As the world's greatest golfers begin their quest for a green jacket at Augusta National Golf Club, cybergolfers are getting their first chance to play this iconic course from the comfort of their own couches.
"Tiger Woods PGA 12: The Masters" ($59.99, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii) won't present you with any actual new threads, but if you're able to take the lead on Amen Corner and bring it home on 18, perhaps you can wrap yourself in a green Snuggie and relish in your video game achievement.
EA Sports has built its latest "Tiger Woods" installment completely around the Masters, and reaching the pinnacle of golf tournaments is the primary goal of its great career mode.
You set up your customized character and play in entry tournaments to earn better sponsorships and spots in more high-profile events, eventually getting the invite to Augusta, Ga.
Overall gameplay on the Xbox 360 version I played has changed little from last year's version, using a pull back and swipe forward on the left stick to swing. The PS3 version works with PlayStation Move and the Wii version has supported motion sensing golfing for years, but there's no support for Xbox Kinect.
The biggest improvement in "12" is the introduction of a caddie.
Your trusty assistant will help you select a club and aim you in the right direction, but you'll have to backswing and follow through with the correct power to pull off the shot.
He'll often give you choices, such as going aggressive for the pin or laying up. He's human (well, at least he's AI designed to appear human), so he'll occasionally steer you wrong. But as you gain experience points and skills on the courses, your caddie will also get better with his reads.
The game has brought in the broadcast team of Jim Nantz and David Feherty, voices familiar to golf fans that add to the overall experience.
As for Augusta National, the course looks beautiful, from the blooming azaleas to the stone bridges over creeks.
But I expected a little more atmosphere.
I realize that Augusta attendees are a bit more reserved than football fans. I wasn't looking for a cadre of "Happy Gilmore"-esque crazies, but a little more excitement would have been nice. Announcers always talk about that special moment of walking toward the 18th tee with a lead on Sunday, but none of that is captured here.
The game has a "Masters Moments" feature, in which you can replay famous shots or sequences of holes from past tournament years. Some of them are quite challenging, and they help you appreciate just how talented some of these golfers are.
EA's golf games have always been solid, but the addition of the caddie and Augusta National make "Tiger Woods PGA 12" a must-have.
Three-and-a-half stars out of four.