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Review: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 for iOS

In so many aspects of life, it seems that the simplest things to learn can often turn out to be the hardest things to master. I definitely found the sport of golf to be one of those things. The rules of the sport are so very basic when you really think about it. You strike a ball with a club, with the object being to get it into a small cup in the ground within or below a certain number of strokes. Easy, right? Not really.

Anyone who has played golf for any length of time can attest to the fact that you can spend a lifetime learning all of the nuances of the game. You have to develop a consistent swing, and figure out how to handle all of the sport’s variables, like negotiating wind and weather, course hazards, and the speed and slope of the greens. Then you add to all that the art of club selection, and learning how to handle specific shot types, like pitching, slicing, or drawing. Yikes. I’m starting to have flashbacks to the brief period of time that I tried my hand on the links. I quickly came to the realization that golf is far too expensive a sport for me to be as poor at it as I was.

Even if you don’t play, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the game of golf. The diverse and beautiful scenery of a well manicured course combined with the display of skill that professional golfers possess can make for both an interesting and relaxing experience. While I can’t say that I watch a lot of golf on TV, I do catch the occasional final round of tour events. Golf on TV may not be your cup of tea, but if you ever have an opportunity to go out and watch a round of PGA Tour golf, I would definitely recommend it. It is a far different experience seeing those shots made up close and personal while walking around a picturesque tour course.

Whether you are a scratch golfer with a club membership, an occasional weekend duffer, or just enjoy a good virtual golf experience, I believe that the recently released Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 very accurately portrays the game of golf in many ways. While it has a simple and intuitive control system, plenty of depth, and beautiful graphics and effects, mastering the game takes patience and practice. However, if you enjoy a good game of golf on your iPhone or iPad, Tiger Woods is definitely worth the investment of effort.

Let’s start by taking a look at the game’s graphics and sound. Before we get into the specifics, this review covers both the version for the iPhone, and the HD version for the iPad. Through my testing on both devices, I did not find any differences between the two in gameplay or modes. The only distinction I could find was in the graphics, which is fairly obvious due to the differences in screen size. On the iPhone 4, the Retina Display really shines, as the graphics really look very polished.

There is the occasional slowdown during the sweeping overhead pan that is shown before you play a hole. However, that is forgivable considering how good the detail is, especially on the wind and water effects.

While the HD version of Tiger Woods for the iPad looks great, as well, you can definitely see the difference in the screen resolution. Everything is still well-executed, but there are some jagged edges to be found with everything blown up to a larger size.

The grass textures also suffer a bit, as well. While you can clearly see the variance between the fairway, rough, and green, the rough tends to look flat with the details simply drawn on top. However, despite the fact that the detail is a notch below the iPhone 4, the graphics and animation in the HD version are still very high quality.

Since the two versions are so similar otherwise, the choice really comes down to which of them you own, and your personal preference. Do you prefer the superior detail of the Retina Display, or the larger screen size of the iPad, which is a little better suited to the controls. Personally, I think prefer the HD version, as I have larger fingers and the extra screen size makes the controls a little easier for me to handle.

As for the sound in Tiger Woods 12, it is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, the golf sound effects and background noises, such as chirping birds and a bit of wind noise when appropriate, are very well done. The crowd noise is a bit canned sounding, but isn’t too objectionable. Like a lot of iOS titles, the music is good, but can get repetitive over time. However, you have the option to use music from your device’s library instead, so this really isn’t a big deal, either.

The real problem with the audio in Tiger Wood 12 is with the commentary. The caddy comments are fine, and properly match the situation, but the match commentary supplied by Jim Nantz is just downright terrible. It is incredibly smug sounding and overly negative, even when it doesn’t need to be. Don’t expect any pats on the back for a great shot here. There are also plenty of instances where a voice clip gets played in a situation that is obviously incorrect. For instance, I recently had Nantz talking to me about how long my putt would be while I was sitting 150 yards away in the rough. Come on EA. You can do a lot better.

Another drawback to the audio is that, while there are individual settings for the effects, music, and commentary, unfortunately, turning down the commentary also gets rid of you caddy’s comments, which aren’t too objectionable. It would be helpful if EA would not only fix the problems here, but also add separate sliders for the commentary and caddy. As good as Tiger Woods 12 is otherwise, EA really needs to take care of these issues soon.

It doesn’t matter what a game looks or sounds like if the controls aren’t any good. Fortunately, the gameplay mechanics of Tiger Woods 12 are probably its strongest attribute. After playing several rounds of the game over the last week, I can definitely say that I am a big fan of the control system and game setup. There is plenty of information presented on the screen, but at the same time, it doesn’t detract from the course environments.

The information that you need to plan and make your shot is always in view on the main screen. You can always see a marker showing the location and elevation of the pin, even if it is currently out of view, and the wind speed and direction are also shown at all times.

It is also very simple to zoom in using the target icon to alter your preferred shot location. While the game AI will choose a location for you, I like the fact that you can easily change it if you prefer.

The AI recommendations tend to be on the conservative side, so you will need to take the lead if you want to play more aggressively.

I also like the fact that, as you change the shot location, the recommended club will change to match the selected distance. You can also see what percentage of that club’s total distance it will take to reach your selected location. The only thing missing I would like to see is the distance in yards to your selected location, even if it was just allowed in the Easy mode. This would be a big help in learning to judge the distances in the game for yourself.

You also have full control over your club selection, shot type, and swing power and direction.

Like your shot placement, your club is automatically selected for you to match the AI selected shot location. This is where knowing a little bit about golf and taking the time to practice helps. While the recommended club may get you to the pin in ideal conditions, you will have to account for the wind and course conditions yourself. For example, you may be aiming for the pin 150 yards away, but if you are sitting in the rough and have a stiff wind in your face, the automatically selected 5 Iron won’t get you there.

Fortunately, there is a percentage reading at the bottom of the screen showing how much of your club’s distance is available based on the surface the ball is currently on. It certainly pays to keep the ball in the fairway as much as possible, because you will typically lose around 25% of your power in the rough, and even more if you land in a sand trap. I know, just like in reality, that is often easier said than done.

You also have the ability to set your shot type. Again, as with aim and club selection, this is automatially selected for you, but can be adjusted to your liking. In addition to the standard Full shot, you can also select from Punch, Pitch, Flop, and Chip shots, depending on the situation. The typical yardage on the shot meter will automatically scale itself for your chosen club depending on the shot type you choose, which is very helpful when making your selection.

Speaking of the Shot Meter, this is ultimately where all of the action in Tiger Woods takes place. As I have already mentioned, the control mechanic is very easy to grasp. It is also a great simulation of the dynamics of the golf swing.

You simply start at the top, move your finger down to the desired strength indicated on the meter, and then back up again. There are even arrows that guide you through the shot as you go.

As easy as that sounds, however, there are a lot of factors that come into play. First, to hit a straight shot, you must draw a straight line up and down. Failure to do so will produce a result similar to an inside-out golf swing, where your shot will slice to some degree. Because of the sensitivity, which increases with the difficulty level, getting that line perfectly straight is more difficult than you might think. Of course, once you have mastered the straight swing, you can actually use this flexibility to your advantage to pull off slices and draws by curving your finger to the right or left during your upswing to help keep your ball in the fairway.

Second, you have to pace your shot in a rhythm similar to a golf swing, or you will lose power. I can speak from a lot of experience here, as I often tended to rush from the top of my swing to the ball, which caused a lot of problems. While this rule holds true for any normal swing, there is an exception to this rule in Tiger Woods.

If you hold your finger at the bottom of the meter for about a second, it will turn bright red, which will give you an extra power boost on your shot.

The other major factor you have to get a feel for is judging shot power depending on the course and weather conditions. As I already mentioned, wind, as well as landing in the rough or in a sand trap will take power off of or alter your shot. Thankfully, since you can see the percentage of the club available to you on the main screen, you can judge how much to compensate, either by over swinging, or by choosing a lower club number.

Once you have gotten the ball to the green, the game switches to a slightly different interface for putting. This is fitting, of course, since reading greens and putting stroke are a their own little challenge in golfing reality.

Tiger Woods simulates this experience by adding a color coded grid to show all of the movement and speed of the green. Caddy tips for direction and stroke power are also provided to help you get used to reading the shot on your own.

Once you get the hang of things, you can turn the Caddy Tips off in the settings and take on the greens yourself. I thought this was a really smart way to ease you into what would otherwise pretty difficult learning curve.

All of these different control factors work very well together in Tiger Woods to simulate the game of golf. None of the shots or techniques are overly hard to pull off, but they require practice and some refinement. This is especially true if you want to take on the challenge of the Hard or Expert difficulty levels. When you get the hang of using them, though, you have the chance to simulate the skill required to shoot a good round of golf, which makes the time spent with the game a little more rewarding. The controls are definitely my favorite area of the game.

When you first start Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12, you are presented with the main menu, with its various game modes. What really stands out at first glance is the game’s Closest To The Pin Challenge, which allows you to face off with your friends who also own the game to see who can get the closest to the pin on a particular hole.

When you first start up the game, a blue bar with the Facebook logo asking you to sign in to compete in the challenge slides across and sort of dominates the lower half of the screen. It can easily be retracted by tapping the Facebook icon, though.

While there is local Multiplayer available via both Bluetooth and WiFi, the Closest To the Pin Challenge is the only way to play with anyone else remotely. It is certainly a welcomed addition to the game that adds a bit of interactive fun to the mix, but it would have been nice to at least have the ability to play an entire round together with a friend. Out of all the sports games available in the App Store, you would think developers would have the easiest time making online multiplayer available in a golf game, but unfortunately it looks like we will have to wait another year to get more from EA.

Despite the lack of online multiplayer, there are several single player modes available to keep you interested, whether you prefer a quick stroll across the front nine of your favorite course, taking on a series of quick, unlockable challenges, or becoming a pro on the PGA Tour, all are included in Tiger Woods 12. The Tiger Challenge is an interesting casual addition to the game, allowing for short bursts of play with a unique challenge system.

For example, the first challenge is to finish three random holes at the venerable St. Andrews in Scotland with a score of -1 or better. Once unlocked, the challenge is available anytime, and the next one becomes available to try. Again, this works great if you just want to pick up the game and play for a few minutes while on the go, but actually want to have a chance to finish what you are doing and have some accomplishment, as well.

You can also jump right in and play single player rounds (although some have up to 3 other AI participants) using all of the major golf scoring systems and round types. In addition to the typical Stroke Play, you have Match Play, Skins, Stableford, Modified Stableford, and Shootout available to choose from.

You also have the option to play four different team modes when in Match Play. Lastly, you can choose to play the courses at Doral, Greenbrier, Hazeltine, Pebble Beach, The Predator, TPC Sawgrass, or TPC Boston. Along with the course, you can also choose whether to play the whole 18 holes, the front or back nine, 3 or 5 random holes, or a custom round of your own design.

Taking on the PGA Tour as a pro in Tiger Woods 12 is going to be one of the draws for the hardcore golf fans out there. It goes hand in hand with the My Golfer feature, which allows you to set up up to three custom player profiles.

You can choose to play as a man or woman, choose skin and hair color, and completely customize the look of your player’s attire.

Your player begins with $50,000, but that isn’t much when you consider that every tour event that you enter will cost you a large sum of that money. You can also spend you money to upgrade you equipment, and as a result, upgrade your player’s ratings in a variety of categories.

You have to temper you initial spending, but if you don’t spend enough, you probably aren’t going to last too long on the tour.

Just as you would in the real PGA Tour, you have to qualify over two rounds on Thursday and Friday to make the weekend rounds on Saturday and Sunday.

If you don’t qualify, you aren’t going to win any money. In other words, success in qualifying is absolutely essential to keeping your spot on the tour.

While the lack of online multiplayer is a bit of a drag, I really do like the rest of the game modes and options that EA has included in Tiger Woods 12. No matter your preference of play, there is plenty here in this year’s version to keep you entertained for quite some time. This variety, coupled with the well-designed play mechanics make Tiger Woods a game you can keep coming back to long after you first pick it up.

At the end of the day, despite a couple of issues and omissions, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 is a top shelf golf game. The graphics are strong, the controls are excellent and very approachable, and the wealth of modes and settings give you a reason to keep coming back. If you have any interest in the sport of golf, then it is definitely worth your consideration. If Tiger Woods 12 does interest you, then you will first need to consider which version, the iPhone or HD for the iPad, will suit you the best.

Then you will also need to think about price. At $6.99 and $9.99 respectively, Tiger Woods 12 certainly isn’t cheap, but it isn’t priced outrageously for a high quality title. I have been critical of some of EA’s recent sports titles, namely FIFA 11 and NBA Elite 11, but this game is much more deserving of the premium price. This is especially true if you are new to Tiger Woods on iOS. I did not own the previous version, but I have heard some grumblings about value from some who did, so you should bear that in mind and do the appropriate research before you buy.

If you already own the previous version of Tiger Woods PGA Tour, or if the price of this year’s version seems a bit too high, just hold on and wait until the inevitable sales and price drops come. In fact, in the first price drop is already here one week after release, as the iPhone version has been reduced to $4.99 in honor of The Masters tournament in Agusta, GA this weekend. However, if you are looking for a great golf game that covers the gamut of the sport, from serious to casual, and would rather not wait, then I would say that the price definitely shouldn’t be an obstacle. There is plenty of bang for your buck with this title, so pick it up now and you’ll be racking up birdies on the PGA Tour in no time.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 is available for the iPhone and iPod Touch for $6.99 (on sale for $4.99 until Sunday, 4/10/11) in the App Store here.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 HD is available for the iPad for $9.99 in the App Store here.

EA provided a promo code to iSource.com for the review of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.

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  • Curtis

    Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 constantly crashes on iPhone. That’s probably why the price has been reduced. EA doesn’t seem to care. I’ll never buy another product from EA.

  • Davis

    Constant crashing for me too, can’t rarely get past the title screen before getting kicked back to desktop

    • jhrogersii

      I’m curious what devices are you guys using? I have been running it on my iPhone 4 and iPad 2, and have had maybe 2 crashes in three weeks now. I know there have been other apps that built to push the hardware a bit that had issues on older devices. Have either of you tried running the app after a reboot? This clears the memory of your device, so it might help.

  • Tyler

    The game run’s great on my iphone4g, the only thing is they give you the skills of a 12 year old girl to start out with! How can I compete on the tour when my golfer can only drive the ball 200 yards under full power and full boost, and 115 yards with the fairway woods and 100 with long irons its taking me 4 or 5 shots to get to the green’s on TPC making the cut is unattainable. Do I really have to play all the stupid mini games just to get cash to make my player actually playable? It leaves me NOT WANTING TO PLAY AT ALL IT’S POINTLESS. I’ll just have to stick to Tiger Woods 11, atleast that one isnt pointless to play, and more realistic. Like seriously my girlfriend can drive the ball 200 yards and she doesn’t even stand or hold the club properly and has no interest in golf.

    • Jack

      Just like any tiger woods game, all starting cash you can afford to use goes into power. I won my first PGA tour event.

  • Mika

    Tyler is exactly right!!! Tiger Woods 12 is a piece of crap! It constantly crashes (ipod touch iOS 4.2.1). You have absolutely NO POWER until you upgrade after play for HOURS. I was so tired of playing St. Andrews OVER and OVER until I had enough money to upgrade. The interface is totally wrong and uncontrollable compared with Tiger Woods 11 (which had a great interface). When putting I can’t tell you how many times I had to 2-putt because I was a tap-in short of the hole (I have upgraded all the way up to 1/2 star on putting). Or if I increased the power of the putt by just a little bit it WAYYY over shot the hole and then often giving me a 0-0 to putt on the next shot. As if to make up for the error?? On hole 1 of TPC Sawgrass if you do a fade to the right it sometimes hit an invisible wall (Out of Bounds?) a couple of feet from the tee. WTF??? Making you lose the stroke and have to hit it again. Sometimes when you would roll the ball forward/side the ball goes crazy too far than what would be normal. The numbers are harder to read/see in some places (along with the flag stick). There is no option to practice with black, blue or white tees (you can only practice with the white tees). There is often a white square that appears in the lower right corner when the ball goes over the hole.

    Yes, it looks great but if the physics are wrong and the interface sucks and you have no power until you spend hours playing and then upgrading what’s the point? Bring back the Tiger Woods 11 interface/physics and put in the new courses and graphics.

  • Northern Songs LTD

    Have to agree with MIka and Tyler – this is really quite disappointing. How the heck are you supposed to compete on the tour hitting 150 yd drive? It’s a total joke. Glad i only spent $.99 on it. I think I’ll stick to the Wii – at least there’s a practice mode there.

  • Zac

    The occasional crash is a major downside, but the game is entertaining and challenging if you choose to make it. All you have to do is get your golfer in the mid to low range to win a tourney, then you have enough cash to make real improvements. Don’t bother playing the challenges until you have mid range skill. Playing tiger one on one is the most frustrating aspect, as the game totally lack consistency and reality. I still can’t figure out how to beat the .sat three challenges however.

  • Steve Simpson

    I love TW 12 but recently bought a new Ipad 2 and when I migrated the contents of my Ipad 1 (via Itunes) to the new device I lost my player profile and all the $$ and handicap I have built up. Help? Is there a fix?

  • Taylor Cooper

    I have read most of your comments and yes the graphics suck but I won the 2nd tourni on the pga tour and it was easy. I one putt every green all the time now. The squares on the green when you putt are a yard by a yard so that means 3foot and all so inches are involed. A caddy tip comes up on the top left side and if you stick to that you will be fine. Once you work it out.

    If it said 1 and 5in short you would go to the first line down. Or 1 and 5 in left, you would make that right line go straight over the hole.

    Even though you hit it short at the start. If you are hitting it close all the time and sinking that putt for par and havin a chance at birdie sometimes you will find yourself making plenty of money. The key is putting. To me as a professional golfer it is just like the real game. I find I want to play it more when it is harder. No point if it is easy and you are winning all the time. Coz in golf you never win all the time. In fact hardly ever.

  • Rod

    I have the same result as many of the others, it crashes on my iPad and I can’t get past the menu…
    Very disappointing from usually a quality game developer…

  • Frank MacGill

    The putting is broken. When it says 10 inches long you cannot hit the ball the right speed. It goes too short or a mile too long. This is so annoying it wrecks the whole game and causes FRUSTRATION.

  • John

    I was going thru the same frustrations with the long putts coming short or going really far. So, it took me a couple more days of frustration and constantly putting in the tutorial to figure out the problem with putting long. The solution is the shadowed target. You can obviously move it however many inches left or right to compensate for the lie. What’s not so obvious is that you can move it up or down/short or long to compensate for the slope. If it’s 1 ft and 6 inches long, move the shadow to that first line in the grid passed the hole. Then you just need to swipe between the lines when putting.

    Hope this helps.

  • yohodog

    Fun game until the constant “sever error” messages. Also, why not just charge more for the app rather than having to buy the upgrade because your golfer sucks? Don’t think I can purchase another game from EA.

  • Lang

    Everyone complaining about difficulty doesn’t make any sense. I started the PGA tour with no upgrades and won the first event – I was in about 27th after the first 2 days of the tourney, but after I got over the learning curve it was an easy birdie every 2 holes from there on out. Used my winnings to upgrade power, and now I get birdie or eagle every hole. The lack of power is noticeable, but is overstated by these guys – you can still get birdies every few holes because the putting is so easy.

    If you get this game on iPhone or IPad, beware. Mine doesn’t crash often (once every half hour isn’t game breaking, since it still saves pretty recently), but I get these “server error” popups about 5 to 10 times every minute. It interrupts shots and is really obnoxious – removes the flow of the game. This game would be 5/5 if it wasn’t so broken; unfortunately, the popups force me to give a 1/5 and never play again.

  • James

    Was the first app I got for my 4g 2 months ago. I haven’t even played 3 holes it crashes that much.

    I’ve messaged EA on twitter and just get ignored. Which is frustrating as they retweet some garbage about other games!
    Really disappointed with EA and the price of the game. Sometimes I’m lucky to get past play game until it crashes!

    Can the App Store refund on “faulty” apps?! I’m sure if they did EA would do something about it then

    I did also get FIFA 12 plays great which I can’t make out the problems with TW12. I won’t get another EA app

  • jhrogersii

    I really hate that EA has continued to take the lazy route, and not support customers with timely updates. I did not experience the crashes that others have seen when I reviewed the app, or I would have mentioned them. However, I do know that this is a real issue, because there are just so many complaints out there.

    It’s just such a mixed bag with EA. Games like NBA Jam, Need For Speed, and FIFA 12 are really good, and have seen plenty of updates. On the other hand, FIFA 11 released with tons of bugs, lag issues, and with important features missing, and then had few updates. Tiger Woods and NCAA Football appear to be just as bad. It’s hard to throw every EA title out the window, but based on their track record, I would caution any buyer to wait until after release, check the reviews, and maybe see when the first bug fix update comes.