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PGA Tour 2K21

Platform(s): Google Stadia, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Sports
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: HB Studios
Release Date: Aug. 21, 2020

About David Silbert

I'm a recent college graduate from Boston, MA. When I'm not writing for WorthPlaying, I'm probably researching Celtics trade rumors or struggling to keep up with the growing library on my Nintendo Switch.


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PS4 Review - 'PGA Tour 2K21'

by David Silbert on Aug. 20, 2020 @ 5:00 a.m. PDT

PGA Tour 2K21 is the latest installment in the long-running golfing franchise.

Buy PGA Tour 2K21

In a year like 2020, you come to expect the unexpected. Perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise that a new PGA Tour game is here — and it's quite good.

In 2018, EA lost the rights to the PGA Tour license in favor of independent developer HB Studios, maker of The Golf Club series. 2K was quick to strike up a publishing deal, and in August 2018, The Golf Club 2019 featuring PGA Tour was released.

After a year hiatus, HB Studios has had time to iterate on the series, resulting in its latest entry, PGA Tour 2K21. The game marks an exciting new chapter for golf simulators, thanks to its accessible controls, satisfying gameplay, and robust creation tools.

There's plenty of room for improvement, granted. PGA Tour 2K21 is lacking when it comes to game modes and customization options. It also makes disappointing use of its pro golfers and in-game commentary, but the foundation's here for a truly superb franchise.

When booting up PGA Tour 2K21 for the first time, players are thrown right into the action. A series of tutorials serve as an introduction to the game mechanics, including swing basics, shot selection, green reading, and putting.

As with The Golf Club series, swinging is done via the analog stick. At its simplest, players must pull back the analog stick and flick it forward in time with a power meter. Players must also pay attention to the direction of their swing. Swing too quickly or drift the analog stick too far to the left, and you'll hook the ball. Swing too late or drift the stick to the right, and you'll slice it.

Wind speed and direction can also throw your drive off-course. By tapping R1, you can adjust how you strike the ball. For example, if you're hitting into the wind, you'll want to tweak the loft of your shot. If the wind is blowing side to side, you'll want to curve your shot.

Putting is just as robust. Once you're on the green, a color-coded grid signals the speed of the green, as well as any directional breaks. Additionally, a putt preview tool lets you predict the outcome of any stroke before you take it. While the short game takes practice, there are plenty of tools to help you master it.

These mechanics may sound complicated, but 2K21 does a great job of making them accessible to a wide audience. The UI is simple, yet informative. The game also offers myriad ways to tweak the difficulty level, letting you turn off elements like wind speed if they pose too great a hurdle. (Likewise, those seeking an additional challenge can turn off any assist tools.)

In short, gameplay in PGA Tour 2K21 is extremely rewarding. The controls are accessible for newcomers without sacrificing any depth. While there's a learning curve to reading drives and putts, the game never feels frustrating; self-improvement is just part of the experience. When you finally nail that eagle chip-in or birdie putt, you're left with an incredible feeling of satisfaction.

Unfortunately, 2K21 is less impressive when it comes to its actual game modes. Upon an initial login, players are prompted to create a MyPlayer avatar. This includes naming your character, editing their appearance, and choosing their clothes and clubs. While your closet and clubs are limited early on, you quickly earn currency to unlock more as you play.

However, the same variety can't be said of your avatar's appearance. The game lacks basic options when it comes to hairstyles, face structures, and body sizes. It's a missed opportunity, especially considering how robust MyPlayer has become in the NBA 2K series.

Once you've built a character, you're prompted to begin your own MyCareer mode. You start by choosing one of four event tracks: the Korn Ferry Tour, the Korn Ferry Tour Championship, Q-School, or the PGA Tour.

Each of these tracks offers its own schedule of events and courses to conquer. Those familiar with the rags-to-riches setup in other sports games will likely enjoy starting from the Q-School track and working their way up. If you want to skip the prerequisites and duke it out with the pros, you can jump straight into the PGA Tour.

Of the four tracks, the Tour is easily the most intriguing. Once you're at the pro level, you'll qualify for a sponsorship. By completing in-game challenges associated with your sponsor, you'll net unique clothes and clubs for your player.

Meanwhile, you can also develop rivalries with your competitors. By placing ahead of these rivals during events, you'll gain additional rewards. Place highly in enough tournaments, and you'll be able to compete for glory in the season-capping FedEx playoffs.

While the premise of the PGA Tour mode is sound, there are some unfortunate snags. For one, the game's pro courses are relegated to just 15. The list includes courses like TPC Sawgrass and Riviera Country Club but excludes ones like Augusta National and Pebble Beach.

Without the home of The Masters, the PGA Tour mode is forced to omit the major championships that most have come to associate with the sport. This may disappoint those looking to fulfill their dreams of completing a Career Grand Slam.

Another issue stems from the pro players themselves. While you'll encounter many familiar names on the PGA Tour, only 12 players — headlined by Justin Thomas — have in-game models. To re-create the feel of watching the Tour on TV, 2K21 will occasionally cut away from gameplay to highlight their strokes.

Though a commendable effort, the focus on JT and crew only highlights the lack of other famed golfers. Those looking for legends like Tiger Woods or contemporary champions like Brooks Koepka will surely be disappointed. Adding insult to injury, those who are here aren't even playable. Whether a licensing issue or a development choice, it's nonetheless disappointing.

These problems don't prevent MyCareer from being enjoyable, but they do damper the fun. Since PGA Tour 2K21 lacks any other meaty game modes, it's clear HB Studios and 2K have some work to do to flesh out future entries.

Thankfully, where PGA Tour falters in its single-player modes, it soars in its multiplayer options. The game offers both local and online play, each with a wide range of modes and options. 2K21 also lets players create online seasons called Societies. By setting up these communities with friends, you can re-create the feel of competing with other golfers for fame and glory.

This element of user creation also carries over to PGA Tour's Course Designer. The game provides a powerful yet intuitive set of creation tools, leaving the door open for unique courses and faithful re-creations alike. Time will tell whether these tools take off with the community, but the thought of what's possible is enough to evoke excitement.

It also helps that PGA Tour 2K21 is quite a looker. While the character models aren't anything to write home about, the courses more than make up for them. From lush green vistas to arid sand dunes, the sights of the PGA Tour are a joy to behold. Provided you can overlook some jagged shadows, there are some great lighting and sun effects on display, too.

The audio doesn't fare quite as well. Unlike NBA 2K, which features an evolving licensed soundtrack, all of PGA Tour's tracks are generic instrumental tracks. Obviously, golf may not fit with vocal tracks the way basketball does, but the current solution isn't working.

PGA Tour also features commentary from sports journalist Luke Elvy and pro golfer Rich Beem. While both offer strong performances, their commentary is ultimately limited due to the lack of pro golfers in the game. Most of the time, the pair end up discussing your play. Unfortunately, their lines tend to clash rather than complement one another. One might consider a two-putt to be "just fine," only for the other to quickly lament the player having "come up short." It never detracts from the gameplay, but it's an immersion-breaker nonetheless.

It speaks volumes about PGA Tour 2K21 that, despite its lackluster roster and game modes, it's still such an easy recommendation. It owes it all to a phenomenal gameplay loop that's as easy to pick up as it is difficult to master. The series may be a few years away from true greatness, but don't let that stop you from shooting your shot now.

Score: 8.0/10

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