Rory McIlroy PGA Tour was to be the game that elevated EA’s golfing series into the current generation of consoles. Instead, players will be left reminiscing the Tiger Woods entries of old, where the games were bursting with features and actually felt complete.
Oh, where to start? First of all, players are put through their paces in a detailed tutorial. The U.S. Open is a nice introductory level and playing as Rory McIlroy in this scenario is a good use of talent. There are three control schemes to choose from: Arcade, Classic, and Pro, with each using more or less buttons, as well as being more advanced in their design. For instance, the Arcade style not only gives you a guide to where your ball lands – with wind speed accounted for – but requires moving the left stick back and forth to complete a swing. The right stick is used to add a fade (left to right) or draw effect (right to left) on the ball. The Pro style, however, involves a diagonal action on the left stick to complete a fade and draw shot, while also removing the ball tracking from Arcade mode. These styles look after newcomers and golfing veterans alike.
The graphics of PGA Tour, despite the surprising integration of Frostbite 3, are respectable at best. Players may expect to be blown away by Battlefield-like visuals but, graphically, this golfing experience does not rival that of the Tiger Woods run. Sure, EA Tiburon have thrown in some fancy sunlight filtering and wildlife on certain courses, but the element of no load times – impressive as that is – has resulted in trees, crowds, and animals glitching in and out of view.
This is unfortunate as zero load times – the game’s main selling point – do not add up to much, and from there it all goes downhill fairly quickly. Despite the Career Mode having a full complement of current Tour Pros, the roster of playable Tour Pros doesn’t match up. A rather paltry offering of 20 players, 18 of which are male, can be used for a round of golf in PGA Tour. While headliner McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Ricky Fowler are all present, there are a number of notable absentees, including Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day. This lack of content extends to the game’s environments, with fewer than 15 authentic courses being recreated here. Bay Hill, Whistling Straits and St. Andrews may have made the cut, but the omission of the iconic Augusta National, amongst others, is glaring.
This trend unfortunately continues with the reduced player customisation options. The creation tools available in the Career Mode have been reduced to such an extent that you are simply designing a player from a handful of pre-set options. There are no sliders and you’ll likely end up with a golfer that doesn’t fit your desired look. It is especially disappointing to see such an important part of a sports game – where customising your Pro’s facial features and physical appearance is so fundamental – reduced to a fraction of its predecessors.
PGA Tour’s Career Mode can be summed up quite easily: unfulfilling. Despite the intuitive addition of Quick Round Mode, where players drive through a handful of make-or-break holes in a round as an alternative to 18 holes, the World No.1 position can be reached in your rookie year. Thus, I never felt compelled to continue climbing the professional ladder beyond my first year on tour – even with the Pro control method. Failing to add a form of currency to buy/sell equipment, or juggle sponsorship deals, only adds insult to injury.
There is also a very confusing putting line that, in the Tiger Woods games of old, offered aiming hints to assist with the undulating slopes of the green, called ‘Caddy Tips’. But here, there is nothing. Sure, through trial and error, the player will eventually get a feel for where to aim on a 12-metre, upward sloping putt, but those hints would be invaluable to new players.
If playing by yourself isn’t boring enough, surely playing with friends would make everything better, right? Yes and no. But mostly no. The Tiger Woods and Masters games made playing with friends, in a customisable Golf Club, possible. There was the added challenge of climbing your way up team-based and worldwide leaderboards, but this iteration of PGA Tour has stripped those finer details away.
Here, Stroke Play is the quickest and most frequently used form of multiplayer, but there are gaping holes in its design. All players can tee off at the same time, and see other players during a shot, but the camera angles available to view other players after completing a hole are poor. Having no dedicated Spectator Mode, with viewpoints at a significant distance away from other players, sucks all of the enjoyment and sledging out of online multiplayer, especially since every hole is virtually silent with no background ambience. The absence of a catchy, up-beat compilation of songs, as opposed to an unwanted selection of orchestral droll, adds to PGA Tour being an uninspired mess.
Of course, there’s also the option to compete in daily and weekly tournaments online, but that’s the extent of the relatively lacklustre multiplayer component. That leaves the game’s final game mode, Night Club Challenge, as the only value-for-money portion of PGA Tour. Here, players must cycle through entire golf courses filled with arcade-style objectives. Some have multiple challenges per hole, like using boosts to add elevation to your shots, or through covering the ball with glue to stop it from bouncing. Stars are awarded for completing these trials with the level design being the mode’s greatest draw. Adding stars to signify players’ level of proficiency isn’t new, but striking balls through coloured rings and putting on greens covered with targets keeps you coming back to this lovely format of play.
Unfortunately, there are not a lot of positives here. PGA Tour feels like a half-finished game, as though EA Sports thought that by slapping a hot topic player on their golf franchise, they could save it from the sand trap. It is lacking polish in virtually every department, and the game ultimately looks and feels like a demo meant for the last generation of consoles. Rory McIlroy PGA Tour fails to live up to its namesake, having little recognition or relevancy in this bare-bones offering of golfing nonsense.
Hayden played PGA Tour for 22 hours, trying to convince himself that this was, in fact, a current-gen game. He now looks forward to playing pretty much anything else.
A very hazardous lie
Rory McIlroy PGA Tour is buried deep in the bunker with a tough approach.