Preview: EA Sports PGA Tour Is Back On The Links This March

Hopefully, This Time, They Won’t Need A Mulligan

EA Sports PGA Tour

It wasn’t so long ago that EA Sports dominated the virtual links. The PGA Tour series, which for most of its life went by Tiger Woods PGA Tour, was a consistent release year after year. How much it would evolve might vary from year to year, but you could always count on it being highly playable and offering plenty of content. Until you couldn’t. For its last release back in 2015, the series ditched Tiger Woods, at the height of the controversy over his marriage falling apart, and tried to shift to a younger golf champion in Rory McIlroy. It didn’t really work, and the series went on hiatus for nearly eight years.

Maybe it’s time for EA Sports to get their golfing groove back though. Tiger Woods already did so, at least as far as gaming goes, headlining PGA Tour 2K23 last fall to strong results. EA has to hope Tiger wasn’t their good luck charm because while the series will return March 24th on PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC, they’ll again be doing it without the man who made this series a household name. We recently got to sit down and take an in-depth look at EA Sports PGA Tour, though, and we came away hopeful.

EA Sports PGA Tour

At the core of EA Sports PGA Tour are the Majors. These are the most important tournaments in golf, and players jumping into this latest installment will be able to experience all of them. The Masters. The US Open. The Open Championship. The PGA Championship. They’re here, and EA are determined to make these events with modern presentation, cinematic moments, broadcast packages unique to each event, all the way up to the winners getting their green jackets.

EA Sports PGA Tour will launch with 30 courses, including some never before seen in a golf game. Courses from all over the world, from well-known US courses like Augusta National and Pebble Beach to top international courses such as Bandon Dunes and Tara Iti, the developers made a point to do consumer research and look at top course rankings in resources such as Golf Digest when picking what courses to include. They found when looking into new courses, though, that they had access to some that had previously avoided being featured in video games thanks to their new scanning technology, which allows them to bring these courses to life like never before.

EA Sports PGA Tour

The resources used to bring these courses to life were extensive. They sent photographers to ever course in the game, capturing details such as rock formations and water features, to even flower bed and vegetation mapping. They sent helicopters with laser scanning technology to courses, capturing 30 times the density of publicly available data. Their team were embedded within the PGA tour bubble, which allowed them access, despite the pandemic, to really get down to every detail. Even the tee boxes on each course are designed to look like the real thing.

Players will play as or against PGA and LPGA Pros, with the developers promising more pros than any other golf game ever made. The Frostbite engine is in use here, allowing for advanced animation, and the development team scanned each pro using Hollywood technology that can capture their unique musculature. While the full cast won’t be revealed until later, we do know that both the #1 ranked man and woman currently in the sport, Scottie Scheffler and Nelly Korda, are included. So are a ton of real-life apparel brands to customize your golfer. Major brands like Titleist, Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour are here. So are smaller but culturally relevant ones like Bad Birdie and Bogey Boys. The development team even know what players will be wearing at The Masters this year, so they can include them when the time comes.

EA Sports PGA Tour

When it comes to actually hitting the links, EA Sports PGA Tour features new pure strike gameplay, powered by Shotlink and Trackman. This means you’ll have more options than ever in how you want to control your shot. 20 different shot types are available, so you won’t just be picking a club, but also how you want to use it. The combinations available mean that the game features over 1300 physics profiles for shots. You’ll have a ton of freedom in how you approach every moment. Ball behavior has been redesigned completely, to make sure the ball behaves correctly on each type of course or terrain. Each course has its own physics profile as well, designed with the cooperation of the course superintendents, to make sure each feels truly unique. My impression from the time I got to spend watching it was that the game’s UI is simple and minimalist but that there are a ton of details packed in for players to access as they need to.

One of my biggest sources of trepidation, though, is that the swing mechanics are fully analog. I’ve always preferred a three-point swing system in my golf games, and while there’s clearly a ton of work going into reviving this series, if the core swing mechanics aren’t great, the rest of it hardly matters. Still, I have hope that the team who spent so much time and effort on every detail here will have spent just as much getting that right.

EA Sports PGA Tour

As for how you’ll play, there’s a core career mode with RPG progression where you can rank up over time, unlock new gear, and work your way up from an amateur to winning the masters. Multiplayer is here as well, with options ranging from passing a single controller around in local play to 16-player simultaneous golf battles online, which looked pretty wild. The developers aren’t focusing on some of the goofier options that past PGA Tour titles sometimes found success with, preferring a more realistic focus for now, but they did advise that they are interested in adding more game modes in future updates, along with a ton of gear and the 2023 major courses. You’ll do all of this at 4K 30fps, as the team really wanted to capture the visual fidelity of these courses.

I came away from my look at EA Sports PGA Tour excited about what it can be. The level of detail captured here is exciting, and the decision to make this a next-generation exclusive will give the developers the power to make this the best golf experience possible. We’ll plan to bring you more details as we approach the game’s March 24th release.

Andrew Thornton
Andrew has been writing about video games for nearly twenty years, contributing to publications such as DarkStation, Games Are Fun, and the E-mpire Ltd. network. He enjoys most genres but is always pulled back to classic RPG's, with his favorite games ever including Suikoden II, Panzer Dragoon Saga, and Phantasy Star IV. Don't worry though, he thinks new games are cool too, with more recent favorites like Hades, Rocket League, and Splatoon 2 stealing hundreds of hours of his life. When he isn't playing games he's often watching classic movies, catching a basketball game, or reading the first twenty pages of a book before getting busy and forgetting about it.

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