PGA TOUR 2K21 is without a doubt the most accessible golf simulation game currently on the market offering newbies, golf experts, and sports enthusiasts alike challenging yet fun experiences to keep them coming back for more. Having played other golf games in the past such as Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 12, I know firsthand about the struggles associated with playing sports games that require patience and precision. HB Studios has succeeded in creating a core golfing title that’s easy for anyone to pick up and play. Before sharing more of my impressions, let’s dive into some brief history behind this series.
On April 19th, 2014, HB Studios released the very first entry in The Golf Club series. After the launch of two sequels in 2017 and 2018 respectively, 2K Sports took over the publishing rights and rebranded the series name to PGA TOUR 2K. This year’s game marks the second title under the 2K banner and with that comes the expectation of more features and improvements over the previous games.
When I started playing PGA TOUR 2K21 for the very first time, I was immediately thrown into a few objective-based tutorials for swing input, putting, clubs, and shot types. These tutorials are designed to familiarize players with all the info they need to start playing 18-course matchups. Using the Xbox One X controller, the controls may sound complex but are pretty straightforward and consist of the following:
- Use the Left Stick to adjust shot direction left or right. Moving up or down allows you to adjust shot power.
- Pulling the Right Stick back then forward allows you to swing the club.
- Using the D-Pad allows you to switch between the different clubs and shot types.
- Using the Left Bumper and Left Stick allows you to adjust your fade and draw. Using the Left Bumper with the Right Stick allows you to adjust your launch angle.
- Using the Right Bumper allows you to reset your shot.
- Pressing the Y button allows you to preview your shot and fast forward.
- Pressing the B button allows you to view the map of the golf course.
- Pressing the X button lets you remove the flag/Pin when putting
- Pressing the A button lets you skip past animations and replays.
One thing that I especially love about how these tutorials are setup is that you have the option of skipping over them and immediately jumping right into the action. Even when you are on the field, you’ll be given a recommended shot and club type to use in every scenario and still be able to freely choose what tools suit you best. Playing in real-time truly is the best way to learn these controls and once you get comfortable, you’ll find out fairly quickly that you can adjust accordingly to any and every obstacle thrown your way.
After completing the basics and some advanced shot tutorials, I was then given the ability to create my character and start my PGA TOUR career. The MYPLAYER creation options are pretty standard from what you can expect from most sports games with the inclusion of licensed apparel and equipment from well-known brands like Polo Ralph Lauren and Callaway Golf. You can also customize your Golf Bag by deciding which 14 clubs to take with you across various events. As you play through the career, you earn currency and unlock new gear and accessories. While there aren’t any microtransactions, using the earned currency means that you may need to do some serious grinding in order to unlock every outfit and club that the game has to offer.
When it comes to the PGA Tour career mode, you can kick things off by choosing one of four options including Q-School, The Korn Ferry Tour, The Korn Ferry Tour Championship, or The PGA TOUR season. Every event you enter has a set number of criteria you’ll need to complete in order to participate and some of these are tied to sponsor goals that could lead to unlocked rewards and higher payouts if successfully completed. I would highly recommend starting a new PGA TOUR season right away as it’s the best way to experience the competitive nature of the sport in all its glory.
For starters, entering into the PGA TOUR throws you right into the fire of career rivalries with other players. In these encounters, your performance is essentially measured against another opponent randomly chosen based on your stats and if you outplay them then you’ll earn additional currency. If there is one criticism that I do have about this feature it lies within the fact that you can’t choose who to start a rivalry with and there is no evidence of a back and forth between you and another player outside of the stats themselves. How the NBA 2K series handles upcoming matchup by implementing verbal trash talk and commentary over social media from fans and players alike adds more weight to these rivalries and I would love for a similar approach to be considered within future games in this franchise too.
Another bonus to playing the PGA TOUR straight away is that you’ll notice there’s slightly more emphasis on the presentation in these events as you’ll see key highlights from other players during your own rounds. Finally, the overall structure of this seasonal option means an underdog has a greater chance of working his or her way up the ranks and earning the top prize. In other words, you could start out the season playing poorly and gradually improve your game over a large stretch of events to the point where you’ll gain confidence and become a top contender. This goes back to the point I made earlier about picking up and playing regardless of how skillful you are as you’ll definitely learn and improve faster this way as opposed to spending time going through every tutorial.
Going back to the presentation, PGA TOUR 2K21 does a decent job of representing the world of professional golfing. The commentary team for every event consists of Play-by-Play Anchor Luke Elvy, Analyst Rich Beem and On Course Correspondent John McCarthy. The game also includes a pro roster of 12 golfers headlined by Justin Thomas and 15 in-game licensed TPC courses. As with any sports game that has commentary, dialogue can become very repetitive very quickly, and unfortunately, that is the case here too. It would be great if additional commentators or retired pro golfers could be added as more options in future installments of the series as it can keep things fresh for players.
Each realistic and beautifully designed course looks absolutely stellar. Player character models look decent too most of the time but I’m definitely hoping that they can be further improved upon when PGA TOUR 2K22 or PGA TOUR 2K23 rolls around. With next-gen consoles on the horizon and Visual Concepts track record of stepping in to help on other 2K sports franchises in the past, it would be interesting to see what additional resources they could offer to help make this the best-looking golf game out there. Only time will tell if 2K and HB Studios actually pursue these options but in the meantime, the game still looks great on the surface.
Aside from playing the PGA TOUR Career mode, other features include Course Designer, Play Now Local Matches, and Online. As the name suggests, Course Designer lets you create courses from a various array of objects and share them with your friends. The layout holes are generated for you in the very beginning but you can edit them accordingly and playtest your creation afterward. If there is one thing that I would love to see implemented in future games it would be the ability a create your own golf clubs. Given the customization options available to your player, this just seems like a cool addition that could be in a future game. With that said, Course Designer is a solid feature and will certainly add a great deal of replay value to this year’s game.
When playing online, you can participate in private matches and Online Societies. There is a matchmaking system in place to assure that you’re playing someone on your skill level. The real fun however lies within Online Societies as you can either create or join a group and participate in competitive matches set up by you or the creator of the group. I was able to try this feature out briefly and didn’t experience any connection issues. It is worth noting though that this experience may vary on launch day once more players have populated the servers so we will see if it maintains stability at that time.
In a nutshell, PGA TOUR 2K21 is a great entry in the franchise and successfully pays homage to a sport/hobby beloved by many. While I do believe that the series can be improved upon in certain areas, there is no denying that HB Studios is on the right path with their vision. If you love golf or are even remotely interested in the sport, then you owe it to yourself to give this game a try as soon as possible.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of PGA TOUR 2K21 for the Xbox One X provided by HB Studios and 2K Games.