After a two-year break PGA Tour is back, minus Tiger Woods and, curiously, minus the 2015 suffix. Rory McIlroy PGA Tour sees the Irish golfing number one take his place as the game’s new title athlete.
For this first new-gen PGA Tour the game rebuilt from scratch using Battlefield 4’s veteran Frostbite engine. This is great news as past installments always seemed to be behind the times when it comes to graphical realism, despite improvements to the actual game mechanics. This outing gives us some of the most realistic visuals ever seen in a golf game.
The almost photo-real visuals give the game a truly TV-style presentation. This is aided by Golf Channel commentators Rich Lerner and New Zealand’s own Frank Nobilo proving a run-down of the action.
As well as vastly improved graphics, the Frostbite engine has enabled the developers to load the entire course in one go. This means no annoying loading screens pausing play between holes. Rounds now flow nicely from one hole to another, really improving the game.
The game includes eight real courses and four fantasy courses. TPC Sawgrass, Wolf Creek, Royal Troon, TPC Boston, Bay Hill, Whistling Straits, St Andrews, and Chambers Bay are included on the disc with more promised as DLC.
I’m embarrassed to say that I actually enjoyed the fantasy courses more than the real-life ones. They are more “extreme” than the courses that I’ve been playing year-in-year-out in past iterations, offering this non-golfer a bit more excitement that the usual fayre. The Grand Canyon inspired Coyote Falls is joined by Wetlands, Lighthouse Pointe and the very left-field Paracel Islands.
Battlefield 4 fans will immediately recognise Paracel Islands from the first person shooter’s Paracel Storm multiplayer map. Golfers will find themselves negotiating a battleground across an island chain in the south China Seas, complete with the Battlefield level’s famous battleship running aground across the fairway.
The game offers a number of different control styles. Arcade uses the left analogue stick to control the swing with the X button adding power before the shot and spin when the ball is in the air. Series veterans will recognise the Classic control method with its reflex-based shot meter. The Tour control method sorts the men from the boys with shots 100% reliant on the speed and direction of the left analogue stick as players make the swing.
As you’d expect, you can play a single round or start a pro career. There’s also online multiplayer head to head single rounds and tournaments available. Players without the time for a full 18-hole round can opt to play just the front or back nine.
For something a little different the Night Club Challenge mode offers some interesting night-time arcade-style challenges. You can practice your swing and targeting as you work your way through a series of events unlocking boosts, new courses and amusing characters.
There are a number of features missing this year, notably women’s events, Country Clubs and weather. This is not the first time that EA Sports have supposedly short-changed new-gen players—last year’s NHL was bereft of features that caused quite the backlash from fans. I can see the same thing happening again here.
Being pragmatic about it, though, this is a new generation of PGA game, with a new cover star, new visuals and possibly a new direction. Why should the game simply be a re-tread of what has gone before? Could the lack of a year appended to the games title suggest that EA Sports have bigger plans for the game than just an annual iteration? The planned future DLC would suggest so.
In any case, visually, Rory McIlroy PGA Tour is a massive step up from previous entries, something that has really put me off in the past. The golf mechanics are sound, offering up a good gaming experience for this non-golfer. Fans of previous games may feel short-changed, but I found the game had more than enough content to keep me happy.