New 'PGA Tour' edition up to par

EA Sports gets high marks for capturing Augusta National, including the bridge at No. 12 green.

The most highly-anticipated golf game hit stores Tuesday. Is it worth shelling out $50-60 for Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters ? Absolutely.


For the first time, Augusta National Golf Club is featured in a video game. And if you've ever wanted to step inside the ropes and play a round in Augusta, here's your turn. But it won't be easy.

First, let's talk about this multilayered game, which is arguably the deepest Tiger Woods game to date. There are 25 championship courses and 22 professional golfers to choose from.

You can play several different styles of golf including disc golf (not at Augusta National), mini-golf (which is a lot of fun) and mini-games (which includes things like target golf). There are also nine different styles of traditional play and there's a Presidents Cup mode.

Two of the cool features this year: Road to the Masters (where you build a golfer from scratch and work your way up the ladder) and Masters Moments (you try to replicate nine highlights from the history of the tournament, including Tiger's famous chip-in at No. 16 in 2005 and Augusta native Larry Mize's chip-in at No. 11 in 1987.

The main thing everyone wants to see, though, is Augusta National. The EA Sports team did a fantastic job recreating the course. The only issue is at times it can be difficult seeing the undulations in the greens, but the closer you get the more they come into play. And they do come into play.

I played the Wii version using the Wii Remote Plus. That only added to the difficulty playing a course that appeared primed for tournament conditions. There are four difficulty settings; I played my first round in normal mode (the second easiest). And there are several course conditions (like green speed, green hardness, weather, wind, etc.) to choose from but the teeth of the course lies in the par-3s.

I shot 82. There were about four three-putts, and the greens were playing average.

I played a second round with Ian Poulter and stepped up the difficulty setting to hard. At the first hole, I hooked my drive left and attempted to play my second shot up the ninth fairway. My ball landed "Out of Bounds," a shock to me. For some reason, the developers added OB to a course that really has no OB. Mild disappointment.

Anyway, the greens were much more slick in the hard setting -- just what you'd expect at Augusta National. And yes, you can four-putt some greens and even roll a harmless 20-foot attempt off No. 9 into the fairway.

Overall, the gameplay had a good feel to it, and anyone who's attended the Masters will appreciate the look of the course, especially the tall pine trees and lush azaleas and dogwoods. The fact that EA Sports added the Par-3 Course is a major bonus.

After three decades of video golf gaming, you might not find a better, more realistic experience than this. Throw in the Augusta National and you have a game that's going to be played and talked about for years to come.

Masters game draws crowds

 GAME: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters

PLATFORM: Wii, Xbox 360, Plastation 3

COURSES: 25, including Augusta National, Pinehurst No. 2, Pebble Beach Golf Links, St. Andrews Links, Harbour Town Golf Club and East Lake.

GOLFERS: 28 (22 professional, six fantasy), including Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler, Anthony Kim, Bubba Watson, Boo Weekley, Paula Creamer and Natalie Gulbis

PROS: Great look, addition of Augusta National Par-3 Course, Augusta National play now features includes members or Masters tees as well as flagstick placement for any of the four rounds, online play, Masters Moments

CONS: Disappointing that Dave Loggins' Augusta theme wasn't (or wasn't allowed to be) added. Caddie suggestions can be hit or miss. And after awhile, the commentary of Jim Nantz (who's a great guy) can be a bit much.



 The Wii version of the game offers an interactive playability (especially with the Wii Balance Board) that the XBox and PS3 can't offer. But those two systems will feature a more gorgeous looking version of Augusta National.



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