PGA Tour 2K21 Review

September 15, 2020
Xbox One
Also on: PC, PS4, Switch
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It has been said, when describing golf, that it is “a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose.” Whilst the latter part of the statement is probably less true these days given the time and investment the likes of TaylorMade, Srixon et al. put into their products, the concept of golf is an interesting one. It is, however, a sport that lends itself wonderfully to the digital realm and The Golf Club series of games by Canadian developer HB Studios has been the cream of this generation’s crop. Now fully under the wing of 2K Games and adopting the moniker in keeping with its stablemates (i.e. The Golf Club is now PGA Tour 2K21), how does PGA Tour 2K21 lay up?

After spending lots of time with PGA Tour 2K21 we have two major takeaways. One is presentation, the other is timing. Whilst the overall control method of PGA Tour 2K21 remains the same, your golfer's swing relies much more on your timing than before. This becomes more apparent as you gain in confidence and turn off assists, upping the difficulty level. Get the timing just a little bit off and you could see your ball cut or slice its way to the nearest fairway bunker, or worse, a water hazard. Given that golf commentators regularly talk about rhythm when referring to someone’s swing it comes as no surprise that this area of PGA Tour 2K21 saw some tweaking from its predecessor, The Golf Club featuring the PGA Tour. Whilst your swing in its predecessor was still dependent on timing, it was much more forgiving, even when you upped the sensitivity.

Please excuse the outfit, our bag got lost on the flight over

This time around you really do notice the difference and as you peel away the plentiful assists, including a really handy guideline for putting, you move closer to full sim territory. To some, this sounds scary but in reality it’s a feather in PGA Tour 2K21’s cap. Thanks to its vast array of assists at your disposal and an opponent difficulty scale, you can tailor your golfing experience to your liking. Some may just want to have fun, hit massive under-par scores and to sit back and enjoy a round. Others, perhaps, want a more authentic experience and feel the pressure as they line up on the 18th green putting for one of the many championships you will compete for during your career.

This brings us nicely to the other major takeaway we had from our time with PGA Tour 2K21 and that is presentation. As the series has progressed from its humble beginnings as The Golf Club, the presentation, especially when you hit the pro tour, has improved with each iteration. In PGA Tour 2K21 it has taken a decent leap forward. Once you make it to the top tier the commentary shifts and you start to have a more TV-esque presentation. They’ll cut to other player’s shots as events happen during your round, as well as instant replays should you pull off an extraordinary shot. The commentary has been improved but does still suffer from a decent amount of repetitiveness alongside some audibly weird sayings such as being in “a good frame of mood.” Overall though, it is much improved and takes the series in the direction it needs to go so as to properly replicate the televised experience. This can get tiresome after a while but thankfully you can turn them off completely should you just want to get on with your round with little to no distraction.

You’d think that water hazard’s easy to miss…. It isn’t

Visually things are much the same as they were in The Golf Club featuring the PGA Tour, built in Unity it looks nice enough though it’s starting to show its age. Animations are generally spot on but we had a few moments when our lie presented the game with a confusing situation. Its solution was some weird camera angles which made playing the lie much more difficult, the worst offenders occurring when our ball was on the fairway but close to a walled water hazard below. With our golfer getting wet pants and a golf club clipping through the ground itself timing our up and down swing was next to impossible. These situations were few and far between but when they did happen they were quite frustrating.

Thankfully one the benefits of coming into the 2K Sports stable is seemingly the much improved character designer. Previously you’d have to pick from a stable of fairly generic models that, if you’re like us, looked roughly like yourself. Now, however, you can really go to town and create someone that bears a passing resemblance to yourself. To some this may be a minor change in the grand scheme of things but it’s a welcome one and is yet another area of improvement for PGA Tour 2K21 over its predecessor. Though whilst you can create female golfers there’s no separate championship to mirror the likes of the LPGA Tour.

The views can be rather nice and calming

This lack of representation for women extends as far as the featured pro players as well. Whilst there are twelve male professional golfers that appear in the game there are no professional female golfers at all. Given that you can create a female golfer to play as, it seems a shame that this is as far as PGA Tour 2K21 takes this. Licensing may be the likely culprit here for both the tour and the players, but HB Studios could have made something that approximates it without causing anyone strife. Official players and championships are fun and make things more realistic but we would imagine that many would-be female golfers would appreciate the opportunity to be represented more in a game such as this.

Overall then and what we have is a decent representation of the world of golf. One that has improved each year whilst still retaining many of its excellent features such as the wonderful course creator. This year’s iteration is also its most balanced with some excellent gameplay assists to tailor the experience. It is, however, still limited in its scope and many golf aficionados may be hoping that now, with 2K Games’ support, future versions of the PGA Tour 2K series will expand to some of golf’s classic courses such as Augusta National or St. Andrews. Still, licenses are tricky things but hopefully one they’ll pick up for next year’s will be for the LPGA Tour. Other 2K sports games now feature the professional women’s league of their sport and it’d be great to see this one follow suit in time.

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HB Studios continues to improve the title that had a rather humble beginning. Each year brings with it new features and improvements and that’s no easy feat. That being said, PGA Tour 2K21 isn’t perfect and whilst the presentation has seen a much needed improvement it’s still a touch limited, especially in the commentary department. Though if you’re keen for a round of golf but don’t fancy the walk that goes with it, you won’t find anything better on offer.
Pete Taylor

A long time gamer since the days of the mighty ZX Spectrum +2. The bug really bit when I got a Sega Mega Drive 2 and it hasn’t let up since. Huge racing fan but I also enjoy losing myself in a well-told RPG and management sims. It doesn’t have to be good-looking to win my heart, it’s what’s deep down inside that matters.