Tiger Woods is back. And so is the best-selling golf video game franchise in the world—EA Sports' Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13.
It's been a busy week for Tiger.
There was the win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his first official PGA Tour victory since 2009.
Then there was the book—Hank Haney's The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods, released on Tuesday—not that Tiger endorsed that media coverage.
Now, just a few days before the finest collection of professional golfers in the world gather to compete in the year's first major championship, the Masters Tournament, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 hits store shelves everywhere.
As anticipated, there are more than a few good reasons to pick up this year's release. Here are five new features that make this the best version yet.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 takes its biggest jump forward in swing mechanics in over a decade.
The new Total Swing Control feature literally revolutionizes the virtual golf swing. You have full control of your setup, your tempo—even the arc of your swing.
First, when you set up to the ball, you can do so in a variety of ways to create virtually limitless shot types with just one club. For instance, you can draw or fade the ball by simply closing or opening your stance. You can move the ball back in your stance for punch shots or forward in your stance—and go ahead and open that club face—for flop shots.
As I played No. 13 at Augusta, I declined the recommended 3-wood and instead went with my driver, only I applied a high draw to the shot. It worked out perfectly, giving me a 5-iron approach for my second shot. I missed my eagle putt, but I'm happy to say I birdied the hole.
Altering the tempo and the speed of your swing is going to directly influence the power of your shots. You can step on the gas, so to speak, to add more distance to your shots. Or you can ease up to give yourself just the right amount of length.
It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you have the hang of it, it's pretty easy to get a good rhythm going from full shot to full shot. But be warned, it's also easy to miss your target. You have to be precise in your execution of each shot. I like that.
If you play golf (for real), you've certainly heard about the swing plane. Here, you can use an arc to execute your swing with the proper power, trajectory and shot shape. The animation system allows you to see, in real-time, whether your golf swing is on or off plane through your golfer's on-screen animations. It's pretty incredible that a feature like this exists.
There's also a Strike Meter where you place the sweet spot of the club exactly where you want to hit the ball. Typically, you will want to hit the ball in the center of the club face, but try using high and low strikes to alter your power, ball spin and the trajectory of your shot.
I'm blown away by Total Swing Control.
The integration of Kinect for Xbox 360 is easily the most talked-about new feature on Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13. And rightfully so.
After all, it's the first-ever sports simulation for the Kinect, tracking your full body movements into the most advanced virtual golf swing ever.
I have to admit, it's pretty awesome. If I were playing on Kinect all the time, I'd be very curious to see how it would affect my real golf swing.
I have a PS3, and I can enjoy the benefits of PlayStation Move. But with the Kinect, you go controller-free.
The controls are voice enabled, and Kinect scans more than 1,000 data points in real-time to recognize your swing mechanics and replicate your individual style.
Bring your swing, they say. Kind of makes me want to get an Xbox.
If you're a huge fan of the Masters Tournament like me, The Masters Collector's Edition of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 is the version you need to get your hands on. It will cost you about 10 bucks more, but it's worth it.
You can get the Masters Tournament experience on the standard version, but this Collector's Edition has so much more to offer.
During Masters week each year, I get lost in everything to do with the tournament, so my week begins on Monday morning at the practice range. If I'm not at the tournament observing the warm-ups, I'm watching online. In this Collector's Edition version, you can perfect your skills at the practice facility, just as if you were there getting ready for your Monday practice round.
You can also walk the hallowed grounds of Augusta National like never before.
It includes Augusta National Golf Club’s famed Par 3 Course where the annual pre-Masters Par 3 Contest takes place on the Wednesday before the tournament each year. It's a 1,060-yard, nine-hole course played around and over DeSoto Springs Pond and Ike's Pond. With this particular event now garnering television coverage, it's a perfect addition.
You can also experience an authentic Green Jacket Presentation, unlock exclusive pro shop items and if that weren't enough, you get five additional courses to play.
But not just any courses. What was especially exciting to me was that I played two of these courses last year—for real—Oakmont and Pinehurst No. 2. Both are included in this Collector's Edition along with the PGA National Champion Course, the Old White TPC (formerly Greenbrier) and the Straits Course at Whistling Straits.
As far as I'm concerned, getting the Masters Collector's Edition is a no-brainer. The only thing it doesn't do is deliver a pimento cheese sandwich to you while you play.
If you've seen the footage of little Tiger Woods on the Mike Douglas Show back in 1978, you know what he looked like when he was two years old.
Tiger was smiling but all business as he carried his junior set of clubs onto the stage and proceeded to unleash a perfect drive from a rubber tee on a chunk of fake grass—before a studio audience, of course.
That's one of many moments you can relive in Tiger Legacy Challenge, where you can go back in time to experience Tiger’s most memorable golf accomplishments—from child prodigy to one of the best to ever play the game.
You will be able to revisit each era of Tiger’s career, like the Toddler Years when he would practice in his backyard, hitting balls into things like an inflatable pool. It's pretty funny and, dare I say, cute. There's typical backyard stuff, too—like a red wagon with a teddy bear, er, tiger bear, in it.
There's the aforementioned appearance on the Mike Douglas Show. Plus, you'll also be able to participate in some of Tiger's first golf tournaments, including the Junior World Championship when he was a skinny teenager who wore oversized shirts—and that Bermuda hat.
They didn't leave anything out—the US Amateur, his first trip to the Masters, his rookie season on the PGA Tour, the "Tiger Slam"—his entire career, really.
You will even get a glimpse into the future.
Let's just say if you're in favor of Tiger breaking Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 major championships, the Tiger Legacy Challenge is for you.
Obviously, Rickie Fowler has joined Tiger Woods on the front cover of the game. But there are 21 other licensed PGA Tour players in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13, including seven new players—Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Dustin Johnson, Hunter Mahan, Graeme McDowell, Ben Crane and Ross Fisher.
I love the variety. And it's interesting that all four members of The Golf Boys are on here now.
I also love the new courses, 16 of them in all with five new courses.
The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island is considered one of the most difficult and beautiful tracks in the country. It's new, and it's on here. The other new courses are Crooked Stick, Valhalla, Royal Birkdale and Royal County Down.
Of course, you'll still get favorites like Pebble Beach, Torrey Pines, TPC Sawgrass, St. Andrews, Bethpage Black and others.
As I mentioned, getting the Masters Collector's Edition will give you instant access to those same courses, plus Oakmont, Pinehurst No. 2, the Old White TPC, Whistling Straits and PGA National. If you own the standard edition, however, and want all the extra Collector's Edition content, you will have the ability to purchase it via digital download.