A disappointing entry that jettisons many winning features from the series
Game review: Rory McIlroy PGA Tour
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed) / Playstation 4
THE continuing decline in form of Tiger Woods, once the world’s most successful golfer, has been an uncomfortable reality for Electronic Arts. For close to a quarter century the firm has been making PGA licenced golf games. For 15 of those, they have been branded with the image of the 39-year-old with 14 Major titles to his name. But as the American’s star has declined over the past five years and his quest to topple Jack Nicklaus as the sport’s all-time great falters, EA has found itself with an unbefitting figurehead.
Cue its decision to take a break from the annualised franchise last year. The last instalment, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14, was an impressive offering which fine tuned an age-old formula while throwing some excellent new ideas into the mix, such as the Legends of the Majors mode which allowed players to pit their skills against champions from bygone eras. With the publisher taking a pause before unveiling its new cover star, hopes were high that the return of the series would mine the same seam of thoughtful evolution.
As a standalone game, it is very good; compared to its predecessors, it is simplistic
Unfortunately, the reverse is true. Judged as a standalone game, Rory McIlroy PGA Tour plays a very good round of golf. But assessed against the leaderboard of previous entries in the series, it barely manages to make the cut due to the way it has jettisoned swaths of modes and features while drastically paring back the range of real life golfers and courses on offer. Instead of progress or, at the very least, refinement, a storied series has relapsed in alarming fashion.
The game does the basic things well, most notably the way in which you strike the ball. With a choice of three swing mechanics, from the traditional three-click method to a more involved and sensitive set-up which demands careful timing and rhythm over the analog sticks, its core gameplay is responsive and satisfying. Finding a method that complements your style and experience is straightforward given the ability to toggle a welter of assists - for example, whether you are able to add spin to the ball while it is in air.
The career mode has been pared back to the bare bones
However, executing the basics is just not enough for a series of this vintage. Staples of the game, such as the single player career mode, have been injudiciously pared back; the default setting sees you play only a select few holes from each course every round, while attributes for your own created golfer are added automatically, denying you the chance to truly mould a character that best suits your way of playing. Success in a tournament, meanwhile, earns players a desultory text box offering congratulations.
Online, meanwhile, modes such as country club and simultaneous online tournaments have been excised, leaving only head to head play. And with a dated template of pre-created character models to choose from (if there is an obvious use for the Kinect, then surely it is allowing players to scan in their likeness to games) and it becomes clear this is not a game that goes out of its way to encourage commitment or acknowledge your achievements. The advertising tagline EA are using to promote the game, ‘Golf without limits’, feels like a bad joke.
It may be the best next gen golf game but this is still an anticlimactic return
EA will no doubt stay true to its promise to supplement the game with free DLC content that, in time, will create a richer offering. As things stand at launch, however, this is an unforgivably simplistic and underwhelming title. It may be play a better game of golf the sober simulation of The Golf Club and the arcade-inspired Powerstar Golf. But there is no denying that the meagreness of the courses, characters and customisation options has resulted in an anticlimactic return for one of the publisher’s flagship series.
TIPS AND TRICKS:
Don’t trust the automatic shot selection and direction, which often leaves you way short of the pin. Instead, study the green surface and wind direction before tailoring your shot.
In career mode, be sure to change the settings so that you play full rounds, otherwise your performance on the majority of holes will be simulated according to your player’s attributes, which are lowly to begin with.
Shot shaping is a crucial way of safely navigating hazards and treelines and is especially useful on links courses where angles are all important.