After a meteoric fall from grace, renowned golfer Tiger Woods has reintroduced himself to the world. Like the showy returns made by rehabilitated actors and reformed musicians, it hasn't been without stumbles.
For all his effort to reform, its a rough-around-the-edges comeback mirrored in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12.
While the core gameplay remains solid as ever, it lacks panache. This capable and good-looking golf game plays it safe, introducing only a few new features in an effort to keep the spotlight on the phenomenal mechanics.
It's all in the hands
Wisely keeping the gesture-based swing system intact, the game has you sliding a finger up and down the screen to take shots on the fairway and even putt on the green. Both the angle and velocity of your swipe determine the resulting swing. Veer slightly to the left on the return swipe, for example, and the shot will fade.
Although there's no change in the setup, it feels tighter and more precise than before, resulting in a more exact swing. For this reason alone, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 surpasses its peers.
A new boost mechanic has been added that extends the power of a swing by momentarily pausing at the bottom of the shot gauge, then finishing the swipe once it turns red. Combined with the ability to affect spin mid-flight, this grants enormous control over play.
Pro and con
You need it, too, because Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 is difficult. Swings require skill, putts demand perfection, and maintaining par across the eight challenging courses is a tall order.
The new Tiger's Challenge mode proves particularly difficult, offering a smattering of bite-sized objectives separate from the main PGA Tour. It's a good break from lengthy tournament play, delivering short, varied bits of gameplay.
They're tough little tasks, though, and while it sounds easy enough getting a -1 among three randomly selected holes, expect a run for your money.
Signing into your Facebook account grants access to the new Closest to the Pin Challenge mode, which has you competing with friends to chip the ball as close as possible to a given hole. It's a fun mode, though limiting play to Facebook subscribers is an odd choice.
Rough around the edges
It's especially curious that EA Mobile extends online play to Facebook users, but is unwilling to offer it to the general gaming community. Match and stroke multiplayer is restricted to local wi-fi or Bluetooth, with online play conspicuously absent. If not real-time play, the game should at least offer asynchronous tournament play.
And there are bigger issues at hand. The announcing is absolutely atrocious, not just in its repetitiveness, but in quality. A quip about your poor chances of lifting the ball out of a sand trap can be immediately followed by a comment on how great the ball lie is for your next shot - both referring to the same shot.
Along with rare glitches - we had to restart the game twice due to a bug that distorted the graphics to an unplayable state - these shortcomings give Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 a mixed quality.
While the swing mechanics are tighter than ever before, other areas lack polish. However, it's not striking enough to sandbag this solid and enjoyable - if predictable - comeback.