With a limited amount of sports to enjoy, we were eager to check out 2K’s new take on golfing with PGA Tour 2K21. It’s out now, and we’re reviewing the PlayStation 4 version.
It’s been a few years since we got to enjoy a PGA Tour-licensed golf game, with Rory McIlroy PGA Tour from EA being the last one. Now that the license has moved to 2K, I was eager to see what had changed, and my impressions were that this is a leaner take on the sport that could be a good starting point for a new franchise.
Although it doesn’t tell the whole story, that leaner approach was evident from the start, with a relatively small download size for PGA Tour 2K21 at just 5.5 GB (compared to 25+ for 2015’s Rory McIlroy game). On the bright side, this did mean that waiting for the game to finish downloading didn’t take forever and I freed up a lot of hard drive space by replacing that older golf game that I wasn’t playing anymore.
That download size made me quickly check out how PGA Tour 2K21 fares in terms of content, and I noticed that the game is relatively low on licensed players – Justin Thomas is on the cover and is joined by the likes of Matt Kuchar, Ian Poulter, Jim Furyk and Sergio Garcia. There are only twelve players here, with plenty of the top 20 players missing.
The options to cosmetically change the look of your player are also limited, but PGA Tour 2K21 delivers where it matters most, with 14 courses that have been faithfully recreated in full. Going back to EA’s last game, that’s almost twice as many courses for players to enjoy, even though some will always have question marks about their favorite courses not being included.
For those players, and those looking to get creative or recreate courses that are inspired by familiar favorites, the game includes a course creation tool. As with The Golf Club, you can have the game generate a course based on a few parameters, and then tweak the newly created course to suit your personal preferences. It’s very user friendly with its option to randomly create courses if you don’t feel like putting in much work yourself, while at the same time giving players the flexibility to spend hours creating their own dream course.
Gameplay-wise, PGA Tour 2K21 builds on what its developer did before joining this franchise when they worked on the Golf Club series – an approach to the game of golf that veers more towards the simulation end of things. Rather the old two or three click mechanics to power up and swing, you need to use the thumbstick to control your shots. Luckily, if you feel things are a tad too sensitive for your liking, you have the option to simplify this mechanic.
Once you’re comfortable enough with the basic controls, you can start adding little touches to make the game more closely resemble your preferred style, for instance by adding spin to make sure the ball doesn’t roll off too far or to make sure it gets just that little bit further. Become even more comfortable, and you can make the experience extra challenging with weather effects that also affect how each course plays.
Looking at how well the game plays and how refined the simulation is, it’s a shame that PGA Tour 2K21 feels like a step backwards in terms of visual fidelity, both in terms of the level of detail and the quality of the animation. It’s not an ugly game and the courses in particular are wonderful to look at, but it feels odd to have an alternative that’s five years old and better looking. Hopefully, with such a solid foundation in terms of gameplay, this is an area we’ll see improvements in over the coming years.
As it stands, PGA Tour 2K21 isn’t a radical step forward from the likes of Rory McIlroy PGA Tour or even The Golf Club, but it does provide a great starting point for what we hope is a new annual franchise for 2K. After waiting a long time for a new licensed golf game, it’s a welcome addition.