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EA Sports PGA Tour

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X
Genre: Sports
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Tiburon
Release Date: April 7, 2023


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PC Review - 'EA Sports PGA Tour'

by Cody Medellin on April 14, 2023 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

In EA Sports PGA Tour, golf fans will be able to build their virtual career and experience the sights, sounds, and thrills of the PGA TOUR including The Players Championship, FedExCup Playoffs and more unforgettable events.

Buy EA Sports PGA Tour

This year marks a significant turning point for EA Sports in general. The yearly FIFA series is being transformed into EA Sports FC. PC players will finally get Madden NFL 24 running on the latest engine iteration to make it on the same level as the PS5/Xbox Series X iterations. If things go well, the company will also make its return to college football this year. Starting off this whole process is EA Sports PGA Tour, the company's return to the sport in roughly seven years.

Before we begin, there is one issue specific to the PC version and the mouse cursor. Even if you're using a gamepad like the game suggests, the mouse cursor still appears whenever you return to the main menu, and it does so right in the middle of the screen. That may just seem like an aesthetic mishap, but it makes it almost impossible to navigate some menus, as the game makes the mouse cursor position override the controller commands you're sending. It's one of those issues that becomes a major headache if you keep reaching for a mouse to move the cursor after every match.

If you've played any golf game since the PS2 era, then you'll be pretty familiar with the swing system. Using either the left or right analog stick, you pull back on the stick to fill up a meter and push it forward to instigate the swing. The direction of your shot depends on the direction you use for your stick. A straightforward shot is easy to figure out, but pushing forward with a slant toward the left or right causes your shot to hook around instead of just losing accuracy. The game gives you loads of information to help with your approach, from the lay of the grass and elevation to the direction and strength of the wind. Despite the system being around for a long time, some may still prefer the classic three-click system, but that's coming in a future patch.

One new wrinkle the game manages to add is shot variation. Depending on who you choose, you'll already have them on hand or will need to earn them via leveling up, but they give you the chance to do something besides smacking the ball. On the drive, you can put more power into the swing or aim for low altitude on the ball in exchange for a higher rolling chance on the green. The same goes for swings that are meant to go out of bunkers or get on the green without covering loads of distance. Even putting has a few variations, so you can either do a chip shot or get a big roll when not on the green. There are 20 variations to better define a golfer's style beyond pure stats.

It's more difficult to master the swing system because of another technical flaw with the general accuracy. There seems to be a delay in the game reading your analog stick movements. There are some moments when you'll pull back on the stick, but doing it slowly causes your club to reset to the tee position. Pull back and push forward, and the game's swing meter pulls back further before finally pushing forward, making the game deliver too much power on your swing. It takes much more practice than before to get the timing right, and even then, you'll get swings that make the ball hook way off the predicted landing spot. The game doesn't have much leeway with stick movements that aren't perfectly straight, no matter the difficulty level.

There's a similar issue with putting in terms of judging what the meter shows versus the actual power delivered by the analog stick movement. PGA Tour 2K23 got the analog stick timing right, and EA developed the system that most golf games use nowadays — all the way back to when Tiger Woods adorned their covers. It's surprising to see EA flub it after all this time. If you play on the PC, the analog stick movement isn't emulated on a mouse. Instead, you'll hold down the End key to initiate the swing and then tap the Home key to swing. It's awkward to see a golf game use only the keyboard, but you can precisely tell it to hit the meter marks without overshooting. This suggests that there's some debugging to do on the controller to get this title working as intended.

If you can come to grips with the swing system, EA Sports PGA Tour has a decent number of modes. Before you get there, you'll create a character, and this is where some more disappointment creeps in. Those hoping for a return to the old Tiger Woods days where there were options for just about everything imaginable will find that the character creation system takes on a more limited scope; there aren't that many pieces to work with. The characters that you make are still as good as any of the 22 pros on the roster, but don't expect to be accurately re-create the pros from 2K23 here.

Quick Play is where more casual players and those wanting some local multiplayer will spend most of their time. While the game allows players to create four different golfers, they can only use one custom golfer at a time. The standard assortment of game types are here, including best ball, match play, skins, stroke, and team play. It's impressive that the game has 30 courses, only two of which are fantasy ones: Wetlands and Lighthouse Pointe. They aren't as extravagant as playing on an aircraft carrier, but they fit well with the roster of known courses from every major tournament. Augusta National is the highlight, since that hasn't been in a video game for over a decade. Others like Torrey Pines, Bay Hill, The Riviera Country Club, and Wolf Creek are going to be big attractions for fans of the sport.

Career mode is usually the heart of any single-player mode in a sports game, but it plays out rather plainly in EA Sports PGA Tour. You can begin in the Amateur league, the Korn Ferry Tour, or go straight on to either the PGA or LPGA tour with the hopes of getting enough points to eventually make it to the Majors. The big hook is that all four of the majors are represented, from the U.S. Open to the Open Championships to The PGA Championships and The Masters, something that no golf game has accomplished yet. Even The Amundi Evian Championships from the LPGA are here, making this title feel rather comprehensive. The game doesn't go for anything deeper than playing in each event and getting better, so there's no need to worry about training or doing anything else except for playing the game. It's straightforward, and while it might disappoint those looking for something as deep as what you'd see in the other big sports games, it works well overall. One interesting wrinkle is that you aren't restricted to playing certain tournaments based on your created character, so having your lady jump in and aim for the green jacket is just as fine as having your guy start off in the LPGA amateur league. The only way to create a new journey is to delete your created golfer, which makes the presence of four slots for created golfers feel even more restrictive.

Challenges are for quick engagements instead of playing a full game. It also has a coaching academy that replaces a tutorial that you'd expect in most sports games, especially ones that have taken a hiatus for the last seven years. There are standard challenges from companies to get you exclusive gear, but the more exciting stuff comes from Championship Moments, Spotlights, and the Featured tab. For the former two, this means reliving some historical golf moments from the PGA and LPGA while using that golfer. For the latter, it's essentially the same thing but more recent, such as the 2023 iteration of The Masters that just concluded. The piecemeal nature of each challenge ensures that you can focus on one small thing at a time instead of completing all of the tasks in one go. This makes up for the absence of golf-related minigames.

Online multiplayer is a touch deceptive in that some of the configurations of Stroke Play are split into several different options in the main menu, making it seem like there are more modes than the game is letting on. Get past this quibble, and you'll notice that online play is quite good, since the game has everyone take their shots at the same time instead of waiting for everyone to take their turn one at a time. It's a less social experience this way, but it ensures that the games don't go on so long that people quit before finishing. Lag is nonexistent, and there are enough people that it's easy to get into a game fairly quickly.

As long as you're playing with your created golfer, you'll earn XP and level up. Doing so gets you the expected skill points that you can funnel into one of several different categories and milestones, like playing in each of the courses. If you're playing casually, it's a great way to ensure that you'll power up your golfer just enough so they won't fail out of the Career mode. The easy leveling comes to a halt early on, so be prepared for a grind if you want to be statistically decent when compared to the pros.

While the game hasn't fallen into the Ultimate Team trap that many of EA's other sports games have, a store still exists for microtransactions. There are thankfully no stats to purchase, and the equipment doesn't give you any kind of boosts, so it's mostly cosmetic. However, there are tickets that you can buy to enter weekly and seasonal tournaments. With a good chunk of those costing several tickets each, participating in them can become a costly proposition.

Aside from this, EA Sports PGA Tour has some features that may annoy some players. Menu navigation uses a combination of triggers and bumpers, but there's a delay when going from screen to screen. Since there's a good chance that you'll hit the wrong button by mistake, it makes navigating quite painful, no matter what kind of drive you installed the game to. The game also loves to use a TV-style presentation for every hole and course, which makes for a very authentic-looking presentation but also means that there are a ton of scenes to skip through before you can swing your club. Finally, if you play offline, you'll only be able to access Quick Play. With no online functionality to speak of for Career mode, it's baffling why this can't be played offline.

When it comes to the audio, EA Sports PGA Tour seems all over the place. With the menu music, you'll get a bevy of instrumental tracks that seem to cover every genre and mood. You expect the kind of instrumentals that convey the grandeur of the sport, but that can quickly give way to country, hip-hop, or rock to mix things up. It's a strange soundtrack that is reminiscent of 2K23's approach. The sound effects are fine, and this applies to the crowd, who reacts appropriately to every shot and even hushes once you take your own shot. The commentary team is excellent and sounds more professional, while providing trivia and tips about how to approach each hole. It only begins to falter when taking on a full event; having to go through courses multiple times means hearing the same info with little to no changes.

Graphically, the game is superb. At max settings, the game produces a little bit of hitching during the hole fly-by, but the vegetation is very well done and the crowd is rendered well, with only a few repeated models. The golfers look very lifelike thanks to the lack of dead eyes, and everyone is very emotive. It gets to the point where you can see subtle mouth movements when you make a shot before teeing up for your next one. Unlike the console versions, this game can easily hit over 60fps, but you can lock down things to 60 or even 30 if you wish, but don't expect the increased frame rate to solve any of the analog stick issues.

Steam Deck players will find that the game is playable after a few minutes of setup for the EA App, but the process is a little easier if they've played a recent EA game on the device before. Get past this, and the game defaults to a mix of low and medium options for the graphical settings, which can lead to the title running between 40-50 fps if you go with an uncapped frame rate. With those settings, expect to run the game for less than two hours at a full charge — but without the mouse cursor issue that plagued the Windows edition. For those keeping score, that's the same thing we discovered from PGA Tour 2K23 on the Steam Deck, so no one has a big advantage over the other except for the presence of the EA App making for a slower initial boot sequence.

There's a good golf game hiding in EA Sports PGA Tour. The litany of courses is enough to entice fans of the sport, while the roster of pro golfers is amplified by a presentation that looks gorgeous even if the TV-style broadcast feels excessive. However, the imprecise controls make one hope that the upcoming three-click system will make the gameplay more palatable, since everything else related to the actual sport does a great job of trying to help you understand how to perfect shots. Although PGA Tour 2K23 is the better golf game this time around, there is a good base to work with here. Hopefully EA's future iteration can fix the issues to make this a contender for best pro golf simulation on the PC.

Score: 7.0/10

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