After a break of nearly a decade, EA Sports are back in the golf arena and have harnessed the power of modern PCs and consoles in EA Sports PGA Tour. Released in time for the Masters, you can play a virtual round at Augusta National along with 29 other top Tour venues. But does it look and play the part?
Glorious from the cinematic introduction, EA Sports PGA Tour recaptures the magic of the old Tiger Woods franchise and, with its new in-game mechanics, sends a high drive soaring into the middle of the fairway. It could be a major winner.
- Beautifully rendered golf courses look as realistic as we’ve ever seen in a golf game
- Ball spins, reacts, and rolls on landing in a much more genuine way
- Huge array of shots to choose from mirrors the options you might see out on the course yourselves
- Pitching and chipping action is a bit clunky
EA Sports PGA Tour review
Now: £59.99 PS5, £64.99 XBox X/S, £59.99-£74.99 Steam
Prepare for goosebumps. The familiar EA Sports logo, the iconic “It’s in the game”, and then a cinematic introduction that’s pure theatre. You roll around Augusta, St Andrews, the famous Claret Jug appears, and you’re just itching to get started. Please, can I press ‘A’?
It’s all a far cry from EA Sports’ previous incarnation – Rory McIlroy PGA Tour ’15. That sure looked the part, but had little underneath the bonnet. My disc was gathering dust within a couple of weeks and EA left the sport to The Golf Club and 2K.
Now, they are back and it’s worth the wait. Much of EA Sports PGA Tour is just glorious. There are 30 courses to choose from – and we’re talking iconic tracks like The Country Club, Pebble Beach, and TPC Sawgrass as well as the Old Lady, Riviera and, of course, Augusta National. Plenty more will surely be added after the launch date.
I’m not going to talk about textures, frame rates, or any of the in-game engineering here. I’m going to review this as a golfer, and see if the experience of playing reflects in anyway the sights and sounds we feel when we’re out on the course. I played EA Sports PGA Tour on the XBox Series X.
My God, it looks lovely. As the game begins an extensive install, you take the mantle of World No 1 and 2022 Masters champion Scottie Scheffler for a spin around Augusta and it’s just gorgeous.
The flyovers have you drooling and, when you subsequently check out St Andrews, TPC Sawgrass, and the rest when the game is fully up and running, you can see nothing has been spared on recreating every wonderful detail.
I’ve played the latter two, and I can tell you the sight lines are accurate, it contours, bumps and bounds as you remember, and, in the case of St Andrews, even casts the shadow from the R&A Clubhouse over the first tee in an early morning setting. It’s incredibly atmospheric.
Those familiar with the franchise will recognise plenty about the way you swing the club, pitch, and putt. Some early reviewers have noticed a slight delay between the transition and have found it distracting, but I personally enjoyed the lag. The action felt like you were actually negotiating a swing.
I played in Pro mode, which is essentially with the stabilisers on, and it’s a format that’s very easy for beginners to the game – or those who haven’t played this type of game for quite a while – to make a few swings off the tee and hit a few good shots.
I’ll admit I’ve been a little surprised how easy it has been to create a very solid tempo. It’ll be interesting to see how that dynamic changes as I ramp up the difficulty.
Chipping, pitching, and bunker shots were a little clunky to the eye – my golfer almost shoving at the ball – and watching them hit a putt also feels slightly awkward. But the full swing mechanics, and you can choose from different styles, are as natural as you’ve ever seen in a golf game before.
EA Sports have made big plays about the PGA Tour ShotLink and TrackMan statistics now brought into the game, but the biggest change for me is actually the way the ball reacts on landing.
You could put crazy action spin on shots in previous incarnations, and I’m sure you can now, but the way your particular shot interacted with a surface never seemed to change whether you were playing a parkland, links, or seascape.
That’s certainly not the case anymore. Find the false front on the 9th at Augusta and your ball will inevitably trickle back down off the putting surface. Send one low across the railway sheds at St Andrews, and it will scuttle along for miles after landing – jagging around humps and hollows.
Strike out of some pine needles, or try to negotiate some particularly heavy rough, and you can almost feel the pixelated clubhead snagging. It really is very impressive.
EA Sports promised you’d get a sense of the way different courses played and, though I’ve only scanned some of the franchise’s major layouts, I can say the experience of taking on Sawgrass, against Augusta, or St Andrews, certainly doesn’t feel the same. I can also confirm I was as befuddled by the contours around the 2nd in Fife as I was in real life.
As you’d expect if you’ve played the likes of FIFA and Madden, there are plenty of game modes. Sir Nick Faldo’s voice appears to guide the way and exhort you to create your golfer.
Personally, I couldn’t give two hoots about spending hours fretting over eye colour and hair styles – can’t I just get out on the course? – but there has been some grumbling about a lack of options here.
Where you’ve plenty, though, are in the gameplay options. They range from the standard quick round and career modes to being to customise an outing to a single hole. That’s for those of us who just couldn’t wait to play the famous Island green.
In game, the shot choice options are genuinely mesmerising. You can pick a ball out of a bunker (it’s like they’ve been watching my game), as well as blast it. You can high flop it, send in a runner, or try and hit a spinner with a half swing into a green.
Can you control a Texas wedge, or hack your way out of the first cut? Will a knock down work better than a punch?
It remains to be seen how often you’ll use these and what difference it’ll actually make – I managed to get round Augusta without trying to spin the ball at all. But it does feel more redolent of the choices a professional player has at their disposal, and anything that makes the game look more like golf has to be welcomed.
Let’s take a look at the players. You’re not going to find Tiger, JT, or anyone else connected to rival franchises. Or even Rory McIlroy – a surprising omission given what came before.
What are you are going to see, and surprisingly so given the link-up with the PGA Tour, are players who have defected to LIV Golf.
There are eight of them – Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Ian Poulter, Bryson DeChambeau, Harold Varner III, Joaquin Niemann, Bubba Watson, and Abraham Ancer. Maybe it was just too far into development to remove them and it would definitely have left the line-up looking a bit light.
But it’s a really odd vibe that players not welcome in the real life organisation have such a central place in an obviously affiliated game.
Lexi Thompson, both the Korda sisters, Danielle Kang, and Jin Young Ko make up the female line up.
Overall, though, EA Sports PGA Tour is a marked improvement on the company’s last foray into the golf arena and it stacks up really well against its competitors. Visually, it’s incredible, and the gameplay options that people have come to expect from titles like FIFA should see us all on board for a while as new features and courses are added.
I’m hoping the game will get a bit harder as I start upping the difficulty levels. The initial simplicity is fantastic, but I’ll soon be going round tournaments in stupid scores if errant swings aren’t punished. In pro mode, it’s actually quite hard to hit one off line.
Without that, I’ll worry that career mode may become stale and online games will be nothing but a shootout. This is something that FIFA sorts out very well. Online FUT matches are an enormous step up from what you’ll find in early squad challenges and that’s what keeps everything engaging and the disc from cluttering up the shelf.
But considering some of the mediocrity that has befallen this genre over the years, EA Sports PGA Tour has the potential to be major winner. At the very least, you can gloriously recreate Augusta National every April. And who doesn’t want to do that?
RRP: £59.99 PS5, £64.99 XBox X/S, £59.99 Steam.
Have you played EA Sports PGA Tour yet? What do you think? Let me know with a tweet.
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