Despite never really gelling with the real life sport (or any IRL sport tbh) I’ve always found a lot enjoyment in golf-based video games. Their easy going nature make them nice to just pick up and play, yet there’s usually enough hidden in the systems to really let hardcore fans get in to the nitty gritty; a 3-wood over a 5-wood, or a finessed shot out of a bunker that’ll save Par. PGA Tour 2K21 does a fantastic job of replicating the sport, and manages to be an all round good time even if – like me – you have no idea who’s who, or the which shot type suits a given situation.
PGA Tour 2K21 does a great job of helping players of all skill levels and interests. A pretty decent tutorial opens things up, and explains the difference between shot and club types, the various bars and meters around the screen and more. While it’ll take some time on the courses to really put what is learnt in to practice, it’s a handy way of making sure even novices are off on the best foot. Furthermore, there are three skill levels available, from ‘just hit the ball and have fun’ to ‘you’ll need some skill, but here’s a few pointers and finally ‘spend ten minutes reading the green before putting’. It really allows players to get as much out of their time as they want, and encourages learning.
There’s a fair bit to get to grips with too. While the game will generally do a good job of auto selecting a club and shot type/power/distance we’re free to change any and all of the options to our liking. If played as is we’ll get a respectable score, but put a bit more thought and process in and those birdies will be dropping all over the place. As with other titles in the genre, the swing of the club is replicated on the stick (either stick is able to be used). The level of responsiveness here is pretty good, and an onscreen indicator shows us our trajectory of the stick after the shot, letting us know why the ball went sideways and into a lake. It’s not just getting the angles right, but also how fast the stick is pushed too. That was the hardest part to get to grips with for me, and despite feeling like I’d hit two shots the same, I rarely got the same output. Again though, the onscreen hints showed me where I was going wrong (too fast, too slow – and occasionally perfect) and I was able to get the right pace with practice.
There are also multiple adjustments that can be made to shot type. From top or back spin, fade or draw as well as loft, there’s a lot that can be utilised to help out. Depending on where the ball lies we can also choose from splash or pitch shots too, further helping us out in sticky situations. Again, getting to grips with these is key, but it also takes time. Outside of the opening tutorial there is a dedicated training mode if you feel the need for more help, but practice out on the courses is where I found most of my progression.
It may sound overwhelming, but really it’s about as simple to get into as it can be. When it’s boiled down, we’re basically just using the sticks to adjust the shots, and it’s nice and intuitive to play. Sure, hitting stinker after stinker is frustrating, but there’s enough here to help with improving our game and in short time you should see improvements.
No matter the level of assists or difficulty though, the modes remain the same. Heading up the pack in the titular Tour mode. Here, we take a custom character through the ranks with the aim to win the PGA Tour, naturally. The real world courses are here and correct, from Riviera Country Club through TPC Scottsdale, and fans will no doubt get a kick out of being able to try their hand – virtually – on each one. The courses were apparently scanned to ensure accuracy, but I did find the actual visual presentation to be a bit lacking. Character models look a bit underwhelming, and the surrounding elements such as trees, bushes and the crowd look a little lacklustre. The greens look great, and I suppose a half decent player wouldn’t get close to these elements to notice, but it was a little disappointing to see almost last gen visuals outside of the main body of the courses.
Play is commentated on by Luke Elvy and Rich Beem who do a pretty good job at reacting to even our strangest shots, while there’s a good representation of the reserved nature of a golf crowd (audio-wise at least) – I never realised how rewarding a good golf clap was until I nailed a 40ft put and was met with one! Working through each of the courses can take a little time, though we can stop at any point and resume later – a nice touch.
Outside of the Tour then, we have a few other modes to choose from. Online multiplayer features, including the standard matchmaking/party modes that we’d expect. Due to the nature of the gameplay, connections in the games I’ve played were solid. That didn’t help hide my lack of skill though, and I was roundly trounced. Still, I’ll get better and be back!
Slightly more intriguing though is the Online Societies mode. Here we can play custom Seasons with other players. Joining a Society means we can enter in game tournaments against groups of players for prize money and bragging rights. As of writing there are a fair few set up, with the top result showing around 12000 members to its ranks. Entering a round costs a certain amount of in-game currency, which is then donated to the prize pool. Each round is played at our own leisure as long as we finish the holes by the closing time. It appears that Society creators can use the full range of courses, as well as their own in the tournaments too.
Ah yes, the create mode. Rounding out the package is the ability to craft our own courses. After selecting the setting and rough details, we can go in a fine tune each hole on a course to our hearts content. PGA Tour 2K21’s editor is pretty robust, offering up easy to use terraforming options, as well as the ability to place objects, greens and more easily. For those inclined to create, this is one of the better tools in a game I’ve seen.
Even if you’re not a fan of the sport, PGA Tour 2K21 is still just a really fun video game. It’s easy enough to pick up and play, and yet there’s a lot to learn for those that want to take things more seriously. The online Societies mode could prove a great reason to keep coming back, and the custom editor is there for those that love to tinker and craft their own courses. The visual presentation is a bit of a letdown, but to be fair it’s also not a deal breaker by any means.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.