It’s been almost two years since HB Studios came out with the decent, but rather flawed The Golf Club 2019. The golf simulator worked very well but ultimately fell a bit short of its potential. Now, publisher 2K stepped onboard, and the production value of the game immediately shows with a crisper and cleaner presentation.
Teeing up on the 1st
PGA Tour 2K21 plays very much the same as its predecessor, with you using either the left stick or the right stick of the controller to pull back on the backswing and push analogue forward to make the forward swing. It’s very simple in design, but can be incredibly hard to master the timing of it. Luckily, PGA Tour 2K21 has a lot of customisable options that allow you to tailor the experience to your own skills. I ultimately went with a sort of custom Pro-Am setup where the swing timing is a bit more lenient, but getting the swing plane right is more important.
What I like about PGA Tour 2K21 is that it kind of gets straight to the point. Once you’ve gone through a little tutorial on the driving range to learn the ropes and determine your skill, you get to create and customise your golfer and be off to play the game. You can choose where to begin your career, and if that choice is to jump straight to the top or play to qualify for the PGA Tour, then so be it. There is no lengthy grinding to get to the good stuff and there’s no story mode that feels forced. Just be a Pro, join the circuit, that’s it.
The character creator is pretty robust with a lot of options, even though it does venture into the realms of uncanny valley quite a bit. It is fully customisable, so if you want to change things up a bit like playing left-handed or be a woman, then you are welcome to do so. The player character looks decent and passable enough, but the same cannot be said for the actual pros like Justin Thomas (the cover star) or Kevin Kisner who all look like hollow husks that are completely devoid of a soul. It really looks bad in that they have no emotions and the 3D modelling really just looks off. Considering that only a few Pros join the lineup in the game, a bit more effort could have been made in this department. At least there’s room for improvement.
Hitting the dance floor
Besides the uncanny valley of your main character and the disappointing efforts of the PGA Tour pros, PGA Tour 2K21 still looks pretty damn good. The courses are incredibly well designed and the attention to detail in this department shines. HB Studios removed some of the course from last time’s offering, but there’s still quite a few for you to enjoy and master. The detail on the clothing and equipment is also very well done both in the menu and out on the course. Great visuals and great sound design really help with the immersion and feel of being out on the course playing golf.
I also don’t know what the deal is with that Aussie, but his voice still haunts my dreams.
It’s not perfect though, as the crowds, though better than last time, still looks a bit strange. PGA Tour 2K21 also has some of the worst commentaries I’ve ever experienced, and it didn’t take me long to kill that off completely as it was just horrific. The pacing and tempo of the commentary was just completely off and nothing like you might experience while watching golf on the TV. I also don’t know what the deal is with that Aussie, but his voice still haunts my dreams.
Off the Tour and career mode, you get to customise your golfer as much as you can afford. You earn in-game currency which allows you to kit yourself out with the different brands and gear to make you look the part of a real pro. The issue, and this is where microtransactions can come into play here, is the amount of currency your earn can feel very limiting, maybe tempting you to open your real wallet to get that cool looking Under Armour cap or those Taylormade irons. If you’re willing to grind a bit and don’t mind the stock stuff for a bit, then it shouldn’t be a problem, but the carrot is being dangled there and can potentially be a problem. Some of the equipment, like your clubs, can give you an advantage like better ball control or more distance, but it does come with other trade-offs, so whether it is a pay-to-win sort of scenario remains to be seen.
PGA Tour 2K21 also features a robust-looking course creator which can be made and shared online. It will essentially generate the course for you after you specified some criteria, and then you can tweak it per hole as you desire. It’s not perfect and can be a bit complex, but it works well enough. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see other courses published, and in the same breath, online play was completely dead. This is due to me playing the game early, so testing it out wasn’t possible. I will note that you will have to be proficient in Pro difficulty setting or better if you want to play online, as it seems to be the only option. Local multiplayer is an option though with a lot of different game modes available. You can also customise every “guest” you might have, giving everyone playing a bit of personality and investment in the game.
A good recovery from the rough
PGA Tour 2K21 is a definite step up from last time out. It got rid of most of the fluff and just gave us a decent golf simulator. It is not perfect and there is still room for improvement, but the experience is a lot more enjoyable this time around. If they can get better commentary and improve the facial scans of the pro golfers, then we have a real winner here. Especially if they continue to use the PGA Tour Licence appropriately.