The game loads up and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters informs me that I can now purchase Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters. Is this Inception-like advertising an evil way of getting confused customers to buy infinite copies, or just endemic of the laziness behind EA's latest golf-sim update?
It's a bit of both. This is an offline version of EA's Tiger Woods Online game, built using the browserfriendly Unity engine, which enables players to compete in the Masters tournament and exhibition matches without the fear of slicing it in front of people. But it still hooks into the subscription based-Tiger Woods Online, and I don't think I've ever played a clumsier attempt to integrate offline and online.
I was contentedly chipping my way to a par in a Master's game (the golf is still decent, if unchanged since TGO launched in 2010) when I was warned I had ten minutes to save or lose my progress. I ignored it, assuming it was a general message to the entire server, as I was playing offline. The same pop-up appeared at five and two minutes before stopping the game and kicking me back to the desktop. When I tried to return to my offline game it wouldn't allow me access.
When Tour 12 did grudgingly allow reconnection, I poked around online and discovered something sickening: this game doesn't even have a dedicated online mode. It has a three month's membership to Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online, after which you'll have to pay either £3 a month or £25 per year. That's on top of the £30 this glorified demo costs in the first place.
Yet without that membership you'll feel hard done by. Even if it is ugly, easy to play, and attempting to drain your wallet every second, at least there are a good number of online competitions to triple-click your way through. Are they worth the subscription cost? Don't be silly: this is golf. Actually, this is old golf: an old game, repackaged without a good going-over by the greenskeepers. Ratty, tattered, and begging for money from the first time it loads up. They're selling you half a round and charging you more when you get to the ninth.
There might be a good model for a subscription-based golf game out there, but even when this was free-to- play the cost was too high. Now that it's saddled with a pricetag, the bare minimum of polish and one new course, I'm not even sure just telling you to avoid it is enough. As it stands, EA are already giving refunds to people who feel ripped off by what they bought.
The publishers hoped to use the connectivity of the PC to fill their pockets, but in the end it was that connectivity that brought forums and websites together to demand they do better. I can only get behind those dissatisfied customers.
Don't let EA get away with this. Don't buy it, and tell them this isn't good enough.