After an eight-year hiatus, EA SPORTS PGA Tour reignites an old flame, and the devs sat down to chat with us about how excited they are to present players with “the best of championship golf.”
As the leading force in golf games during the 2000s and early 2010s it’s hard to believe that EA’s last golf game was in 2015 – Rory McIlroy’s PGA Tour. Since then, the company has opted to focus on its other leading sports titles such as FIFA and Madden.
But now, the team feels the time is right to dust off the clubs and step back onto the course – of which there will be 30 at launch with plenty more to be added over time as free DLC.
With the world of golf ramping up in popularity even more and video game imitations also gaining traction, we sat down with some of EA SPORTS PGA Tour’s main devs – David Baker, Ben Ramsour, and Craig Penner – to discuss the wider vision for this project.
EA SPORTS PGA Tour’s four pillars to success
It’s very clear that EA SPORTS PGA Tour can’t just simply waltz in and reclaim the throne it had for nearly two decades as there’s a new dog in town – 2K’s PGA Tour series.
With that being said, the team doesn’t seem too worried as they have big incentives to get fans on board: “The mission statement is the best of championship golf. I think our goal is rallied around four pillars and those four pillars being the home of Major Championships, unlocking the most exclusive courses, our gameplay experience with Pure Strike, and introducing an RPG experience rallied around an authentic career.”
The vision is bold, clear, and based on the preview footage that we were privy to, very well executed. Authenticity certainly looks to be the order of the day from the spot-on swing animation of the game’s countless selection of PGA Tour players, from Jordan Spieth to the Korda sisters to the current Masters Champion Scottie Scheffler, to even the stone tee boxes at St Andrews’ Old Course.
Speaking of which, arguably the strongest of these pillars has to be the acquisition of all four majors: The Open, The Masters, The US Open, and The PGA Championship. Their respective courses all feature in Royal Liverpool, Augusta National, Los Angeles Country Club, and Oak Hill Country Club, with EA proving to be a dominant powerhouse when it comes to securing official partnerships.
Players and courses will be present in the aforementioned Career Mode and gamers will be able to battle their way through the Amateur Tour, Korn Ferry Tour, before stepping into the realm of the immortals on the PGA Tour – sometimes in real-time too.
“You can turn on AI partners that actually play against you and it’s someone that’s close to you on the leaderboard.” They explained that you can enable a turn-based mechanic that will allow you and your playing partner to alternate shots in tournament play, even going down the last hole with you both in contention to ramp up the tension like never before.
But be warned: “They do make every putt!”
Glorious golfing gameplay returns
The presentation in EA SPORTS PGA Tour is absolutely stellar, as you’d expect from an EA sports title. The old saying goes, drive for show and putt for dough, but in this case, you can drive, hit stingers, blast bunker shots, pick bunker shots, and many more with 20 different shot types to choose from.
During its later years, the Tiger Woods games were sometimes accused of lacking originality and innovation, whereas EA SPORTS PGA Tour is looking to tear up the rulebook.
A new online mode will see up to 16 players compete in a mini-tournament with a full leaderboard and the ability to see other players take their shots around you. The game features Trackman data on every shot you take and the ball physics have been overhauled so that they realistically interact with the environment – down to the most minute details of how a ball collides with Bermuda grass, Rye grass, and Poa Annua.
All this intertwines nicely with the emphasis on the game’s RPG skill system and creating a professional tour player tailored to your wants and needs. The team unconventionally but logically made the comparison of the game’s challenge and depth to that of a typical RPG title like Diablo or The Elder Scrolls.
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“So, if you think of it more in this RPG land of things you’re gonna have certain battles that are easy for you, and then all of a sudden you’re going to run into this battle that all of a sudden you’re like ‘I am underprepared for this because I didn’t level up my character in a particular way,’ and so that’s kind of where our depth is inside the career mode.”
If you focus on power over accuracy, then a tight course will chew you up and spit you out, but if your putting stats have been overlooked, then your chances of conquering Augusta National will take a significant nosedive.
Even though there will be no course creation mode to channel your inner Pete Dye, you’ll be spoilt rotten by the customizable player options. EA SPORTS PGA Tour features over 40 licensed brands in the game, different swing animations to sift through, and a ton of freedom in how you want your player to be – should they have a draw or fade bias?
There’s plenty of stuff to do with daily and weekly challenges available and long-time fans of the series will be glad to know that after-shot power boosts and after-spin return. Additionally, we might also get a sprinkling of Tiger Woods PGA Tour-era nostalgia too.
When quizzed on some of the franchise’s historic fantasy courses such as The Predator and The Highlands, the team couldn’t contain their excitement with regard to their plans: “Those are in our back pocket, we’re reintroducing The Wetlands, and Lighthouse Point is the other one. But we know that our fans love those courses and I think the hope is to sprinkle those in at some point.”
EA SPORTS PGA Tour launch is just the beginning
With so much content to look forward to already, the end goal for EA is clearly a distant line at the moment as there is already a ton of extra content in the pipeline for EA SPORTS PGA Tour.
The 2023 Open’s course Royal Liverpool, Olympia Fields, and the 2023 Ryder Cup venue Marco Simeone Golf & Country Club are just some of the post-launch courses on the way. Along with new courses, there will be a constant influx of new challenges to complete, new gear, and a blessing for many will be that there is no pay-to-win content.
Seasonal content may become a factor as time goes on with the team confirming that there may be “more to be released on it later,” and the game will possibly embrace the live service element that has become so prevalent in the world of games.
Anytime EA releases a game there is bound to be discussion, and especially when it’s a new release in a beloved franchise. With eight years separating Rory McIlroy PGA Tour and EA SPORTS PGA Tour, it does beg the question, will this be a regular release moving forward once more?
“Currently right now, we’re looking at just this game at the moment as we go forward. Obviously, with the golf market the way it is, the commitment from EA is to make the best games possible. As for the release schedule, there is nothing planned right now for what we’re going to do on an annual [basis].”
“With our live service, we want to build a really strong community and we have the core things that users want. So we hope that this product will attract a lot of people and the business will do really well.”
EA SPORTS PGA Tour is gearing up to drop on March 24, 2023, on PS5, Xbox Series X|S & PC, and just like in real life, golf fans are being teed up for excitement as rival tours battle it out.