PGA Tour 2K21 is a sure shot that hits the green with the precision and finesse of a professional. Whether you’re swinging away from the tee with heavy wood to win a championship or hacking out of a bunker to save par, the hitting game is beautifully designed. It’s also fully malleable, allowing players to achieve a realistic game of battling hooks and discs or an arcade experience where every approach is just a hop away.
PGA Tour 2K21 may be a new video game series under the banner of 2K Sports, but the nuts and bolts behind it are worn out and have been tested and refined in the Golf Club series for years. The same development team behind these successful games make PGA Tour 2K21, and they’ve continued to improve their craft without sacrificing much in this new version. The wonderful links on this series and the course creator are back and better than ever. The rebranding may not have been necessary, but the PGA bond goes a long way, especially in terms of content, such as being able to play on 15 championship courses against a number of PGA pros who will eventually become your rivals.
The entire experience is supported by an excellently designed analog swing that requires timing and fluidity. You can see how your movement takes place in real time using a handy measuring device. You may feel like you hit the ball perfectly, but the counter knows better and you can see how bad you have been. The meter gets into your head and you can decide which movement to use. When you factor in wind and hard-to-read terrain, getting a perfect shot can be challenging. I struggled for a few rounds, hooking the ball more than I’d like to admit, until I found a rhythm and a way to hold the controller to reduce the curve. You can get better clubs, but success and failure are directly related to how well you swing and putt as it should be; You won’t see any breakthrough stat boosts here. Every shot counts and requires precision.
The pro courses (and some that HB Studios created) have shown good fights and have stayed true to their real-world counterparts. I haven’t played golf on any of the real golf courses, but just knowing that this is an accurate recreation is a cool experience and you’ll be taking part in the same challenges the pros face. Many of the courses are built with risk and reward in mind, such as sand traps that surround a lovely stretch of fairway 300 yards away.
If you go for the big shot and miss your target, hitting the ball into the rough can create a bit of frustration. Exiting the tall grass gives mixed results, such as some shots that, even on perfect swings, will fall far short of where they should be. It becomes a guessing game that can result in an extra shot on an approach that never does well in tight tournaments.
If you’re struggling in any aspect of your game, HB Studios has provided a wide variety of options, including six swing difficulty levels – the lowest that gives each shot a perfect trajectory (though the wind is still pushing it). Facilitating the swing mechanics can result in much faster games and provide an arcade-like experience similar to the Hot Shots or Mario Golf games. You can use these settings throughout your PGA Tour career, but you cannot compete with them online. Professional skills are required in this area.
Career mode takes you on a tour of some of the big events on the PGA Tour (including the FedEx Cup), just without much oomph. The presentation, the celebrations, the post-tournament analysis, the statistical depth and the commentary (which is highly repetitive) all fall short. I like the cutaways that show you other players’ big shots, but it takes too long to load and can distract you from a shot that you’ve been preparing for.
Wins in every game street result in a currency that can be used to buy new clothes and clubs. The clothing options are not diverse enough, and much of what is there looks a bit junkie. The character maker doesn’t offer much depth either, especially with hair types.
I couldn’t create myself exactly in the game, but I had a great time creating my own courses. The build tools work well and give you a surprising amount of flexibility. One of my holes brought a new challenge to golf: a dozen alligators on a green. At the next hole, the air space above the pin was blocked by a huge, hovering plane. I basically took a PGA mini golf course. You can also automatically generate courses, which can then be optimized or played back completely, so that there is a lot of depth here.
If you want to play with friends, you can immerse yourself in great social community options, browse and join existing rooms, or create your own rooms where you can invite your friends to join tours and tournaments. Some companies require virtual currency donations, but luckily, there are plenty of free donations to choose from too.
The PGA Tour 2K21 certainly has areas that could be improved, but the golfing – the heart and soul of the experience – is exceptional and can make you feel like a pro when you hit perfect shots. HB Studios’ expertise in this sport is shining and helping this new series get off to a damn good start.