Review: Swing tracking for 'Tiger 13' almost there

RON HARRIS Associated Press Published:

Amen Corner awaits. With the Masters tournament being held this weekend and Tiger Woods coming off his first victory in more than two years, "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13" couldn't arrive at a more opportune time.

Video game golf has made some of the greatest strides of all sports titles over the years. The player customization is more detailed and the game physics truer to life than ever before. And "Tiger 13" (EA Sports, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, $59.99) lets you swing a club -- or at least pretend to -- from the comfort of your living room.

The Xbox 360 version introduces Kinect-enabled swing tracking that allows the player to take a full cut with an imaginary club and see the results on the screen. The action is much like real golf: It can be sweet if things fall into line, but if you're off by a little, you're off by a lot.

But the latest in golf game technology is not without its hiccups.

Occasionally, in the middle of my backswing, my onscreen player's club would blink around in different positions, only to return to the correct position when my hands came back down into the hitting zone. Things got a little better as I got closer to the holes -- the slower motion required for short approach shots seemed to allow the Kinect sensor to monitor things a bit better and deliver a more truly tracked swing.

Then came the putting woes. Lining up putts requires a series of hand motions -- but as I put my hands back together to grasp the imaginary putter, the path was nudged offline slightly. This happened over and over again, and had to continually readjust my aim. Often I just hit the darn ball and hoped I guessed right.

This putting alignment mayhem made me reach for the traditional Xbox controller. The Kinect swing method is worth trying in all the different game modes, but the standard controller is quicker, easier and more accurate.

As long as you're connected to the Internet, almost everything you accomplish in "Tiger 13" -- whether you're playing solo or in online tournaments -- earns you coins. You can use the in-game currency to buy rounds at downloadable courses or "boost pins," which may gave you a few extra yards on drives or some better lies in the rough.

You can also seek assistance from a caddie, who advises you on which clubs to play, what stance to use and other nuances that help shape your shots. The caddie isn't available in every mode, but he's handy when he's there.

Finally, it's a blast playing the Tiger Legacy Challenge, where assume Woods' playing persona from childhood through adult PGA Tour domination. A poignant touch comes early on when Woods' late father, Earl, is teaching the game to toddler Tiger. The challenges range from chipping balls into a backyard pool to popping shots close to the pin from deep in the rough.

Tiger Legacy gives you an inside-the-ropes feel of what it's like to be Tiger -- to be that driven. And when the fun of the Kinect controls subsides, that feeling lingers when playing the game.

I felt I was given a glimpse at greatness. Three stars out of four.

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Online:

http://www.ea.com/tiger-woods

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Ron Harris can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/Journorati