It’s been a while since we’ve played a round of golf on one of EA’s courses, but this year PGA returns with its new spokesman, and a new engine to boot. How well does this return of golf’s biggest videogame franchise hold up?Considering the fact that like most of EA’s sports titles PGA Tour lacks an actual story we’ll start off a little differently, providing you with some background information on the title before we delve into the analysis of the end product.
Rory McCilroy PGA Tour is the franchise’s official entry point into the current generation as we know it, giving players their first glimpse as what the franchise can do on PlayStation®4 and Xbox®One. After skipping last year’s release in favor of a rebranding due to problems with its spokesman (which we will not delve into any further out of respect) the franchise was re-tooled with a completely new gameplay base and the use of DICE’s Frostbite™3 engine in an attempt to give players an even deeper experience within completely open courses, rather than having players load each hole separately.There isn’t much of a narrative to speak of, though our spokesman Rory McCilroy does give us brief vocal insights into what it feels like to play on a professional level, which for all intended purposes does provide players with some motivating and inspiring insights, depending on the stance of the player in question. What is lost is the depth of the experience on the level of the player, due to the fact that the career offers much less of a deep experience than its predecessors. Rather than rising through the ranks at amateur competitions and playing training rounds before matches you’re just dropped into the game in question, which makes the game a lot less engaging due to the fact that you’re not really making any notable progress, which brings down your motivation a lot.PGA Tour’s visual presentation is one that can be a bit deceiving at first glance. Environmental shots of courses from afar can make for some incredibly impressive sights, though once you get closer to the ground there’s a lot to be desired when it comes to visual fidelity. Texture detail and depth seems to be rather lackluster from up close, which on one hand is a little bit understandable due to the scope, but it’s a bit of a sour after-tase when you’re treated with a much more impressive overview shot, which kind of makes it feel like a bait-and-switch scenario, albeit it isn’t always as extreme as it may sound. What’s much more impressive is the sheer scope of each course, which are composed of fully open-world experiences, rather than separately modelled courses that require loading sessions in-between holes, which makes the flow of the game much more natural. Pop-in of textures and such is present, though this is mostly confined to the path of the ball’s trajectory in question.Player and AI characters overall look pretty decent, though variety is much more limited with user-created characters due to the simplification of the create-a-character system, which essentially strips down the more in-depth form of the previous games to a template-based system, which seems like a questionable decision all by itself. Animations seem to be the stand-out however, as PGA Tour looks about as smooth as it can be when it comes to movement and presentation.
Overall Rory McIlroy’s PGA Tour isn’t a badly presented game, as it’s quite a decent looking title by itself, but its drawbacks are vary apparent when you look beyond its top layer.As said in one of the earlier sections, EA had chosen to revamp the PGA franchise in favor of re-branding and a reworking of its core gameplay features, though it’s an odd structure where the game does seem to take a few steps back for every step it takes forward. We’ll start off on a positive note regarding the controls, which have not only been refined, but choosing a play-style has never been easier thanks to the new system. At the start of your game PGA Tour will give you the option to set your own play-style, which can consist of either its 3 main presets or a completely custom gameplay style, should you wish to mix schemes. This option gives players the chance to experience the game the way they like in a direct and user-friendly way, providing multiple and customizable schemes that each work well on their own. I’ve been absent from the game of gold on consoles for quite a while, but the game made it incredibly easy for me to choose a style that I saw fit to play with, which is always a positive point for sports games.Here comes the elephant in the room however, which is what makes Rory McIlroy’s PGA Tour the questionable reboot that it is. Starting off the career mode I was immediately faced with the fact that I could no longer create a fully-customizable character, but what followed is a change that may have broken what worked so well in the past. In previous iterations of the franchise the career spent itself in a dynamic state where it would give players the real feeling of going from rookie to pro, rising through the ranks and practicing shots before games, but all of this has been dropped in favor of a much more simple-minded experience, that actively denies the player the depth that previous instalments were able to offer them.