Now that the embargo has been lifted, I can post my early thoughts on the game.
Since one of the largest changes to the game has to be the user interface modification and inclusion of the Microsoft Kinect as a controller, I better tackle that first.
The Kinect controls for the game are very difficult to handle. I found myself having to repeat myself to the system multiple times every time I wanted to try and complete a specific task. The speech ability was one of the first things that I really wanted to dig into, because who wouldn’t want to just say “3 iron” and have the game select it for you. Sadly, I just didn’t have much luck getting the feature to work as it was intended. I found myself saying things, then saying them louder, then eventually almost yelling at my Xbox, but the audio detection was spotty at best.
One of the next things that I wanted to see was how well the reading of the green feature would work. That control has you crouch down as if you are actually getting a good look at the green surface. Every time I did this, the game seemed to be confused as to if I was standing or kneeling or moving my hand. As a result, the camera kept trying to zoom in, then going back to the original view, then zooming, then back to the original view. It was annoying… and frustrating.
Actually, if I had to choose two words to describe my experience with the Kinect controls.. it would be annoying and frustrating. After a few hours, I completely abandoned the Kinect and went back to the standard control mode. It just didn’t work for me. Maybe it was the two rooms that I tried it in, but I just couldn’t make it work as well as when you use the standard controls and decided to delve into the standard parts of the game with a controller in hand.
If you listened to the interview that I conducted with Mike DeVault, the lead producer for the game, you heard that there are ways for you to unlock the DLC courses in the game, without having to pay for them. It’s a great concept… but boy, do you have to invest the time to unlock the courses. Each round at a downloadable course costs 6000 coins. To put that cost into perspective, just about each round that I have played in the game has given me about 450 to 600 coins to spend per round…that gives you an idea of how much time you’ll put in… just to get 1 round from a DLC course.
You can fully unlock the DLC courses, by playing enough of those free rounds to “master” the course. Based on my early estimates… it would take about 5 or 6 “good” rounds to unlock a course. So, you can see, you will have to invest a serious amount of time to unlock just one of the various DLC courses… if you’re a person that values time, rather than being frugal… you’re just going to want to buy the coins needed to unlock the rounds. Oh, and just so you know… The best “deal” on buying coins is to buy 6,000 Microsoft Points which costs $30. That give you enough coins to purchase just a bit over 46 practice rounds on the various courses. That’s a lot of cash to have to throw down, and not get to keep the DLC courses until you unlock all of the objectives for them. Picture a scenario where you have all of the objectives locked for a specific course mastery, but need just one thing (perhaps a 5th eagle on a course.) Think of how much fun it will be to have to spend those coins over and over again until you complete that one last objective… that could really suck.
Moving past the courses, another one of the large changes has to do with the Total Swing Control for the game. I know that Dan seemed to struggle with it (and think Bay Hill was a major…), but I have really come to enjoy the amount of control that you have over your shot. Having the ability to adjust your stance, whether you choose to have it be open or closed, moving the ball forward or backward in your stance, and being able to adjust where you will strike the ball when swinging, are long overdue options that we have wanted to see in the game for years. With those options in play, you have a tremendous amount of control over the types of shots you want to hit depending on where you are on the course and what the hole layout is.
What becomes more difficult is the fact that you have do adjust your swing stick motion depending on whether you want to fade or draw your shot. When you spend all of your time working on the perfect pacing of the back and forward swing on the swing stick, it becomes very challenging to be accurate when you’re doing that same motion but slightly to the left when pulling back and up to the right when swinging forward. In time it may become much easier, but for now, it’s easier to adjust the aim of my shot to the left or right and not pull it around the trees or other obstacles that might be in the way.
One other thing to note with the swing control is that you now have the ability to adjust where to strike the ball on your swing. Say the ball is half buried in the rough or in a bunker, you can adjust your swing to get under the ball in attempt to hit it flush or get under it to really pop it out of those tough lies. A nice added feature for the swing, and one that was long overdue.
As far as the gameplay elements are concerned, the big additions are the Country Club feature and the Tiger Legacy challenge. The Country Club feature will be soaking up a good bit of my time as it gives you the ability to play single player rounds in the game, and have them amount to rewards for the rest of the people in your group. Since most of the cool club names were already taken and locked down for Private mode (Bushwood being the biggest name out there,) I decided to dive into the public groups and have been enjoying playing in the club online tournaments and earning status points for my group (The19thhole.)
Not all has been perfect with this mode though, on Sunday I played a round and found that by Monday evening I had been kicked from the group by the organizer. No rhyme or reason to it, just kicked out. After exchanging a few messages with the admin, I was put back into the group… but this is one of the things that you’ll have to be aware of when picking a public group. You can just be booted and lose all of the time and benefits(coins being the biggest benefit that you acquire from your time in the group) that you put into it.
The Tiger Legacy mode plays itself out like most of the “Madden Moments” or “Masters Moments” from other games in the past, whereas the game gives you the chance to play out some of the more memorable moments from Tiger’s past as well as playing through some future events, such as him winning Tiger’s 19th major championship. What is fun about this mode is that when you finish the Toddler Years challenge, you unlock the Toddler version of Tiger to play with in events (there is even an achievement/trophy for playing in an online foursome(no bad jokes here…) of all toddler Tiger’s.)
Where Dan was finding the new version of Tiger Woods PGA Tour to be a bit of a disappointment, I have been enjoying it a great deal. I’ve already played through the entirety of the Amateur section of the Be-A-Pro mode as well as playing multiple rounds for my country club. The “coins” that you earn are a real driving factor in playing the game more and more, so that you can unlock rounds on the downloadable courses and status boosting pins.
The game isn’t perfect (still no moving the ball inside the tee box, not as many pro’s to pick from as you might like, and no transferable downloadable courses from previous years,) but it is a great game of golf and it’s been a lot of fun to play.