Golf is a game that demands patience. If you’re a 2K Sports fan, then no doubt you have been beyond patient waiting on the series to take the game on in an official capacity. Well, while PGA Tour 2K21 is developer HB Studios’ first entry with the 2K label, it is not their first golf game. Was it worth the wait? Time to find out in our PGA Tour 2K21 review.
PGA Tour 2K21 Review – Some Stars Missing
The big appeal of any 2K title is in the professional athletes included. The PGA world has plenty of heavy hitters, crazy pants wearers, and other characters on and off the green. Players such as Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia, Cameron Champ, and others are included in the game. No, Tiger Woods is not in this one, and other notable superstars are absent this time around as well. Licensing any sport is complicated, and there is no doubt a future installment of PGA Tour will see the list of included pros change.
The MyPlayer feature from many 2K games makes an appearance in PGA Tour 2K21. The presets for characters are limited, but the amount of sculpting you can do for the player is deep enough to allow for a facsimile of yourself to be built without too much effort. There are no player attributes, however, so your character will not become more accurate, nor drive the ball any further, the more you play. The only way to obtain a longer game is by purchasing new clubs, which are unlocked as the player progresses. Perhaps the next entry will include upgradeable player stats, but for now they are not in the picture.
PGA Tour 2K21 Review – A Gimme Difficulty
At default difficulty settings, with default AI levels, some players may not see much challenge. Playing on Easy generally means that hitting Even for a course will put you in contention, for instance, while Normal requires at least a couple of birdies will need to be scored in order to vie for a top spot. Hard requires an average score of around -5 to -9 or so, while Very Hard requires double-digit scores under Par to remain competitive. This mirrors real life pretty well, and most players will be lucky to have any sort of lead after 72 holes on Very Hard, but at the same time winning is still achievable through skill alone.
The only thing that really matters in a golf game is how it feels to hit the ball. HB Studios has that part nailed down pat. Hitting a ball is a simple affair, you simply select your club, set a shot power, choose your angle of approach, and on normal or higher difficulty settings, slide the right stick back, wait for the indicated power level, and then smoothly push the stick forward at the end of your player’s backswing. As with the real game of golf, hitting is easy to learn, but difficult to master. A perfectly straight up-and-down motion is required to hit the ball straight, with some clubs offering more leniency than others. Adding top or back spin to a hit will increase the shot’s difficulty, and thus decrease the leniency the game affords you in your swing motion, which is indicated by a white zone in the stroke display. The control scheme sort of reminds me of EA’s Skate series, where accuracy with the right stick is rewarded. This is, of course, a good thing.
Those looking for something else to do can create a custom course using the built-in course editor. Anyone who has followed HB Studios knows that they produce a great course editor, and players can share courses online to boot. Once a created course is played by others 300 times, it can be handicap-rated, which will help more novice players fare better against more skilled players. We should expect to see some amazing courses built by the community in no time.
PGA Tour 2K21 Review – Join a Society
Speaking of community, there are also golf Societies in PGA Tour 2K21. These are basically guilds in other games and allow players to join up with fellow fans. Tournaments can be held for in-game currency, which is funded through membership fees in the society. The tournaments are played in leaderboard style, meaning as long as you finish a round by the deadline, you will be included in the contest.
Outside of the MyPlayer mode, exhibition modes, and online, there aren’t any other modes to find in PGA Tour 2K21. With 15 courses to master, and countless others via community-built content, that may not matter so much. Getting better at golf requires constant practice, and since the act of playing golf in this game is so solid, you don’t really need many modes to get the satisfaction from playing as many rounds of golf as your heart desires. Each round is different, and every stroke varies.
The Unity Engine is used for PGA Tour 2K21. This handles the game without much issue, though there are occasional stutters whenever a transition into a look at another player on a different hole occurs. Thankfully, no stuttering ever occurs while the player is taking their shot, which would have been a dealbreaker. Character models are okay, though the players depicted do lack emotion. There is also a limited selection of canned animations that all characters use, meaning one player isn’t too distinguished from another. It is funny seeing two completely different players do the same fake gun animation with their hands after a particularly impressive hole, and funny isn’t really what PGA Tour 2K21 was going for.
PGA Tour 2K21 Review – Static Scenes
Remember crowds? Golf tournaments are usually full of them, but this year, with a global pandemic, most real-life golf events are taking place sans crowds. PGA Tour 2K21 depicts crowds, but they are so static they might as well not be rendered. Character models are repeated very frequently, and beyond clapping after a hit, there is no further animation. There are no roving groups of people moving from hole to hole, no shouting the pro’s name after a drive. The crowd is about as generic as crowds get. Now, sure, it is understandable that the focus is on the mechanics of the game, but a more responsive crowd can really make it feel like you’re playing on some of the best courses the sport has to offer.
Audio commentary is front and center in PGA Tour 2K21. The voice work is realistic, including pro golfer Rich Beem and Luke Elvy who banter back-and-forth between strokes. The commentary is most impressive when either of them have facts about each hole as the player prepares to tee off. This isn’t included for every hole, which feels like a missed opportunity because the factoids that are mentioned are interesting and useful to players who haven’t hit on that hole before. HB Studios’ senior audio designer John McCarthy is also included for estimated putt lengths, rough or sand trap lie descriptions (how deep or shallow the ball has fallen in the terrain, and how well you can see the pin from that spot), and it is remarkable just how well they were able to capture the sound of someone whispering on a course, trying not to disturb the golfers. The whispers are just loud enough that you can hear him, but quiet enough that you also have to really pay attention. Expect to hear a lot of repeated lines between Rich and Luke, however, hopefully this is a sign of more audio work to come.
PGA Tour 2K21 appears to be taking the series in a good direction, with a larger PGA license to boot. The presentation may be lacking, but the feel of the game is spot-on. Tuning up the graphics, expanding the license to include more pros, caddies, and the like, and filling out the commentary will really help to sell the immersion that games such as this rely on. Despite the issues present in the game, PGA Tour 2K21 is a solid golf game for fans of the sport.
PGA Tour 2K21 review code provided by publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.