author: Giancarlo Saldana
EA Sports PGA Tour Review: Back in Full Swing
2015 was the last time EA has put out a golf game, and in that time 2K has started creeping behind it trying to solidify itself as the go-to virtual golf experience. Does EA’s PGA Tour have what it takes to make a comeback?
Nearly a decade after its last PGA Tour title, EA is back in full swing with a golf game that gives us a realistic golfing experience. It also picked a good release date as it falls in line with the real life Masters tournament giving us the perfect companion game to play and watch on television. And for those of us not skilled enough to make it to one of the Four Majors, it can perhaps let us live out our wildest fantasies.
Living the dream is what EA Sports PGA Tour is all about as the game offers you plenty of ways to work on your golf game, climb the ranks in your career, and inevitably take on the world. It’s a game that knows what it is and hones in on its realistic golf physics and gameplay, but still offers you an experience that is rewarding, if not difficult, to master.
Golf at its Finest
- Beautiful photorealistic visuals bring PGA’s 30 courses to life;
- Realistic ball physics force you to take everything around you into consideration;
- Plenty of offline and online modes that help you improve your swing.
- Difficult learning curve may turn away non-golf enthusiasts;
- Wayward cameras can obscure your shots;
- Repetitive cutscenes and slow AI moves when you want to just play.
Unlike PGA Tour 2K23, which came out less than a year ago, EA’s PGA Tour is a more realistic and pure golfing experience. You can see that right away as the game doesn’t include arcade modes like 2K’s Topgolf, and you will slowly notice these nuances as you play and realize your ball doesn’t just plop where you think it will—akin to how your real-life expectations don’t always come true. It’s this attention to detail that make your plays come alive and feel different hole to hole all while training your brain to make adjustments to your shots. You actually need to think before you shoot here.
Take its intuitive controls, for example. In order to swing, you will need to move the left analog stick in the same direction of the shot bar, time it to your desired shot level, and then move it again. There isn’t a three-click shooting option here (for now) so you will need to get used to moving your analog stick at the right time to hit the ball. And even if you time it just right, chances are the game’s predictive area of where your ball will land will not always be as faithful to you as you had hoped as many other things will factor in where your ball actually lands. I often found myself undershooting or overshooting depending on the terrain or even the weather—all things you need to take into account for when golfing out in the real world.
What’s more, the game doesn’t walk you through how to play it, and the closest thing you will get to any sort of tutorial is via Challenges. This mode walks you through basic shooting to more complex actions and also gives you some insight as to what to look out for when planning your swings both on and off the green. It’s a great way to actually familiarize yourself with the game’s controls, but a bit more handholding would have been great for anyone new to the game.
EA’s virtual golf game truly refines how golf should be played, and it offers you an apologetically realistic approach to the sport. If you have the patience to keep practicing, EA Sports PGA Tour will be one of the best and most beautiful golf games you have played.
You can also change how your ball travels through the air by increasing its curve to make your shots even more precise and change the type of shot you plan to use with the press of a button. Beginners can simply use the game’s suggested shot and club at each swing while pros can play around with these settings, zoom in to see where the ball may land, and tweak their shots. Again, the game doesn’t hold your hand here either so it will often give you surprisingly bad suggestions forcing you to lessen the distance yourself, change your club, or move your trajectory to compensate for the wind or incline. It’s actually a genius feature that forces you to pay attention and teaches you to make these plays on your own.
Road to the Masters
When it comes to its selection of modes, PGA Tour offers a generous amount of content for those wanting to climb the ranks in their golfing career. It doesn’t offer the progression system that 2K23 offers, but you do still gain experience points in nearly everything you do which lets you unlock skill points to purchase new shot types. Your golfer grows over time with you, and you can take them with you through your career but also when you play in solo or online games. There isn’t any money-grabbing Ultimate Team mode here like those seen in other EA titles, but you also gain currency as you play (or can purchase it) to unlock new gear and clothing. I do wish you had more options when it comes to creating your character, though, as your options are limited. Want to recreate yourself in the game? Think again.
Career mode offers you a full-season schedule featuring all four Majors and the FedEx Cup. You can’t pick how many rounds you want to play per tournament so you won’t know what to expect until the game starts. These can make certain matches drag on if you have to play all four rounds or can also lead to random holes that may not always stand out as the best ones to play.
Besides career mode, the game also offers you sponsorship and training challenges, as well as offline and online tournaments and quick play modes. Daily, weekly, and seasonal tournaments will also be available, but I was not able to try these online modes out for this review. For a golf game, it’s no surprise that most of these modes revolve around, well, playing golf, so the game is ideal for those wanting to improve their game regardless if it’s against computers or other players. You won’t find any distracting modes here as this game is purely about the art of the sport.
On top of feeling realistic, PGA Tour also looks like something you’d flip to on the television. The amount of detail you see throughout its 30 courses is impressive, and EA’s lighting features also change what each course looks like throughout the course of the day. Shadows are dynamic, tall grass blows in the wind, and seemingly mundane trees look spectacular every time. While the water on a course like Pebble Beach glistens in the distance, the historical buildings that dot St. Andrews Links look picturesque and quite accurate. Even the crowds and your golfers look photorealistic, all making for a very immersive golfing experience.
To add to the experience, even the sounds you hear will make you feel like you are playing golf with a crowd around you or watching a game on television. Crowds quiet down when you are about to make a shot and murmur or comment on the outcome depending on how good or bad your shot was. Commentators are equally present and provide you with real-time discussion on what you should do while also commenting on what you shouldn’t have done.
While everything looks great, I did experience moments when the camera didn’t want to cooperate with me and forced areas around me to clip while I primed my shot. In fact, there were a few moments when certain trees or structures prevented the camera from getting right behind my ball so I had to shoot blindly sometimes. The game also generally runs slow both in frame rate but also by how it forces you to watch certain cutscenes and transitions even though you may have seen them multiple times before. Restarting a challenge, for example, will also show a preview of the course each time, and you can’t skip or speed up an AI’s turn costing you time and patience.
Our reviews are featured on Metacritic.
EA’s virtual golf game truly refines how golf should be played, and it offers you an apologetically realistic approach to the sport. Beginners may feel lost at first, but will learn over time and teach themselves how to perform the shots they want. It seems a bit cruel at times to not guide players from the beginning, but the lack of direction and even the lack of accurate shot previews force you to get better.
If you have the patience to keep practicing, EA Sports PGA Tour will be one of the best and most beautiful golf games you have played. Its modes encourage you to keep improving yourself, and while they may not offer more than just different situations, they do get you into that strategic mode and force you to think about your next move.
Giancarlo Saldana | Gamepressure.com