EA returns to the PGA with an inconsistent, frustrating simulation struggling with its identity. As well as being gorgeous, with pro golf’s best interactive presentation, the on-course action delivers uncompromised results.
In licensing, EA wins, scoring major courses like the Masters and Pebble Beach. Presentation matters, as the first day of the Masters shows the opening tee shots of Jack Nicklaus and others. Quiet commentary meaningfully discusses each hole during flybys. There are gorgeous views along the way, and each individually rendered blade of grass is visible on the way to the fair as well. Each hole is lined with realistic looking spectators, but their lack of reaction when struck by the ball removes the immersion.
Reputation comes with a cost – this is a challenging golf sim. The fairways and greens seem to be stuck at their hardest/fastest settings. The analog stick swing functions logically, but results vary, with little feedback on how tee shots are sent into the trees. Each stroke accounts for forward and backswing speed, length, loft and wind. This holds true for the game, as any one of these can lead to a bad shot, yet EA’s PGA Tour doesn’t allow a sense of what’s going wrong at the moment.
With Ball Airborne, a small window shows the analog stick’s movement, and any left/right deviation (no matter how small) means a drastic miss. It also becomes more forgiving when leveling, although the benefit is minor. Greens offer a useless guide showing the best ball track but no indication of what that line represents to help aim. Even on the easy, if there’s a little bit off in swing power or straightness, it’s going to be a miss, short put or not.
Elements of EA’s retired Tiger Woods series remain. Especially during the returning backswing there is a chance to jam a button for power and add spin as the ball goes skyward, a completely unrealistic option. The EA Sports PGA Tour stuck with the studio’s arcade-esque heritage while competing with golf-sim rival 2K Sports.
Career setting (long-term single-player mode only), frustrating character creator limits your options. Only generic heads and a small line of clothing fill the menu, the latter broadened via the in-game shop.
From there, it’s a matter of entering tournaments, playing majors, and leveling up. Earning XP is quick at first, but the final stages in each stat take a very long time, and the currency accumulates slowly. Meanwhile, the PGA Tour berates players for spending between $5 and $50 in-game cash for a new shirt or +3 club power boost to speed up the process. When combined with slow progress, the pressure to spend feels high.
Training Challenges provide sponsorship and XP, but it’s clumsy and tedious. Each typically lasts for a few swings — say, a driving accuracy test — then back to a loading screen, then menus.
The graphical beauty can sometimes cause problems. Before a crucial Masters tee shot, a fan’s body blocked the swing meter. Tall grass does the same, even though it’s translucent. Power becomes a guess because the meter doesn’t show, making the already brutal difficulty unfair.
Allows for additional swing types, such as power drives, to reduce the leveling challenge. These fit EA’s brand in a similar fashion to Madden’s X-Factors, but like backswing button mashing, they seem misfits in a game meant for golf. While some shot types make sense, it’s illogical that many of these need to be unlocked in the first place; Imagine going into the PGA without basic skills.
The EA Sports PGA Tour delves into the intricate nuances of golfing. However, the system struggles to make sense of what a user can only do with an analog stick, making for a frustrating experience. EA Sports PGA Tour is a game at odds whether it wants to compete with rival 2K’s realism or stick closer to its own more arcade roots, and in the process, rough its first drive in this new round. Kind of does.