Monday 12 October 2020

PGA Tour 2k21 ★★☆☆☆

Welcome to our review of PGA Tour 2K21, available on PC, PS4, Xbox One & Nintendo Switch. PGA Tour 2K21 might be the first title of its kind under the 2K banner, but this isn’t a brand new series. Instead, this is a rebrand of HB Studios’ The Golf Club series, known for its realistic, challenging gameplay.

With the extra investment and name recognition brought in by the acquisition, expectations were high for this to be the best golf simulation to date. But did it live up to the hype? Read on to find out…

Firstly, this is very much a simulation, rather than an arcade-y experience. You have six swing difficulties to choose from, and the more advanced settings are truly unforgiving. You’ll need pin point accuracy, timing, awareness of your surroundings and knowledge of your clubs to succeed. The lower difficulties are much more like what you would expect from the old Tiger Woods titles, meaning the whole game has a good balance of real challenge for veterans, and accessibility for newcomers.

The only caveat to this is that you need to be using pro difficulty to play online. We found this a little disappointing, as it adds a massive barrier to entry to people dipping their toe into this style of game. This humble reviewer felt most comfortable on the ‘Pro-Am’ difficulty, which equates to around ‘normal’; anything higher felt more frustrating than rewarding, making online play a pretty arduous experience.

The more inclusive online feature is the course creator. You can design your own tracks and share them online for others to download. This means there’s a constant stream of new content being created to complement the base game. From impressive recreations of non-licensed courses to the truly whacky, there’s enough to keep everyone entertained.

And fortunately, everything looks fairly pleasing. Each of the licensed courses are almost photorealistic, but if anything, this is also their downfall. They all look a little pristine, with little to no movement or animations to make it feel like a living, breathing world. This might be a little pernickety for a golf game, but when everything else is designed to be totally immersive, this felt like a bit of a missed opportunity. 

And speaking of missed opportunities, PGA Tour 2K21 suffers more than I do on a Par 4. Although several major tournaments are included, the Masters isn’t. That’s as glaring an omission as FIFA deciding to ignore the Premier League. Although it doesn’t affect the gameplay as such, it cheapens the overall package, and gives it a sense of illegitimacy.

To make matters worse, there’s no women’s tournaments or pro golfers included either. Although you can design a female player for your careers, you’ll only be able to compete against your male counterparts, making it feel like a shoehorned oversight. When so many other sports series are pushing for gender equality, this feels like an utterly dated presentation. 

To wrap up, PGA Tour 2K21 is objectively one of the most realistic golf simulations to date. The precision it offers means it’s incredibly satisfying when you hit that perfect shot. The thing that lets it down is the packaging around it. The lack of licenses and almost elitist preference to higher difficulties makes it feel more amateur than the 2K name would suggest (well, until we saw what they did with WWE 2K20). And that’s perhaps the biggest tragedy of PGA Tour 2K21, at its core it’s a great game, it’s just spoiled by all the guff around it. A swing and a miss, I’m afraid.

Tom Baker

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