EA finds its way back to the golf course after a long absence. Do they still have the run of the green, or will they get stuck in a bunker with EA Sports PGA Tour?
Game Name: EA Sports PGA Tour Platform(s): PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PC Publisher(s): EA
Developer(s): EA Tiburon
Release Date: April 7th, 2023
EA’s PGA franchise is long-running, but before this unnumbered reboot, the last entry was Rory McIlroy’s PGA Tour in 2015. Before that, Tiger Woods was the name of the game, so to speak! In fact, this year’s entry is the first not to have a player name attached since PGA Tour 98.
Simulation or Arcade?
After an eight-year absence, you’d hope for some significant improvements, right? Well, EA Sports PGA Tour delivers a few. The core experience remains much as I remember from previous entries, using one of the analog sticks to swing, you can choose left or right. You have to select different clubs for different shot types and situations, just as in real life. Where the latest PGA shines is in its options, you have the freedom to essentially make the gameplay as arcade-style or as simulation as you like! With some returning options such as tapping the A button on Xbox during backswing for added power or adding spin to a ball after hitting it.
Of course, if you’re more of a purist and want a simulation experience, you can turn off all the arcade features and crank up course conditions such as wind, shot elevation, and grass length. All play a significant role in the experience and are more impactful in higher simulation settings. Something that adds even more to the gameplay is how much care has been taken to replicate these 28 real-life courses. Each one plays very differently; a course such as St Andrews, for example, will see fairways that allow the ball to run further off a drive compared to the shorter running fairways of, say… Augusta National, the home of the masters.
I eventually settled on some custom settings for a nice middle ground between Arcade and Simulation, and after testing so many different options, I can say whichever way you choose to play this game is fun.
Let’s Talk Modes
PGA Tour gives you a few ways to play, including a quick-play mode, a career mode, and a multiplayer mode. The quick-play is pretty cut and dry, and here you can choose between 11 pro golfers or your pro. The PGA and LPGA Pros include Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Nelly Korda, Jessica Korda, Tony Finau, and many more.
The career mode where you will likely spend most of your time is the career mode. This allows you to take your own created golfer from the amateur ranks to the PGA Tour, you can start off in the PGA Tour if you like it’s up to you. Mostly you’ll be playing events, in which you can play full rounds (all 18 holes) or quick rounds which allows you to advance through the career quicker, only playing important holes. I’d personally advise full rounds if you have time because of how the progression system works.
Progression mode is what makes this career mode shine. It is a light RPG progression system, which rewards you XP for your performance and amount of holes played each round. This XP levels you up, and on each level gained, you earn two skills points. These can be put into upgrading stats for Power, Driving, Short Game, Putting, etc. Each upgrade path holds different shot types you can unlock, which massively improves your game as you get them. The second aspect of upgrading is the different specs of clubs you can get through complete challenge sets, winning events, etc. These clubs have different stats and can be useful for different courses thankful you can set up and save multiple bags to avoid constantly swapping them out.
This RPG-like progression kept me engaged even outside of tournaments, I want to go and complete the coaching and sponsor challenges not only for the additional XP but for the improved equipment. Unfortunately, with levels only awarding two skill points at a time, it is a little more grind than I’d like in true RPG tradition, I guess!
As for online, there are a couple of multiplayer options, from tournaments with randoms or head-to-head against up to 16 friends. I was only able to test the Head to Head multiplayer mode with one other player, The Outerhaven’s own Scott Adams! The gameplay experience was flawless, with no disconnects, lagging, or anything. How it presents is interesting because you can see the other person taking their shots if they are near you. Finish a hole before a friend, and you’ll be treated to three pretty bad zoomed-out camera angles that your fellow players may not even be in view of.
So while multiplayer was incredibly stable and a look of fun, the presentation while viewing other players needs work.
So Much Greener
PGA Tour looks and sounds mostly amazing, but the characters have some wobbles. Each course is represented stunningly with its unique shades of green. In fact, I’ve never seen so many different shades of green in my life; Individual blades of grass can have slightly different shades of green. The downside visually is custom golfers, often don’t look that different from each other due to limited customization options. Pro Golfers are a bit hit-and-miss as well, with some looking fantastic and others just not looking quite right, in an unsettling way.
The audio is good. Each club striking the ball sounds different depending on the ball’s position, etc. You will know from the sound when you’ve hit a good shot. Something that may get overlooked about the audio experience, is the background sounds of each course. They add to the presentation and unique feel of wherever you are playing a round.
Accessibility is an interesting one in PGA. On one hand, the options it provides to tailor the gameplay are fantastic. They open the game up to a wider audience than a full sim or arcade game would. That being said, those with physical disabilities, such as myself, will absolutely be left wishing for more. Custom Control Schemes would be nice! Why can’t I press a button to start and stop my swing instead?
On Xbox Series X, the performance is locked at 30fps for now, at least. Predictably because of this, I had zero frame drops in fifteen hours of play. I had no bugs to contend with either, but I did have one crash to the dashboard minutes after my first time loading up.
EA’s latest crack at a PGA Tour is somewhat, par for the course, in many ways, what I expected. Retaining much of the previous few entries. While building on it with more gameplay options and better simulation (if wanted) than ever. It’s perhaps the most fun I’ve ever had with a golf game and is certainly a strong option for both hardened golf fans and casual gamers alike. A solid foundation that I want to see be built on in the future.
Review Disclosure Statement: A copy of EA Sports PGA Tour was provided to us for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
EA Sports PGA Tour Review - Par For The Course But Better
EA Sports PGA Tour Review - Par For The Course But Better
EA Sports PGA Tour is somewhat, par for the course, in many ways what I expected, retaining much of the previous few entries while adding more gameplay options and better simulation than ever before.