EA Sports’ venerable golf franchise is back, with notable Irish golfer Rory McIlroy at the helm. Does it hit a hole in one?
The sunlight was just peering over the horizon, kissing the green with warm, golden light, causing shadows to dance at the edge of the giant pond, where small ducks floated about nonchalantly. My 3 iron caught the light as it swung forward, the head meeting the dimpled surface of the ball in an almost visceral display of power and poise. The ball screamed through the air, not unlike a rocket in flight, before slowly sinking into the juicy grass of the fairway and bouncing a couple of times before nonchalantly coming to rest near the hole.
"The presentation aspect has always been one of the strongest parts of an EA Sports title and Rory McIlroy is no exception. The various tournaments in career mode are structured to appear like a broadcast version of the game of golf, and they succeed pretty well, with lovely aerial views of ponds and lakes and rivers, the various courses each featuring a unique look and feel, and more importantly play differently from each other."
Picturesque vistas are just one aspect of the new Rory McIlroy PGA Tour, the latest golf offering from EA Sports. From high-resolution grass, trees, shrubs and other foliage to ambient wildlife and gorgeous backdrops featuring some of the most famous courses to ever host the tour, Rory McIlroy boasts some quite enjoyable eye candy.
The game itself wastes little time in getting you right into the action, almost as soon as you start it up, you’re whisked away to the prologue tutorial section, which shows you the different control schemes, gets you accustomed to driving down the fairway and down on the green, explains the subtle nuances of putting.
These tutorial lessons are sprinkled with live video from Rory McIlroy himself and the first time through, it’s interesting to hear his thoughts on a hole or reading the green, but every time you need to go back to the tutorial, say if you want to change up control schemes or need a refresher on putting, you need to listen to Rory again. It would be nice if his scenes were skippable at the very least.
The presentation aspect has always been one of the strongest parts of an EA Sports title and Rory McIlroy is no exception. The various tournaments in career mode are structured to appear like a broadcast version of the game of golf, and they succeed pretty well, with lovely aerial views of ponds and lakes and rivers, the various courses each featuring a unique look and feel, and more importantly play differently from each other. Wolf Creek in Nevada, for instance, features small rocky hills in and around the course, while TPC Sawgrass down in Florida features a lot of greenery surrounded by water.
There aren’t nearly as many courses in this years offering as in past PGA Tour games. The addition of TPC Scottsdale as a bonus, and the Battlefield inspired Paracel Storm, set in the South China Sea, will have you teeing off large battleship decks.
" Speaking of, the product placement in the game is pretty atrocious. You’ll see the EA logo plastered on shirts and balls and clubs and I swear I saw an elk on the course with the EA logo branded on its buttocks. Now that’s good eatin’! "
Speaking of, the product placement in the game is pretty atrocious. You’ll see the EA logo plastered on shirts and balls and clubs and I swear I saw an elk on the course with the EA logo branded on its buttocks. Now that’s good eatin’!
Not to be outdone, you’ll also notice logos from Bridgestone, Sraxis and Nike, especially if you enjoy changing your character’s shoes as frequently as I change mine.
The basic gameplay is pretty straightforward. You create a golfer, and take him or her through a series of minor events and some major ones, driving and putting as well as you can to earn experience, which translates into stat boosts that make you a better driver or putter.
You’ll slowly, but surely climb the ranks, and patience may be a virtue in real golf, but here it is paramount, as the short game overall may be one of the most challenging seen in a recent PGA Tour game in years.
There are three main control schemes. The first is Arcade mode, billed as “A setting for everyone”. It’s basically using the left stick to swing, and depending on the force and direction of your stick wizardry, the ball will either shoot forward and land neatly on the fairway, or fly off like a bad pitch.
The other control scheme is the 3-click mechanic, which uses a focus ring and marked points on that ring to account for distance as well as accuracy. You simply click the X button to start the meter up the ring and click it twice more to stop it where you want.
" The in game commentary is atrocious, bordering on obnoxious and the post swing animations are often jerky and full of lag."
There’s also an advanced swing mechanic called Tour that states its for hardcore gamers only and makes use of the left stick swing mechanic and also the eight way directional control. You can also customize your controls by adjusting the difficulty of your swing, and setting such variables as power boost, spin control, shot shaping and putt reading to off or on, given your preferences.
The long and mid game on the various courses shouldn’t present much of a challenge, even to first time golfers, however, putting is where the challenge really comes into play and has something of a steep learning curve.
In previous PGA Tour games, you could typically use a system where the arrow and the cup (as they were the same distance), could be used to analyze distance and calculate break.
Here, reading the green and making accurate putts is much more difficult. A good rule of thumb seems to be for every inch of elevation change, to take off or add a foot of distance, however, even this can be misleading at times. A bit more polish on the putting green would have gone a long way towards adding accessibility and increasing replay value.
The pacing of the game is borderline laborious. Starting at level 1, your created linkster has an overall rating of 60. As a point of reference, Rory McIlroy has an overall 94 rating and after hitting level 75, your rating will be lucky to break 80. This matters because your overall rating is computed based on a variety of values that are your created golfers attributes in 20 different categories, such as ball striking, strength, recovery, shot shaping and long, short and mid range putting.
" In Rory McIlroy PGA Tour, relaxation gives way to rage, thanks to the irritating pacing, obnoxious commentary and steep learning curve. In the world of golf, this game is a double bogey at best. "
This wouldn’t be a huge deal, except that during tournaments, between rounds your performance is simulated based on your attribute values and overall rating. Basically if your values are low and you finish at 4th in the round, you could start the next round at 66th.
Not every part of the presentation is as crisp as a freshly mowed green either. The in game commentary is atrocious, bordering on obnoxious and the post swing animations are often jerky and full of lag. Watching your golfer spin their club behind their back in a jittery slideshow motion might be unintentionally comedic the first time, but after a few hundred holes, it tends to be a sad reminder of the game’s overall lack of polish.
On a perfect day, golf should be a relaxing sport, bordering on a zen like experience. In a sense, a golfer communes with nature, becoming one with his surroundings and he is changed, and in turn changes the world around him, allowing him to focus and rely on skill and finesse. In Rory McIlroy PGA Tour, relaxation gives way to rage, thanks to the irritating pacing, obnoxious commentary and steep learning curve. In the world of golf, this game is a double bogey at best.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Visuals are often breathtaking. Night challenges can be a fun diversion.
Steep learning curve for putting, Commentary is horrendous, Golfer animations are laggy. -Pacing is notoriously slow.
PGA Tour's newest offering, championed by Rory McIiroy. It completely misses the green, however, and like a bad tee shot, seems to go off into the rough.