After a short hiatus, EA Sport’s PGA Tour is back, with Rory McIlroy as its new face, but with an extra year to prepare for the series’ debut on the Xbox One, have the high expectation of fans been met?
Rory McIlroy PGA Tour is certainly a big release for golf enthusiasts, especially with so few golfing alternatives, and pleasingly this is another excellent facsimile of the sport. The option to use three control methods allows newcomers and veterans to jump in with ease, with the 3-click system harking back to days of yore, and the analogue swing system proving as reliably accurate and enjoyable to use as ever. Additionally you can customise the controls, taking away or adding modifiers that aid you on the course – from a trajectory arch that takes into account wind, to after-touch spin on the ball – it all comes together to help you create the ideal control system for your style of play.
The modes on offer appear thin on the ground, and are certainly missing some content, but successfully incorporate many of the features from previous iterations. Stroke play allows you to play any course as a one-off game, with local multiplayer for up to four players. Meanwhile, the single player specific options are Career or Night Club. The latter incorporates many of the mini-games from previous titles into a common theme of playing at night. The courses take on a very different look and feel in the floodlit, neon lights, and the comical golfers you can play as and unlock give a nice sense of casual fun and humour to the otherwise simulation golf. You’re tasked with completing objectives and trying to earn a three star rating, with objectives running the gamut from scoring points by making accurate shots down the fairway into different coloured circles, to flinging the ball through hoops in the air. It’s a great way to have some golf related fun in small, manageable sessions.
If you choose to take things online then you’re greeted with the usual PGA Tour options of Head-to-Head as well as Weekly and Daily Tournaments. These modes once again offer a simple and easy way to compete with others online, either through a simultaneous round of golf, or by competing for leaderboard places in the tournaments. They’re fun and practical online options but disappointingly predictable.
You’ll find the meat of the experience in the Career mode, although there are some glaring omissions. You create your own golfer to climb the ranks and join the pros in the PGA Tour, but the customisation options are horrendously austere. A handful of faces and additional options are available to build your character, so few in fact that it’s unlikely you be able to create a character that looks at all how you want it to; creating an avatar of yourself is impossible. Furthermore, your stats are automatically upgraded as you progress, with options unlocking for how these are distributed, allowing you to focus on specific traits such as accuracy or power. It’s a great option for those not interested in diving into the stats, but for the many that do enjoy the full micromanagement of growing your character, this is a compromise that’s difficult to stomach. It’s a big disappointment that eats away at your level of immersion during the mode; not feeling like it’s entirely your character makes their wins and losses less personal and significant.
Fortunately you can create female characters as well, although representatives from the LPGA are entirely absent, and of the PGA personalities only a few join Rory McIlroy. However, the worst omission is certainly the lack of real-world courses.
Of the 13 available courses at launch only eight are real-world locations, missing are the likes of Torry Pines, Pebble Beach, Spyglass hill, and most egregiously Augusta, meaning there’s also no Masters Tournament to enjoy. The courses that are present look spectacular and have been digitally recreated marvellously, but the omissions are a big knock.
The fantasy course are excellent, though, showing off the creativity of EA Tiburon. The Paracel Storm map from Battlefield 4, reimagined as a golf course, is particular eye-catching, and the commentary from Frank Nobilo and Rich Lerner is comical and impressively rich as you play it. In fact the commentary overall is mostly excellent, relating to the player, your tournament position, past performances and crowd atmosphere, it’s highly immersive stuff. They do of course trip up on occasion, ridiculing you for a shot that actually performs splendidly, and vice versa, additionally they repeat a lot of comments when playing the same courses.
Visually Rory McIlroy PGA Tour largely looks stunning. The fine detail is very impressive, with the grass and vegetation looking rich and the mud and sand looking menacingly real. There are even neat little touches such as flies buzzing around the green and divots from a ball landing. Moreover, the course is now fully loaded when you play it, removing loading times between holes as well as the possibility of being out-of-bounds, it’s a terrific use of the Frostbite 3 engine. However, frequent pop in of vegetation is a glaring visual oddity that proves to ruin the immersion every time it occurs.
Rory McIlroy PGA Tour is an excellent golf game, but not quite the title fans have been hoping for from the legendary series. A lack of courses, golfing personalities and character customisation options really hurt what is otherwise a fantastic simulation of the sport. It is, however, an excellent starting point for newcomers to the series, and with DLC on its way, some of it free, here’s hoping it fills in some of those gaps for the veterans. But the overhaul to the character creator and character progression system is something that fans are likely going to have to wait for a new title for, which could be a ways off.
Thanks to Xbox and EA for their support
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