Rory McIlroy PGA Tour Review: Tiger’s Blood
Ryan Bloom / Jul 15th, 2015 No Comments
Tiger Woods once ruled the sports world, and EA has always had a large share of the virtual sports world. The pairing was the perfect match, and it resulted in great annual installments from 1998-2013. Woods’ fall from grace and inability to win golf tournaments eventually led to the end of EA Sports Tiger Woods PGA Tour.
After taking a year off the links and replacing Woods with new cover star Rory McIlroy, EA Sports is back with a refreshed installment of the PGA Tour franchise made for new-gen consoles. Underneath a new game engine and attempts at humor, Rory McIlroy PGA Tour has a solid foundation, but there is little built on top of it.
You might know golf as the sport that your dad watches while he gradually falls asleep on the couch, but there’s much more to it than that. Golf is about soaking in nature while at the same time fighting it on lush green courses with beautiful backdrops. In that aspect, Rory McIlroy PGA Tour succeeds.
The presentation is the game’s crowning achievement, made possible through the use of Frostbite 3. Courses are recreated in great detail, right down to the flower petals and blades of grass. Wide panning shots before rounds highlight developer EA Tiburon’s attention to detail, creating a relaxing atmosphere that rivals actually being on the golf course.
Commentary also is given a boost with new-gen technology. Announcers Rich Lerner and Frank Nobilo, who can be seen on The Golf Channel, add dynamic commentary to the game that will change based on the events of the tournament. Their ability to be in tune with the game is impressive, but it is eventually overshadowed by repetitive comments over the course of a four-round competition.
Character models share this impression. Clothing details and character movement are intricate and smooth. However, there are only a few exaggerated reaction animations that are shuffled through. The repetitive animations are ill-fated attempts to add some humor to the game, but it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the serious presentation.
Additionally, there are only a dozen golfers represented in the game, none of which are Tiger Woods. This is countered by offering a few fictitious characters, such as Battlefield Soldier, and the ability to create characters, but character creation options are lacking and players will find it impossible to produce the golfer they were hoping for. On the surface, everything looks great in Rory McIlroy PGA Tour, but there is no depth beyond that.
The big change to EA’s golf franchise is the ability to use different gameplay styles based on how you want to play. Gamers can use the analog stick to swing through balls, choose to utilize a classic button-mashing and timing technique, or a custom style with some variation of those. Golf games tend to bring in a casual audience, so this makes sure no type of player is isolated.
All gameplay styles work without issue, and players are encouraged to try them all out during the tutorial to find out which they prefer. No matter which style you choose, driving and getting on the green will quickly become an easy task. What happens after that is a different story. Putting is overly difficult and there is no accurate way to measure breaks and power. Although putting gets easier with experience, players will always find it challenging to nail longer putts, and eagles and birdies can easily turn to pars.
Also new to this iteration are the Night Challenges, an arcade-style mode where players must rack up high scores and earn unlockable extras. Night Challenges are a fun distraction from the game’s main appeal, the Pro Career mode. Players create a new golfer and attempt to work their way to the top of the PGA Tour leaderboards, unlocking better equipment, earning sponsorships and improving stats along the way.
Unfortunately, like the rest of the game, there is not much depth to Pro Career. Players can make their way to the top of the PGA Tour quickly, and the repetitive nature of the game begins to sink in. There is simply not enough content in Rory McIlroy PGA Tour, making the game feel incomplete. The lack of courses — especially Augusta National — and golfers is made more apparent by shallow game modes. The game attempts to mask this by adding over-the-top humor — there is an entire course based on a Battlefield level — but it feels weird when combined with golf, a sport that takes itself and its history very serious.
Despite taking a year off, Rory McIlroy PGA Tour feels like a step back for EA’s golf franchise. The game has an impressive new-gen presentation and smooth controls, but it is not enough to make up for the bare bones gameplay experience. With few courses and a lack of pro golfers, there is simply not enough to justify the $60 price tag.
EA’s series has certainly aged better than Tiger Woods, and golf fans will find Rory McIlroy PGA Tour a thoroughly enjoyable sim. However, the game is not up to par compared to its previous counterparts, and the lack of depth ultimately makes the game feel more like a foundation for a could-be-great franchise rather than a complete experience.
Rory McIlroy PGA Tour was reviewed on Xbox One using a copy of the game provided by the publisher.
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