I had only gotten into golfing as a sport in recent years, but had always admired the EA Sports PGA Tour games (or Tiger Woods PGA Tour games as they were known back then) for a fun and laidback approach to what is otherwise an incredibly tactical and nuanced activity. While I couldn’t get a ball onto the fairway if my life depended on it, EA Sports PGA Tour thankfully feels like a legitimate return for the franchise, presenting some satisfying gameplay that encourages a level of both realism and simulation that is sure to draw fans of the sport in. While a variety of modes are available at launch, the dedicated career mode stands out as the only option that provides any depth or longevity.
Swinging for the Fairway
What is golf without a club and a ball? We’re not sure either to be completely honest. Thankfully, the club and ball provide incredibly amounts of fun from the very opening moments. While there’s no dedicated tutorial, players can tackle part in segmented challenges which will teach you how to swing, adjust shots, choose the right clubs and putt your way to victory. With a number of options at your disposal, I strongly recommend completing at least a few of these in order to dominate the 28 real-life courses and 2 fantasy courses available.
It’s also worth noting here that while only 11 real life players are available at launch, they all look incredibly detailed and accurate. EA Sports PGA Tour looks great as a whole, dishing out vibrant colours and some impressive draw distances, as you take in some gorgeous vistas across the world. Player animations are also relatively impressive, as they either celebrate or disapprove of their most recent shot. While some reactions are as charming as they are hilarious, it certainly adds to the authenticity of each round’s TV style presentation.
In terms of gameplay, many of our sentiments and impressions from our EA Sports PGA Tour preview piece ring true here:
“EA Sports PGA Tour will feature the brand new Pure Strike gameplay, allowing players to take advantage of over 20 different shot types in order to conquer the green. The challenge soon becomes the approach and intention, as much as the club selection and shot accuracy. Thanks to motion captured stances by every golfer in the game, no two swings will ever look and feel the same. You’ll still be able to utilise each analogue stick for your general swinging mechanics, but the nuanced attributes that accompany each shot are sure to add yet another layer of depth and authenticity, bringing more accurate ball behaviour and course dynamics with detailed feedback. Those who have played previous entries will also be glad to know that Big Hit moments are set to return, with cinematic camera angles and slow motion shots adding tension to otherwise excellent shots and close calls.”
And it’s great stuff. You’ll have plenty of opportunities and mechanics to weigh up the green ahead of you, as you calculate club distance, draw, fade and spin. Many of the best shots are due to proper preparation and planning, as you’ll be encouraged to utilise each of the mechanics in order to achieve the perfect shot. Swinging with the lefty stick feels solid, while mistakes and botched swings feel a little inconsistent at times. While there is a dedicated meter in the bottom corner of your HUD that shows your swing path, shots can also be thrown off completely by overpowered or mistimed swings. That being said, when it all comes together, those Big Hit moments rarely get old, as I rose from my couch almost every time this feature activated.
The Thrill of the Chase
EA Sports PGA Tour has included a number of both online and offline modes at launch, even if most players will look to jump into the dedicated career mode. Thankfully, this mode incorporates all three legs of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, THE PLAYERS Championship and The Masters themselves. The career is indeed centred around this pursuit of attending such a prestigious event, even if you’re able to choose where you’ll start, be it from the grass roots open tours, or the PGA level itself.
Take note however, that starting with one or the other makes little difference, as you’ll need to put in a substantial amount of work and suffer a fair amount of disappointment in order to even make the cut for many of these tournaments, edging you closer to The Masters. Players can also complete a number of specific quests within each tournament which grant additional XP, although most of this mode still feels geared towards dominating the next upcoming tournament to get you closer to the next. It’s all incredibly streamlined, but can feel a little muddled after a few hours as you’ll enter a course or single round, dominate, rinse and repeat.
Along the way, players will get the chance to kit out and develop their custom character with both cosmetic and skill upgrades, including dedicated perks which give you exclusive skills for certain clubs. XP can be gained during regular gameplay throughout all modes, making each session feel relevant in terms of general progression. Single use skills and perks also give you the chance to get yourself out of sticky situations, while many of these perks feel like they’re always nudging your well-prepared shots in the right direction.
Remaining games modes include the traditional Quick Play, online Social and Social Unranked modes, Tournaments, and Private Matches, while they provide you with XP, rarely feel deep enough to warrant any sort of longevity. That being said, it remains to be seen if the online mode’s timed seasonal events will change that, in which up to 16 players can compete simultaneously.
EA Sports PGA Tour feels incredibly confident and focused on creating a simulated version of the real life sports. The inclusion of The Masters and 28 real-life courses and a rather small, yet accurately detailed roster of licensed athletes certainly help with that authenticity. While the dedicated career mode feels like the most well-rounded option for longevity and progression, the remaining modes fail to pack in anything as exciting. But when all is said and done, EA Sports PGA Tour is simply a joy to play, packed with a nuanced assortment of mechanics that are sure to bring players back to the fairway for another round.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Highlights: Solid mechanics; Detailed career mode
Lowlights: Remaining modes wear a little thin; Roster feels relatively small
Developer: EA Tiburon
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Windows PC
Review conducted on PlayStation 5 with a pre-release code provided by the publisher.