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No cover? No problem: New Tiger Woods game finds the leaderboard

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Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters [X360, PS3, Wii]

Between his well-chronicled off-the-course personal issues and mediocre on-the-course play, it's been a rocky road back to the top for Tiger Woods, to put it mildly.

You won't even see him on the cover of his latest game,
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters. Instead, EA's decided to prominently
feature The Masters tournament over the game's namesake, slapping a bright yellow
Masters flag right where Tiger's growling mug typically sits. A clever
marketing move to pull the focus away from the troublesome star? Could be,
though some would argue that featuring the most prestigious tournament in golf on
your cover -- the first time it's ever appeared in a North American gof game,
by the way -- isn't exactly chickening out.

And as it turns out, the success of a Tiger Woods golf game doesn't boil down to Tiger Woods. It boils down to good gameplay and some innovative new tweaks, just two of the reasons critics seem to dig this links outing.

Game Informer digs it more than most, calling it "one of the high notes of
the franchise" in a glowing 9/10 review.

"Centering the rebuilt career mode on The Masters
tournament is a great decision that finally binds a lot of the game's loose
ends under a cohesive structure," they say, adding that "this year
EA's lined things up and knocked the ball down the fairway straight and

Gamers can partially thank to new caddie feature for that.
No longer just glorified club mules, Tiger 12's caddies are now a mine of
useful information.  Shot selection tips,
suggested approach routes, weather advice, stock picks -- they've got it all,
and they'll get smarter and more helpful as you play.

That last bit stands out to Gamepro, who awards the game a solid 8/10.

"Reach Bronze, Silver, or Gold mastery on any given
course, and you'll find that your caddie will offer better, more precise
recommendations," says reviewer Joe Rybicki.  "This grafts an additional layer onto
the whole 'golf RPG' element of the series that I've come to really love."

What gamers might not love, though, is the feeling that
they've played this game before. Despite its new features and inclusion of The
Masters, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 can feel a bit too familiar.

"[It] doeesn't play much different than last year's game,"
notes IGN in
an 8/10 review, while Gamepro echoes that "it's not a must-buy if you own
last year's edition."

That could spell trouble for the game's sales, but at least
it's clear that Tiger's woes aren't affecting the quality of his video game. If
you're itching for a shot at Augusta, tee this one up.

Get More Game Details | Buy From Amazon

Also Out Now:

Shift 2 Unleashed: Need for Speed [X360, PS3, PC]

Fresh from the rave reviews of November hit Hot Pursuit, the
great Need for Speed franchise is kicking off 2011 with Shift 2 Unleashed, the
latest work from British developer Slightly Mad Studios. But whereas Hot
Pursuit was all about arcade excitement and road-racing action, this week's
release -- like its well-received 2009 predecessor, Need for Speed: Shift --
takes a more realistic, sim-style spin on the racing genre. Reviews are still
coming in, but Metacritic currently pegs the Xbox 360 version at around the 84% mark
-- a hair behind Hot Pursuit, but nothing to be ashamed of. 2011 promises to be
a standout year for racers, and it's off to a flying start.

Get More Game Details | Buy From Amazon

NASCAR: The Game 2011 [X360, PS3]

The second of the week's big racing releases, NASCAR 2011
represents something of a rebirth for NASCAR games: the rights to the license
have passed from EA to longtime rival Activision. And considering the sorry
state of the last few NASCAR games produced by EA, that can only be a good
thing. Most critics have yet to take a spin round its circuits, but we're
betting fans will just be happy to see the franchise back on shelves again.

Get More Game Details | Buy From Amazon

WWE All Stars [Wii, X360, PS3]

Think of this as the wilder tag-team partner of THQ's successful
Smackdown vs. Raw series. Whereas Smackdown is the serious, grown-up
simulation, All Stars is the fun-loving, thrill-seeking action game. Unfettered
by petty concerns like 'physics' and 'accuracy', it pits present-day fighters
like Randy Orton and John Cena against past masters like Andre the Giant and
Sgt. Slaughter.

Get More Game Details | Buy From Amazon

Virtual Villagers 5: New Believers [PC Download]

The latest in the Virtual Villagers series, New Believers
puts a new spin on this successful puzzle-strategy franchise: now you're the
god of a primitive village, and you must use your godly powers to convince the
heathen inhabitants to see the error of their ways. Control the weather,
unleash plagues of insects, bring back the dead -- if you've ever thought you'd
make a kick-ass deity, here's your chance to prove it.

Download from Yahoo! Games

Free Realms [PS3]

Massively multiplayer games -- as exemplified by the
legendary World of Warcraft -- are big news on the PC. They've lagged on the
consoles, but Sony's working on changing all that, first with January's DC
Universe Online, and now with kid-friendly online world Free Realms. Launched
back in 2009 on the PC, Free Realms has already racked up over 10 million
registered players. This week it comes to the PS3 as a free download. Don't
miss it.

Get More Game Details | Visit Free Realms Site

Behind the Reflection [PC Download]

Step through the looking glass and into a bizarre parallel
world in the latest from Alawar Games -- and no, Alice is nowhere to be seen,
although there is a wicked witch. Hidden-object
hit Behind the Reflection casts you as a mother trying to rescue her son from
the aforementioned spellstress -- and with over 600 concealed items to find and
dozens of minigames to master, he'd probably better make himself comfy.

Download from Yahoo! Games

The 3rd Birthday [PSP]

Really? A PSP exclusive? They've been thin on the ground
lately, but yes, this stylish Square-Enix action-RPG is indeed only available
on Sony's ailing handheld. Although you wouldn't know it from the name, The 3rd
Birthday is the latest entry in Square's Parasite Eve series, a survival-horror
franchise that's been dormant -- brooding, perhaps -- since 2000.

Get More Game Details | Buy From Amazon

Dynasty Warriors 7 [X360]

For some reason, western gamers have never really "got"
Koei's Dynasty Warriors series. Hack-and-slash military fighters based around a
classic Chinese set of historical novels, they're...oh, that's probably the
reason. Still, if you're already a fan, good news: word is the seventh is among
the series' best offerings. If you're not, best to give it a wide berth.

Get More Game Details | Buy From Amazon

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