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Preview: EA Sports PGA Tour takes a great swing at a familiar golf sim



It’s been seven years since a golf game had the EA Sports logo on the box. Dominating the genre since 1990, the publisher took a step back in 2015 after the Rory McIlroy PGA Tour, allowing 2K Sports to come to the front of the pack. Now, the license changes hands again on PS5 with the simply named EA Sports PGA Tour, boasting a bunker full of content and some shiny new renditions.

Visuals took center stage in our hands-off preview, with the creators citing advances in the Frostbite engine as a key factor behind the series’ return. The footage we saw certainly looked good enough to warrant a current-gen revival.

It features leader-mapped, painstakingly recreated courses from around the world, right down to the last bush. Old favorites like St. Andrews and Pebble Beach shine alongside newer additions like the 3-par only Top of the Rock. A large roster of pro players is promised (although the full number has not been confirmed), and the models look much better than the stiff-looking representations in the last installment. With its rivals currently lacking the atmosphere to do the game justice fans, EA really has a chance to return to the top.

Realistic grass and crisp-looking polo shirts aside, it wouldn’t be a game of golf if you couldn’t hit the ball on the green. The new title brings with it a new shot mechanic in Pure Strike, which seeks to bring strategy and variation to the gameplay. There are 20 different shot types that vary per club, making about 1300 shot possibilities. It’s certainly a big step up from the standard handful of options that players are used to.

Child physics (a phrase that’s always fun to write and say) has been given the same attention to detail as EA’s other gaming titles. Leveraging TrackMan and ShotLunk data, the result of your swing is intended to be as unique and predictable as the real thing.

Our performance was a single par 5 hole at Augusta – not a lot of links action, but it certainly looked promising. There’s a clean UI that’s tied to legacy formulas; Only a swing arc (similar to the one used in the 2K titles) distinguishes it from previous games. The environment looked stunning, highlighting the work that went into representing these world famous courses. We saw some demonstrations of shot mechanics next. One of the players selected a ‘pick’ shot from an extensive but intrusive pop-out menu, managing to use it to get out of a difficult stretch of sand.

Interestingly, little seems to have changed in the core systems. From drive to putt, it feels like an EA Sports PGA Tour title, with some minor tweaks to the guide lines and above shot options. It seems the devs are playing it relatively safe for the franchise to return.

Big Hit Moments are back too. We saw a powerful drive with a cinematic panache that sent the ball through the air to roll smoothly down the fairway. Exciting for fans as a bright background finish in Street Fighter, it was always a highlight of previous titles. It’s hard to gauge the feel of that shot unless you have a controller, but there’s something warmly familiar about the experience.

Career-wise, the PGA Tour boasts that it is the exclusive home of the majors. Players will create a golfer and start in amateur leagues, shaping your pro along the way on the tournament circuit with an RPG-style progression system. Your player can progress outside of career mode and in all common match variations, online and offline.

Speaking of online, one potential caveat of this new title is its live service elements. Keeping up-to-date with real-world activity in the game can add to the immersion in Career Mode, but these features are always worth a little trepidation.

Additionally, the developers announced the classic 3-click swing as a post-launch release to go alongside the returning stick swing. Apparently not much of an issue, but post-launch stuff of any kind always leaves a bad taste, especially when it’s as basic as a control scheme. A final bogey is the confirmation that the game will be capped at 30 frames-per-second, which may be due to technical limitations, but still stings.

Those woes aside, we’re excited to see a developer with such a storied genre history return to the game. Authenticity, gameplay variety, and presentation were the main focus of EA’s presentation, and it’s clearly a labor of love to bring this franchise back. Let’s hope that on March 24th, EA Sports can get it safely under par on PS5.

Thanks to EA Sports for inviting us to take an early look at the upcoming PGA Tour. Are you excited for the return of Golf Sim with EA? Take a swing in the comments section below.


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