Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 is a winner

A still shot from Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14.
A still shot from Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14.

The beautiful weather arrived just in time for Masters week. Sure, the PGA Tour season kicked off months ago, but the world at large only starts paying attention when Augusta's flowers bloom and the season's first major comes around.

So it makes sense that EA Sports would release its annual rite of golf passage a few weeks beforehand so golf gamers can enjoy tearing Augusta National apart virtually before Tiger and the pros did it on the real thing as Adam Scott won the right to wear the green jacket. While some editions of the video-game franchise have lacked spark and inventiveness, this year's game has updates and features that make it a worthwhile buy indeed.

On the surface, the ability to play all four major tournaments feels like a massive accomplishment and a ridiculous one at the same time. But gamers should overlook that and focus more on the Legends of the Majors mode. Here, you take a time warp back to the game's infancy and slowly progress forward in time, playing on classic courses with wooden clubs and sepia-toned footage. The lengthy mode gives you a feel for the advancements the game has made and is a better history lesson on golf than you would find watching a typical weekend broadcast on TV.

The Career mode returns as well, and, thankfully, the game finally gives women a chance to participate in the game via the LPGA Tour. Unfortunately, the Career mode still ramps your skills up too quickly and gets you winning or placing in the top three in almost every tournament before you even finish your rookie season.

But this year the franchise is scoring birdies instead of pars and bogeys. Impressive visuals and the trip through the lore should compel gamers to tee it up with Tiger, Jack, Arnie, and all the rest.

Thief slithers into next generation of video games


SAN FRANCISCO — The beloved but long-gone video game franchise Thief is sneaking into the next generation of video games.

A highly stylized fourth Thief game is set to debut next year on the PC, PlayStation 4 and other next-generation consoles. Crafting a next-gen Thief game means using souped-up processing power to transport players under the cowl of Garrett, the series' cynical protagonist who returns for the fourth edition.

"It's about what type of experience the player will have," said producer Stephane Roy. "For us, it's the immersion. It's a first-person game. There is pickpocket gameplay. You're so close to the guard in front of you that you can almost smell the guy. The immersion must be perfect. You must believe you are in this universe. That's what next-gen gives us."

Much about the new Thief will be familiar to fans, including Garrett's silent blackjack and the setting of The City, a mysterious steampunk metropolis. The designers have given Garrett a focus ability, as well as implemented fighting gameplay inspired by Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes film, which featured the title character pinpointing a foe's weak spots.

The original Thief: The Dark Project was released in 1998 and pioneered the stealth game genre. Rather than shoot up targets, Thief pushed players to slip through the shadows. The critically acclaimed first Thief game was followed by two sequels, 2000's Thief II: The Metal Age and 2004's Thief: Deadly Shadows, before the franchise faded from view.

In the opening of the new Thief, Garrett teases in a narration, "I've been away, but I couldn't tell you where." In recent years, the old-school Thief games have been eclipsed by other titles that have improved upon the genre, including Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed and Splinter Cell series and Arkane Studios' Dishonored.

"Thief' is the grandfather of that type of game," said Roy following a demonstration of Thief at last week's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. "It gave birth to all these big franchises. Now it's up to my team to prove that Thief is still part of this. We want to convince you that we're part of your future, not just your past."