EA Sports PGA Tour review: Take the rough with the smooth
(PS5/XbX/PC) *** Age: 3+
The well-worn motto of EA Sports is probably burned into many players’ brains. How many times have you listened to the start-up chime followed by the words “It’s in the game”?
Sure enough, EA Sports PGA Tour kicks off with the soundbite, the implication being that all of the current world of professional golf has been replicated inside its simulation. But quite a lot has changed since EA last ventured into the sport eight years ago with the poorly received Rory McIlroy PGA Tour in 2015.
Naturally, you don’t expect EA to even refer to the damaging tug-of-war between the Saudi-funded LIV tournaments and the long-established PGA Tour.
But what about Rory McIlroy? Not in the game. Tiger Woods? Not in the game. Jon Rahm, the new 2023 Masters champion and world No.1? Not in the game. Most of the Ladies PGA Tour? Not in the game. The US Open? Not in the game – yet. The Open? Not in the game – yet.
The latter two major courses will be added as free DLC later but icons such as Rory, Tiger and Rham almost certainly won’t due to licensing ties with EA’s big rival – PGA Tour 2K23.
Long-time players of golf sims will also notice what’s missing – any alternative to the very exacting swing mechanic by which you take each shot using the gamepad sticks. Buried in the launch-day press release is a note suggesting the amateur-friendly three-click button-based swing will – eventually – be implemented. That would restore a very welcome function available in many previous EA golf games.
This may sound like carping about what is in many ways a formidable game. But if you’re going to lead your marketing with claims of all-embracing authenticity, you’d better back it up.
Get past these disappointments and you’ll find a serious slice of golf committed to replicating some beautiful real-world courses. Not surprisingly given the PGA Tour link, most of them are in the Americas but it’s an extensive list of 30 ranging from St Andrew’s to Pebble Beach to the daunting Augusta.
You can tackle them with one of 17 male and five women pros – although many key stars are absent, as mentioned earlier. But much more likely is that you create your own golfer from scratch – though it’s a bit limited beyond preferred swing and face type – and slowly improve them RPG-style with a skill tree unlocked via experience points.
When you begin, your player will be quite the dud, forever hooking shots, ending up in bunkers or misjudging distance. This frustration is exacerbated by the precision required as you swing your clubs with a pull and push of the left or right stick. It’s a hard move to gauge just right given the peculiar angle of the on-screen meter and the game delights in showing afterward how you diverged from a straight down-and-up motion.
Later after bit of a grind when you pump XP earned into your player’s skill tree for accuracy and control, some of that pain goes away. But many casual players like me are going to wish EA would hurry up and patch in the missing three-click swing (one to start, one to set power and a third to end it).
It’s possible to appreciate the fidelity of EA’s version of 2023 golf – the gorgeous, challenging courses, the surprisingly nuanced commentary, the subtlety of shot choices – while still lamenting what’s missing.
Some players will resent the absence of many leading professionals – imagine if FIFA had only half the Premier League clubs? Others will dislike the swing mechanic. Some may find the golfer creation tool a little insubstantial.
Perhaps the game was just released a few months too early for it to be fully rounded. But now that EA is back in the business of making golf sims, you can bet there’ll be another one along next year.