pairs well with the ever-intuitive Career Mode and can be acquired at retail via the Masters Historic Edition, or added on later through DLC. It’s an addictive pick-up-and-play history lesson sporting 60 diverse mini-game challenges in six classic golf courses. You unlock nine legendary golfers and time period-specific courses. Per usual, Tiburon is meticulous about getting each golfer’s ratings, old timey attire/equipment, and personalized swing styles down. In addition to these enticing new incentives, the ever-important coins system returns so you can purchase stat-boosting pins to level up your time-traveling created golfer.
Legends of the Majors’ deep experience is buttressed by a revamped Swing Meter, which now moves left to right simulating sidehill lies. Like real golf, it’s a simple system to learn, but difficult to master, and the insertion of a new Simulation difficulty setting strengthens the game’s replay factor by a substantial margin. Even the specifics of shooting on the meticulously recreated courses are marked improvements over PGA Tour 13. Each golfer’s draw/fade shape, trajectory, and handedness are taken into account, while the tempo now affects each shot’s precision as well; if your tempo is askew, your miss-hit will be intensified. These variegated styles are slightly cosmetic, but experimenting with different golfers eases the learning curve for novices.
All of PGA Tour 14’s furtive expansions are welcome and rarely feel like tacked-on fan service. There are many distractions here: the LPGA Tour is a long-awaited treat; night golfing is relaxing fun; and Quick Play is perfect for local or online multiplayer. The growths even continue into the online realm, as players can earn more experiential coins using the Country Clubs format and a new Club Loyalty Bonus gives you coins for members playing every day. (You can really rake in the dough this year, because Tiburon increased the club member limit from 25 to 100.) And whether you play using motion controls or with a traditional gamepad, the game’s challenges are ramped up throughout each mode and the rewards are fairly abiding. The game, in short, is a gamble that’s paid off well.