When a bad game comes out there are a few things that happen. Reviews are late, there is a surprising lack of coverage, prices drop and the game is left on the shelves. With EA Sports latest golf entry, the game flew off the shelves, caused stock shortages and has remained number 1 for two weeks in the UK despite damning reviews. Let’s look at the truth, now I’ve been able to get it.
The first place to start is obviously with the bad. This game has many flaws compared to the old PGA Tour games. The game does start very well, taking you through the last round of the US Open, as the title character, with video inserts from Rory himself. It gets you well into the game and is difficult enough to win. Here is the first issue. If you want to replay, to make sure you get the win, you have to sit through the same video logs again and again. No Skipping. Once you eventually win you are deposited at the now standard EA Sports menu screen. Then a major problem arises.
Previous PGA games were synonymous with a depth of options and game modes. The new game has virtually none of the traditional and much-loved game modes. You are left with, Play a round, PGA Tour or Career, Night Club Golf and online play. Considering the best aspect of previous games was the always online ability, to compare yourself with friends, this is a deal-breaker for many. The online play we get in return is more akin to a fighting game than a sports simulation. You are dropped into ranked or unranked, depending on your swing type and left to battle it out. There are also organised tournaments and customisable. unranked play. Unfortunately with no always on comparison, leading to brilliant asynchronous play, I feel let down, that such a core feature is missing. This has wider community issues, no video sharing, no shot challenges, no custom challenges – You get the idea. The thriving community of old has been replaced with a sterile ranking system.
The lack of customisation stretches unforgivably, to the create a golfer screen. Before PGA tour was the front-runner in this field. You could use the xbox camera and really put yourself in the game. Latterly, your EA sports game face took its place, to equally good effect. Now, you get 11 different types of generic potato face to make your golfer with. I can only imagine this is because of the new online play , where you see the other golfers simultaneously. Having a finite number of combinations, must improve coding and server speed. Unfortunately it is another body blow to the game. The graphics are sometimes spectacular other times ordinary. The courses are all rendered at once meaning a long first load, but no loading between holes. Unfortunately there is noticeable pop-in of textures at the moment and I have had the Xbox One version crash a few tomes on the initial long load of the course. Add these glitches to the lack of real courses at launch and lack of real golfers and you have enough to write the game off already with a pitiful score. So why is it sold out?
The only reason, that this version of PGA Tour can be so popular, is because of the actual game of golf that it plays. The on course action is fantastic. But being EA even it is hidden behind a few tweaks. The arcade style is the traditional PGA control scheme. Unfortunately with the ability to add spin, a putt preview and a power boost, this style makes the courses far too easy. It simply makes you a professional right from the beginning. The only time I recommend this style of play is for the aforementioned prologue. You can also go right back and have a precise three click meter. I didn’t experiment with this a great deal as I feel, the analogue control systems of recent years play a much better game. That leaves the jewel in the crown, the difficult, tour mode. This takes the speed and accuracy of your thumbstick movement to represent the swing of the club and it works perfectly. The slightest twitch while putting or a nervous chip around the green is sure to send your ball wayward. This is the closest thing we have got to real golf on console and should have been the only choice.
However as I said even this needs tweaked to get the perfect experience. By chance I noticed the option of customisable controls. This is the saving grace of the game and the only reason it may yet be a success. By combining the best bits of arcade play, namely the zoom feature to see where the ball might actually go, with the hyper realistic swing, makes this the game it should have been, at least out on the course, if not in options. Gone is the stupid afterspin that breaks the game, gone is the ability to power boost instead of picking the correct club. Instead you are left with a game that is as frustrating and rewarding as a real round of golf. Putting is tricky no matter the difficulty. With your custom controls, all you get should be the lie of the green. But you should be able to strike a happy medium for offline play.
The career structure has been criticised, but I find it a bit more approachable. In previous versions, you were faced with a demanding schedule if you played every hole of every round. Now there is the quick round option, that lets you play six holes per round, meaning you can get an event done in 24 holes. While not for the purists, it adds some pressure. While there is less time to mess up, one hole can cost you the event. It generates the feeling of playing at the top-level, where every shot counts. This feature can be toggled, but it makes completing a career less daunting. Other than that we have the amusing distraction of night club golf, for trick shots and that is about it. EA have already started to address the issues regarding the courses with free DLC announced. However the game needs to add in some more modes a la NHL 15 to really be considered a worthwhile purchase. If you only care about the action on the course, Rory Mcilroy delivers, it just falls apart in all the extras, that we have become accustomed to from the series.