WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Arnold Palmer is standing on his mark, the wrists of one of his attackers clenched firmly in his hands. He looks nervous, but on cue he shifts once to the right to pick up speed and then turns to the left as hard as his 83-year-old body will allow, flipping his assailant onto his back before putting up his fists as a warning to anyone else nearby.
“And… cut!” a director shouts, sending a roomful of extras and crew members into laughter and applause. Palmer’s face fades from a forced tough-guy glare back into a familiar sheepish grin, an expression of which he clearly has more practice. The cast member that was thrown down onto the mat bounces up quickly with a smile on his face.
Arnold Palmer may be the only person on the planet whose bodyslams are answered with thanks and handshakes.
On the other side of the set, Tiger Woods laughs and heads back to his mark for another take. Arnold’s scene -- part of a new digital commercial for EA SPORTS’ Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 14 video game -- is repeated five or six times, not nearly enough for the cast and crew, who laugh and clap harder each time.
The new commercial, which was shot in an airplane hangar in South Florida, features Woods and Palmer fighting off a gang of troublemakers, only to be saved by the unlikely hero, Lee Trevino.
Co-stars Palmer and Trevino are part of the gem of Tiger Woods 14: The Legends of the Majors mode, where gamers can travel back in time to face players such as Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and more. Palmer will be on the cover of the new game, alongside Woods for the first time.
“We’ve done it with the younger generation of guys, with Rickie and Rory,” Woods said between takes. “Now it’s important to honor the past. Arnold was the game-changer. He was the one that brought golf to the modern times.”
One of the distinctions making the Legends mode so neat is that you aren’t playing against these historic players on some contemporary course with modern equipment. Instead, you’ll be in their element, using their tools. Users will be able to go back and play old courses, such as Augusta National, the way it looked in 1934 for the first Masters. Each era will look and play differently, using unique visual treatments and even different clubs to capture the feel of the era in which you’re playing.
“It’s like bringing back a ’55 Chevy,” Trevino said. “Most people will never ever have the opportunity to see one the way it looked back then.”
The new features don’t stop there. Tiger 14 includes new characters and more live, up-to-date stats, making it feel like an actual TV broadcast. Players will be able to see where they rank against the field in stats like driving distance, greens in regulation and more, all in real time.
Also for the first time, players will be able to go to extra holes if scores are tied at the end of regulation. In previous versions of the game, tournaments would end in a tie, a deflating feeling for a user who may have spent hours playing a single tournament.
“It makes it nerve-wracking,” Woods said. “To understand what it feels like to have it come down to a make-or-break. … That’s what it’s all about. The nervousness.”
So, why the delay in adding playoffs? According to Christian Brandt, one of the game’s designers, it’s not as easy as one might think.
“Playoffs is a big implementation because we had to put in different playoff formats for each event,” Brandt said. “The Masters, the U.S. Open, The Open, the PGA… they all have different playoff formats. Each course and tournament has its own priority of playoff holes.”
If you’re a regular Tiger game-player, you may have picked up something else in Brandt’s quote: For the first time, users will be able to play all four major championships. In fact, that’s where our gang of attackers fits in.
It turns out the commercial’s group of bad guys is trying to steal Woods’ and Palmer’s major championship trophies. EA didn’t spare any authenticity here, bringing in the real Wanamaker trophy, U.S. Open trophy and Claret Jug for the shoot. One crew member expressed concerns about Woods being able to lift the massive Wanamaker during a scene. “He’s done it four times before,” someone quipped from nearby.
A glance at the ad’s large cardboard storyboards, which look more like an action comic from the 1960s, almost makes it impossible to believe that Woods, Palmer and Trevino are the stars. That disconnect is only amplified when Woods is spotted practicing round-house kicks in the corner (OK, it was an identically dressed stunt double). But after a combination of camera tricks, stand-ins and plenty of re-takes, the end product promises to live up to last year’s, which featured Tiger and Shaquille O’Neal squaring off in a kung-fu battle.
Watching the playback of one of his scenes, Palmer, in particular, is impressed with the reality of the footage.
“Watch this,” he says, gleefully grabbing Woods’ arm, “It looks like I really hit him!”
As the day goes by, scene after scene, take after take, neither Palmer nor Woods loses an ounce of energy, which isn’t surprising -- this certainly isn’t the first commercial shoot for either. Palmer even keeps his sense of humor; scoffing as one of the crew members calls for Arnie’s stunt double.
“I do all my own stunts,” he says with a wink.
When you see the commercial, let us know if you believe that one.
Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 14 will be released on March 26th. You can pre-order a copy of the game here