After taking a year out, 2K are back with their take on the sport referred to as one that “spoils a good walk”. It has a couple of months head start on the other licensed golf game – EA Sports are returning to the links in early 2023 with EA Sports PGA Tour. Will that be enough considering that PGA Tour 2K23 has got Tiger Woods on their game cover? The same Tiger Woods that adorned EA covers for 16 years…
Having started life as simply The Golf Club, PGA Tour 2K23 really feels like it is slotting in with 2Ks other sports titles this year. Particularly alongside NBA 2K23, it features a similar cover art style, and even ‘borrows’ two players from the NBA in the form of Michael Jordan and Steph Curry. It isn’t just celebrity cameos though, there are fifteen pro golfers. Obviously, Tiger Woods joins the 2K roster for the first time, but there are also female pros for the first time. The likes of Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, Lexi Thompson and Lydia Ko are all here, and likely to be exclusive to PGA Tour 2K23.
Other new inclusions include Topgolf. This social golf experience is based on the same real-life Topgolf location in Las Vegas. Players have ten balls to hit into targets and outscore their opponents. It can be played in both local and online co-op, offering modest EXP rewards for completing matches. Whilst a welcome addition, its shallow gameplay and repetition means it is fun for a few sessions and nothing more.
Instead, the focal point is once again on MyCAREER mode. Once again you can choose where you would like to start your career: this can be at the very beginning, attempting to qualify from Q-school, jumping straight into the PGA Tour as a pro, or anywhere in between. Before a new season starts you can choose your difficulty of opponents, number of rounds per events and many other factors to make it the way you want to enjoy it.
You should try the training modes before getting to the first tee for real, if only to give the new three click swing option a try. This isn’t a revolutionary new idea, having been a method of inputting golf swings for many years now, but its implementation in PGA Tour 2K23 is slightly different from the norm.
Rather than the power appearing on a bar at the golfers’ feet, the three-click method in PGA Tour 2K23 overcomplicates things to the max. You firstly hold the button to fill a circle indicating power, then click when the line rolls to the top of the circle for swing path, and then finally again when it is at the bottom for club face. Honestly, don’t use it. The other option is using one of the thumbsticks to initiate a swing and is much more forgiving.
Preferred swing method found, it is time to head to the courses themselves. PGA Tour 2K23 is a very pretty game, showcasing some picturesque golf courses and a decent likeness to the pro golfers. Going round an 18-hole course in any of the modes is a fun experience as you get all the ups and downs of real-life golf. A bad shot and you are scrambling to make par, but likewise, getting a chance to hole an eagle brings a whole different load of emotions. Simply put, there is a lot of fun to be had.
Where PGA Tour 2K23 is let down is the lack of anything else whilst on the course. You get little in-game challenges with miniscule rewards for completing them, but the commentary and all-round presentation is a bit disappointing. It lacks any of the real excitement you get from watching the final round of a major on TV; it feels very lacklustre by comparison.
You can also create your own golfer. Whilst improvements have been made here, it is still very limited in terms of what you can create. A golf game isn’t exactly the place for sliders galore to go wild with your creations, but with only fifteen hairstyles for example, you will do well to create your own likeness.
You can dress your golfer with new clothing items and clubs from the Pro Shop. These are bought with credit earned in-game but it can also be purchased via microtransactions. Yes, these are present in PGA Tour 2K23 as is the 2K way, but they don’t feel as intrusive as other games. Thanks largely in part to golf being a solo sport for the most parts and not having a MyTEAM or Ultimate Team equivalent. It does still have a battle pass – known here as the Clubhouse Pass – that even comes in two different premium tiers, but it is optional.
It is all well and good looking the part, but PGA Tour 2K23 also allows you to configure how your golfer plays as well. Firstly, you have a choice of caddy to help you out on the course. Then you have a choice of an Archetype. These allow you to quickly select which type of golfer you are, and where your strengths and weaknesses lie. You could be a Greensman with an aptitude for putting, or a Sculptor, who can swing their ball at right angles.
But for those looking to improve specific aspects, there is still a skill tree. Of sorts. You can earn skill points that are used to unlock abilities. However, the kicker here is that they only come into action when required: Eg. The Trailblazer perk at level one will only activate when you have missed three fairways in regulation. It then deactivates once you plonk a ball on the fairway from your tee shot. These can be levelled up to activate quicker and deactivate after a few more successful shots, but the idea here is that they should not be relied upon too much. Some, such as the Short-stuff skill, act as a boost to your already good play, activating once you start sinking putts and deactivate when you don’t make par. It is an interesting way to add RPG-lite mechanics in, but we would have preferred a more traditional method of growing and improving our players over time more naturally.
Where The Golf Club made a name for itself was in the ability to design your own courses. Once again, that is here in PGA Tour 2K23, and you can even import your old courses in from PGA Tour 2K21. Whilst the prospect of creating an entire golf course can seem daunting, it is really quite simple. You create an initial foundation using some preferred scenery types and how dense with fauna and obstacles you want them to be and can then get into the nitty gritty.
All-round, PGA Tour 2K23 doesn’t feel like a massive improvement over 2K21. It looks better thanks to some new Xbox hardware, but the addition of Topgolf, a new swing system, female pros and other minor inclusions feel superficial at best. You’ll give them a try and realise the lack of depth in them, before jumping straight back into MyCAREER mode, where nothing has really changed. PGA Tour 2K23 is a decent effort, but one that EA Sports PGA Tour should easily blow out of the water in a few month’s time.
Hit the links with PGA Tour 2K23 from the Xbox Store