The GOAT is back! And this time he’s in video game form as Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2K23 finally hits the shelves.
HB Studios and 2K have slowly been making themselves a reputation for creating brilliant and realistic golf games. So, more than two years after they announced the 15-time major champion was on board as not only a playable character but an executive producer, was it worth the wait or the investment?
I spent the last few evenings with my hands glued to my PlayStation controller to find out. (I miss you too, kids…)
2K and HB Studios had a good base from which to build with 2K21, but Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2K23 is a vast improvement on its predecessor. Everything you wanted to be upgraded has been, and the two-year wait was well worth it.
- Improved game mechanics
- Revamped career mode
- Playable PGA and LPGA pros
- More courses than ever before
- Tour stars aside, the graphics are still lacking
- The majors are a noticeable loss
- The commentary grates a bit
- COMPETITION: How would you like to win a copy of PGA Tour 2K23?
First impressions of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2K23
The short answer? Yes.
The gameplay in the previous edition still felt a bit clunky – and it was those improvements I was most excited to see, because you can dress up a teaser trailer as much as you want. That’s the problem with the golf swing, it’s so difficult to reproduce in the digital form – even with the amount of remarkable technology available in this day and age, but it didn’t take long to realise this version is going to be next level.
You’re thrown straight into a coaching session that shows you the ins and outs. I was pretty well versed with 2K21 but I decided go through the motions anyway. Instantly you can tell the swing mechanics have had a huge overhaul. Something about it feels a bit smoother, a bit more satisfying, and it’s clear from the off you’re going to have to earn that good shot.
Like the previous game, you still use the stick on your controller to swing, but now they’ve added in the three-click button option for those of us who grew up playing PGA Tour games in glory years of the Super Nintendo and Sega Mega Drive.
I’ll stick to the stick, so to speak, mainly because I’m not 11 but also because it’s far more rewarding when you pull off a good shot.
Training complete, now you must create yourself a character.
There are a number of playable male and female pros, as well as a couple of big-name celebs thrown in, but this is the fun of the game, isn’t it? So choose yourself a face, pick a nice haircut, add some acne scars, then get to the fun bit – choosing your apparel. There isn’t a lot at first, so I decked out my coiffured creation in a funky red and black Nike polo, a TW cap, and black Nike shoes that the game offers up from the off.
He looks a bit like that once-a-year golfer we’ve all played with who shows up decked in all the worst gear from the coolest brands. (If you haven’t played with this guy, then it’s probably you.)
There’s even a new neat option to create yourself a caddie, which I really like, while you can select what type of golfer you want to be, whether that be a “Powerhouse” – a player who bombs it with minimal accuracy – or a “Greensman” – a player who trades length for accuracy.
I know there will be plenty more on offer as I play more and earn those virtual dollars, but for now I just want to get out and start competing.
The revamped MyCareer mode – which already promises to be a much more absorbing experience than 2K21 and The Golf Club with the introduction new skillset challenges and custom fitting options, among others – offers you the chance to join at Korn Ferry Q School, the Korn Ferry itself, or you can Tiger Woods yourself straight to the big leagues. Unfortunately, the majors aren’t involved as the licencing for those has been snapped up by EA Sports for their upcoming return.
I’m (mostly) a man of integrity, so I start right at the bottom. You can select the number of rounds you want each tournament to be – between one and four, obviously – but as I don’t really want to slog round TPC Boston four times, as nice as it is, I select the 36-hole option.
I won’t tell you about the ins and outs of my round because there’s only one thing more boring than someone talking through their actual round, but the most notable improvement. Even on the medium difficulty setting at which I started, the slightest mishap in your thumb control can be the difference between flag hunting and watching your ball exit stage left.
Once you’re on the dance floor, though, is where it gets really good. I, like many of you, I’m sure, have played dozens of these games down the years and invested more hours than I care to admit, and the intricacy of putting is always something with which game designers have struggled.
The 2K21 version was about as good as I’ve ever played, and HB clearly know that, as there are minimal tweaks here. Like with full swing, you need to get it right in order to find the bottom of the cup. It’s about as realistic as it can be – which is about all you can ask for really.
There are, of course, downsides though. The commentary team of Luke Elvy and Rich Beem still grates, while the addition of Henni Koyack is a nice touch but the game tends to pop her notes in at the wrong times.
And the graphics are still miles behind what we would expect – and, while not a huge problem for me and plenty of others who prefer to focus on the gameplay, there are so many players who won’t accept this.
All in all, though, a thoroughly enjoyable and addictive game. I’ll be logging many hours in the coming months.
Which players are involved?
The is a selection of male and female pros from the PGA Tour and LPGA, including – in alphabetical order – Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler, Brooke Henderson, Lydia Ko, Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose, Xander Schauffele, Justin Thomas, Lexi Thompson, Harold Varner III, Bubba Watson, Tiger Woods, and Will Zalatoris.
Golf-mad basketball legends Steph Curry and Michael Jordan are also involved.
More importantly, all of the above are playable characters. I can only assume Watson and Varner were included before their switch to LIV Golf – but remained in the game, so they’ll get some competitive golf in the next year, at least. (It’s a joke, please don’t @ me.)
All the gear
You can also kit your character out in a number of different brands. Again, in alphabetical order, you can pick from the finest apparel and hardwear from Adidas, Black Quail, Ben Hogan, Bridgestone, Callaway, Cobra, Dude Perfect, FootJoy, Goodr, Greyson, Hugo Boss, LinkSoul, Malbon, Mizuno, Nike, Penguin, Ping, Puma, Royal & Awesome, TaylorMade, Titleist, Scotty Cameron, Skechers, Tattoo Golf, Travis Mathew, Wilson, and 100 Thieves.
We all know this is one of the most enjoyable aspects of playing golf, and I can assure you it’s no less fun in digital form.
Which golf courses can you play?
Playable courses at launch include established PGA Tour tracks Atlantic Beach, Bay Hill, Innisbrook (Copperhead), Detroit, East Lake, Quail Hollow, Riviera, St George’s, The Renaissance, TPC Boston, TPC Deere Run, TPC Louisiana, TPC River Highlands, TPC San Antonio, TPC Sawgrass, TPC Scottsdale, TPC Southwind, TPC Summerlin, TPC Twin Cities, and Wilmington (South).
Coming to the game after launch are Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, Torrey Pines (North and South).
There are also a number of custom designs from HB Studios, from your standard American parklands to brilliantly bonkers links.
But 2K’s big draw – particularly when it was up against the impossibly popular EA Sports series previously headed up by Woods – was its custom course designer. We chatted to one man who spent hundred of hours painstakingly recreating some of the UK’s finest tracks, and I’m sure he’ll be back for more.
With EA Sports also making a comeback to the golf market for the first time since Rory McIlroy PGA Tour ’15 next spring, it will be very interested to see how the two stack up against one another.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2K23 (Tiger Woods Edition, Deluxe Edition, and Standard Edition) is available now on PlayStation4 (PS4), PlayStation5 (PS5), Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, and Steam.
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