EA Sports PGA Tour on PS5
Golf is not a simple game. There’s clubs, caddies, fairways, spin, bunkers, wind and countless other factors that affect the average player’s experience of the sport. That’s also what makes EA Sports’ return to the golfing world, its first since 2015’s Rory McIlroy PGA Tour, so impressive. The plethora of options, customization tools and ways to play can even be daunting when you first load the game up, but you soon realize that it’s emblematic of EA Tiburon’s attention to detail and commitment to creating an immersive and hyper-realistic golfing experience.
In The Clubhouse
EA Sports PGA Tour is built around a player’s own golfer. When first starting the game, you’ll create your own golfer, flesh them out with hair color, apparel and a place of birth, before being met with them every time you take to the main menu. Where that could feel imposing, it feels like the inception of playing the game however you choose.
From being instantly invited to create your own bag to leveling up different aspects of a player’s game, there’s a wealth of things I wanted to do before I was even compelled to step out onto the course. The leveling up system, a revamped and slightly more complex system than we’ve seen in previous EA Sports PGA Tour iterations, is still simple enough to invest SP where I wanted, and offered tangible bonuses as I ranked up the various categories: Power, Driving, Approach, Short Game and Putting.
Quests essentially offer Reward Points when players meet certain milestones – make the cut at the Masters, for example – giving more incentive to diversify your playstyle by rewarding you for doing so across the entire game.
There’s plenty of ways to play as well. It’s hard to avoid the feeling that the Career mode is the flagship mode, but I found myself investing hours into the game’s Competitive mode which, as it sounds, lets you face off against other players head-to-head online. If that’s not how players prefer to compete though, Social golf lets you come up against online opponents in a “low stakes” environment. There’s no leaderboards and fewer modes in Social, making it feel quicker and more geared towards practice against online opponents. If you’re just eager to dive in as one of a number of pros, Quick Play can satisfy that urge.
There’s the presence of The Amundi Evian Championship and five women golfers: Nelly Korda, Jessica Korda, Lexi Thompson, Jin-Young Ko and Danielle Kang. That compares to 17 male golfers in the launch version: Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau, Dustin Johnson, Sungjae Kim, Joaquin Niemann, Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Harold Varner III, Bubba Watson, Abraham Ancer, Cameron Champ and Ian Poulter. It’s not the exhaustive LPGA representation some would have hoped for, but it is a step in the right direction and, hopefully in future updates and post-launch support, there’ll be even more ways to enjoy the women’s game alongside the men’s.
The UI is comprehensive and intuitive, while the inclusion of features like color-blind mode from the off make it welcoming and reflect the polish I’ve come to expect from EA Sports titles. The ‘Gameplay’ menu all players complete before beginning the game is similarly detailed. Everything from Swing Mechanic to Putting Aim Point is on the table for players to tweak, ensuring the course in front of them is exactly what they want and the level of assists and subsequent gameplay challenge is tailored to their experience level and familiarity with the series.
Its only downside is that, in much the same way they are in FIFA or NBA2K, microtransactions and the game’s store are thrust on players in a way that feels too invasive. Apparel, clubs and gear from real-life brands are front and center. It’s hard to avoid cynicism or the feeling that those willing to invest heavily beyond the game’s £70 price tag won’t benefit strongly from doing so.
On The Course
One of the flagship additions in EA Sports PGA Tour is ‘Pure Strike’, a mechanic which promises a “fluid feel” and “realistic outcomes” on every shot. For the most part, it delivers. The simple act of pulling the joystick back and forward, complemented by the wealth of data thrown my way by EA, means it really does feel like stepping over the ball and combatting all the variables golfers have to. I was able to implement feedback after every shot, knowing that if I’d overswung on a previous shot I’d need to dial it back slightly on the next.
The courses, 30 at launch with more promised in the near future, look magnificent and are rendered accurately. Playing St Andrews really felt like playing the historic and unforgiving course, while stepping out onto Augusta possessed the pizzazz the home of the Masters should. It’s all heightened by some of the best commentary I can remember in a sports video game. The voices, provided by Rich Lerner, Frank Nobilo, Notah Begay III, Iona Stephen and Nick Faldo, offer genuinely useful tips and insightful analysis. If I was on a hole or course I wasn’t familiar with, I’d be helpfully guided to avoid a certain tricky bunker or aim for a kinder area of the fairway. In some other sports games I’ve felt the need to mute commentary and embrace the silence; here I was eager to digest every word on offer and simply relish how much I could glean from it.
Another standout aspect of the gameplay is putting. At first I found it difficult and frustrating but, as I invested more time and encountered more courses (and therefore greens), I learnt to appreciate the learning curve and was rewarded for sensible putting and balanced shotmaking. It was difficult – like real-life putting – but I felt rewarded for improvements when I sank a hefty 45 foot putt to make an Eagle – like real-life putting.
When large portions of gameplay were so stellar, the aspects that weren’t quite as refined did become more noticeable. Pitching and chipping don’t have the same fluidity as driving or approach shots, instead feeling slightly jerky and unnatural. Even as I improved (in terms of learning the game and ranking up my in-game attributes) and managed to hole out some impressive shots, this feeling never quite went away. There were also a few graphical anomalies present in early rounds, with imperfect textures standing out – if only because the rest of the courses were so picturesque and accurate.
EA Sports PGA Tour: Verdict
EA’s return to the golfing world is more or less exactly what I hoped it would be. It’s a dynamic, immersive and deep dive into the sport, offering any way to play imaginable. The gameplay is intuitive enough to satisfy golfing (and gaming) veterans, but intelligent and adaptable enough to bend to the needs of lesser golfers (and gamers).
Golf – and therefore EA Sports PGA Tour – is not a simple game, but my feelings towards it can be expressed simply. It feels like playing the sport, and it’s hard to ask for much more than that.
- Incredible customization options
- Courses are beautiful and accurate
- Commentary that sets the bar for all sports games
- Pitching and chipping feel slightly less fluid than other shots
- Invasive store and microtransactions