When the biggest headlines about your game are trumpeting the offer of a refund by the publisher, chances are pretty good that you've got some problems. The subject of these recent news reports is Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters, a PC game that has little in common with the console games of the same name that were released earlier this year. The PC version lacks a number of features found in the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 versions, some of which are advertised as included. The game also seems like a backdoor way for EA to promote Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online, in that the games share an engine along with many features like online multiplayer. So you would be best advised to stick with the console games or to go straight to Tiger Woods Online and play it in your Web browser to get a PC golf fix.
Tiger Woods 12 is essentially a differently packaged version of Tiger Woods Online. All this game does is add the core modes of Masters play where you strive to take a shot at the coveted green jacket at The Masters and play through historic moments with or without Tiger at the legendary Augusta tourney. In some ways, it's more of an expansion pack for the Net version of Tiger than it is any kind of stand-alone game. Some vital gameplay options from the console release are not included here. The Caddy Experience feature where you access assistance from an onscreen caddy is not available, even though it was advertised as being part of the PC version of the game. Creating a pro for the Masters career mode has been knocked back so that you can only select from a handful of faces that cannot be edited. Multiplayer has been scaled back; instead of the usual suite of online matches, tournaments, and the like, you get three free months of online support before you have to pay a monthly subscription fee for Tiger Woods Online. Otherwise, you're stuck with a solo-only game after you hit the 90-day mark.
Gameplay is also not what you would expect. Control options have been dialled back to a simple--if effective and easy-to-use--three-click meter. There's also the TrueSwing option where you take cuts by sliding the mouse, but there is no gamepad support. Both options are easy to handle, especially the three-click meter because the needle moves so slowly that you can hammer balls dead straight down the fairway with pretty much every single swing that you take. Much of the game is also inextricably tied to online play. You have to be online and logged in earn the cash and experience needed to level up your golfer. Everything here is geared to getting you online and keeping you online. Of course, then you're constantly exposed to the lure of buying new accoutrements like clubs, balls, and other gear through micropayments in the online store (points needed to buy this stuff are accumulated slowly through regular gameplay). And, of course, you have to pay a monthly fee for the simple privilege of being online in the game after three months.
Online performance is far from perfect, too. Connections are dropped at times; you can be right in the middle of a match and get the message that the game has lost its connection to the servers. At that point, you're given the choice of continuing with lost access to all of the features noted above or bailing out to the menu and logging an error with EA. Neither option is particularly attractive.
As with its online-only cousin, this game has stripped-down visuals with dated player models, along with nearly nonexistent sound. Gallery crowds have been excised, player faces look like something from five or six years ago, and there is no commentary in the game at all. Only the gallery crowd deletion might be seen by some as a positive because the zombielike clap-in-unison spectators from the console Tiger Woods 12 were creepy. But the total absence of people by greens in pro tournaments, as well as the lack of Jim Nantz and David Fetherly cutting up your putts, screams that this is a low-end production. With all that said, it isn't an ugly game. It supports some higher resolutions, background muzak is relaxing, and course graphics aren't hard on the eyes with the bells and whistles cranked to the "super" setting, although even then, the game's frame rate tends to chug when confronted with heavily treed areas. But when you pay $40 for a game like this bearing a well-regarded name, you expect more from the presentation.
In short, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters for the PC has been marketed under dubious pretenses as something that it clearly is not. This is more of a Masters-oriented expansion to Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online than any sort of independent golf game. Although it is not an awful golf sim, it is a very limited one when compared to the console games sold under the same name. It has also been crippled to the extent that it all but forces buyers to subscribe to Tiger Woods Online. It's a nice gesture that EA is offering refunds to dissatisfied customers, but it's hard to believe that anyone gave the OK for the release of this game in the first place.