EA Sports PGA Tour marks a notable return to the world of virtual golf simulation for Electronic Arts after an eight-year hiatus. The game includes thirty beautifully recreated, real-life golf courses, and a significant roster of professional golfers to play as and to play against. EA Sports PGA Tour also features a physics engine which incorporates EA’s official TrackMan data. All of these factors help the game to provide an experience that is as true to life as possible. In fact, the only thing that would make the experience feel more realistic would be if Tiger Woods were to crash his SUV through your living room window while you were playing and start raiding your drinks cupboard.
EA Sports PGA Tour is out now and is available on PC, PlayStation and Xbox consoles.
EA Sports PGA Tour brings with it a fresh swing mechanic that requires the player to pull down the left analog stick to move the club backwards and push forwards to make the shot. Sounds pretty straightforward; surely anyone can drag a stick back and then force it forwards, right? Wrong. Remember that old brain exercise that asks you to pat your head whilst rubbing your belly at the same time? Well imagine trying to do that while holding a golf club in your hand.
Unfortunately, the amount of lag time between the controller input and the actual swing occurring onscreen has not improved much since EA’s last attempt at a golfing game eight years ago. This can make nailing the timing of a swing feel harder than the commentary team after the fifteenth mention of “ball play,” in as many minutes. It is particularly difficult when going for a shot that requires more finesse than just whacking the ball as hard as possible; Happy Gilmore style.
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However, if you do manage to nail a swing, the game greets you with something that feels extremely out of place. All of a sudden, the most boringly realistic visual aesthetic takes a backseat and the player is presented with something more akin to Speed Racer. Suddenly, the club becomes lit with mystical purple flames and the player character is seen taking a slow-motion swing with all the power of a certain character from The Last of Us: Part Two. This over-the-top splash of visual flair simply does not mesh with the otherwise mundane presentation of EA Sports PGA Tour.
The presence of a proper tutorial mode in EA Sports PGA Tour is as lacking as Tiger’s hairline post 2005. The closest thing to a tutorial mode that is offered is the Coaching Academy section within the game’s Challenges section and even that fails to provide much in the way of specific feedback or gameplay tips. This means that the difficulty curve feels even sharper for casual players not willing to learn as they play.
Within the main Career mode, players have the option to create and customize their own player. You can then lead them through a competitive season, building your skills and stats as you go. The customisation isn’t the deepest that I’ve ever seen, especially after playing through WWE 2K23 recently. However, I was able to make a character who looked like an even more bizarro version of Joe Exotic and the game didn’t hit me with a profanity restriction when I opted to name him Bawsaq Golfgimp, so there is that at least.
In order to improve your created player’s abilities in driving, approach play, short game, and putting, you must first earn XP points by completing in-game challenges. Completing these menial challenges feels like a mix between Groundhog Day and Caddyshack, (minus a coked-up Bill Murray,) rendering it inevitably less fun by comparison. Unfortunately, completing these challenges is a must if you want to truly be in with a chance of winning a cup.
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Besides the Career, Challenge, and Quick Play modes, EA Sports PGA Tour provides different tournament options, such as online matches against other players, including friends or a broader community of players. Unfortunately, the online component of the game brings with it a dreaded inevitably, the one thing that every gamer worth their salt knows that Electronic Arts simply cannot resist including: The Loot Box.
As out of place as the garish concept of a loot box may seem in the prim and proper world of golfing, in a way it does evoke the feeling of being a professional sportsman. Making a financial deposit to a shady organisation in order to get ahead of the competition? Tell me that doesn’t equally apply to both gaming and sport. Using a loot box to get ahead in a sports game feels akin to taking steroids before a big event; sure you might be able to hit the ball further than you ever could before, but you’ll feel like a bigger cheat than Tiger Woods while you do it.
Overall, EA Sports PGA Tour is a promising return to golf for the studio. Although it can initially feel somewhat slow-paced and tough to get into at times, the accuracy of the game’s physics engine, in combination with the huge range of shot styles, and the highly tactical nature of approaches to each green, means that EA Sports PGA Tour does manage to deliver a realistic PGA sim that feels rewarding. However, beginners will likely wish for a more accessible starting point, and those who simply want to bash through a few holes with a group of friends may want to look elsewhere.
EA Sports PGA Tour – 7/10
EA Sports PGA Tour was reviewed on PS5 with a code provided by fortyseven communications.
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