EA Sports PGA Tour review – A superb comeback
EA Sports is finally back in the golf game with EA Sports PGA Tour. A combination of official licenses, attention to detail, and a wealth of gameplay options overshadow some frustrating but permissible issues.
Let’s wind back the clock a few years when EA decided to part ways with the PGA Tour and cease production of new golf games – making Rory McIlroy’s PGA Tour in 2015 the last one for the foreseeable future. HB Studios took over the license and several games later the company found success with PGA Tour 2K23.
The prominence of 2K’s franchise has awoken a sleeping giant as EA Sports has risen from its slumber and whipped up EA Sports PGA Tour as a rival competitor in 2023.
It’s immediately clear that the company has put serious time and effort into crafting a familiar and tangibly lifelike experience. Like Viktor Hovland’s short game, it’s not perfect, but EA Sports PGA Tour plays like a seasoned pro.
EA Sports PGA Tour: Key details
- Price: £59.99/$69.99
- Developer: EA Sports
- Release Date: April 7, 2023
- Platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC
EA Sports PGA Tour: Trailer
EA have locked in those lovely licenses
Acquiring full licensing for Augusta National and The Masters is almost impossible. Getting permission to use Los Angeles Country Club, the home of the 2023 US Open, is not easy. Somehow, EA Sports has been able to gain access to both, along with a sizable list of other official courses, PGA Tour Pros like Scottie Scheffler and Jordan Spieth, and some of the world’s leading manufacturers.
We’ve seen this before with FIFA and Madden, but even by the company’s high standards, this is impressive. It’s an easy win, but it certainly makes the game feel far more immersive and appealing – especially to the casual golf fan.
The meat of EA Sports PGA Tour comes in the form of Career Mode which allows players to go from zero to hero traversing the globe. You can experience the punishing aqua-friendly nature of TPC Sawgrass, or battle the thickness of the Arnold Palmer Invitiational’s foul rough at Bay Hill.
It’s a full-season schedule of tournaments featuring all four Majors in their entirety, the FedEx Cup, and all the usual favorites on the calendar. My biggest gripe, though, is the fact that you can’t pick how many rounds you want to play per tournament.
Instead, you’re stuck with either a handful of randomly selected holes, with the AI simming your other holes and potentially, and unfairly, punishing you, or you’ll have to play all four rounds. Casual fans simply might not have time for this, and it’s an option that needs to be added for long-term player retention.
You’ll never be starved of content though as EA Sports PGA Tour has a ton of variety to choose from: Career Mode, Training Challenges, Sponsorship mini-games that include 1v1s against the world’s best, Daily, Weekly, and Seasonal Online Tournaments, as well as the new simultaneous 16-player Online mode.
I sadly didn’t get much of a chance to test out the latter of these modes, but if the concept is nailed, then it could be a winner for the game. Did I also mention that the Ryder Cup is being added as content later on down the line as well as returning fan-favorite fantasy courses?
A ton of birdies with a few mishits
This is a different game from the one that many fans will remember from the classic ‘Tiger Woods PGA Tour’ days, and in many respects, it surprised me with how tough it can be — in a very good way.
2K’s golf games have carried around a moniker for several years now as being a golf game for purists. EA Sports PGA Tour still carries a lot of the arcade nuances that made the early games so popular such as adding boost to drives and applying after-spin.
But it’s the almost frenzied commitment to deliver the most accurate ball physics and inch-perfect, real-life course conditions that players will love. It’s hard to describe how satisfying it feels to watch your ball roll off the green through multiple layers of rough and plop remorselessly into a water hazard.
Why? Because it’s realistic. The devs have passionately described the lengths they’ve gone to to make EA Sports PGA Tour’s ball mechanics the best in the business, and they certainly have. Random wind gusts will play havoc with your shot and the contours of firm, immaculate greens will send your ball careening on its way to danger.
Courses are all preset to share the same characteristics as their actual counterpart. For instance, if you hit a long straight drive on St Andrews’ Old Course, you’ll need to have a nap to wait for the ball to stop rolling, whereas Augusta’s softer nature will produce nowhere near as much roll unless you catch one of its two billion slopes just right.
To lessen this burden, you’re encouraged to make use of the game’s 20 different shot types to negotiate the perils of a round of golf. Stingers will give your shot a piercing, low ball flight to scoot under the wind, a Hack will allow you to muscle the ball out of the deep stuff, and a Spinner will allow you to nip a nice approach shot which will check and stop dead much quicker.
Players can create their own golfer from the beginning, and how you mold your golfer will have a huge bearing on the game. I favored power, putting, and approach play, meaning I could dominate longer courses, but my short game would be found wanting when it came to shorter shots at Riviera.
The feeling of control you have over your golfer’s direction and playstyle is solid, but the less said about the swing animation the better. Whichever swing prototype you pick will look and feel like a sluggish Hideki Matsuyama swing being played at 0.5x speed.
It can be very off-putting when it comes to timing too, with the fast/slow nature of a swing being another troublesome issue in itself. The seemingly imprecise nature of the mechanic can be wildly inconsistent and detrimental to some shots with a loss of 1 yard being the difference between hitting a worldie and going in a bunker.
You also can’t make more than a Triple Bogey on any given hole, a decision that makes absolutely no sense given EA’s push for fervent realism. Again, these are minor nitpicks, but they might make your eye twitch from time to time.
The prettiest golf game ever, period
It’s been well documented that the development cycle for EA Sports PGA Tour has been extensive and exhaustive in its quest for photorealism.
This has meant capturing the essence of every course down to the most minute details. It was hours into the game and I was still blown away by the graphics and how hypnotically gorgeous they were.
EA have spent years photographing and mapping every course using drones and state-of-the-art technology to present the world’s most iconic courses in unparalleled fashion.
Fairways have been manicured to precision, the compacted nature of heavy rough getting sprinkled into the air after a venomous iron gouge is mesmeric, and the overall aesthetic of every course I played felt genuine and TV-like.
Could I be critical of wedge shots sounding like a flushed 2-Iron? Sure. But that’s forgiven as EA has done such a wonderful job with its commentary and the hundreds of hours of lines recorded for the game.
Player models are solid, the soundtrack is varied and vivacious, and EA Sports PGA Tour flaunts around like a game made by people who know how to present a living, breathing sports title.
Verdict – 4/5
It’s not quite the bogey-free round that enthusiasts would hope for, but EA Sports PGA Tour does an amazing job of being one of the truest tests of virtual golf yet.
You’ll be captivated by the sights and sounds both on and off the course, and there’s so much to keep you busy. Some questionable design choices and gameplay fractures don’t taint an otherwise solid package of content that should keep you busy for the remaining months of the golf season.
Reviewed on PS5
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