It won't come as any surprise to anybody that thanks to shall we say, extra curricular activities, Tiger Woods and EA parted company. What were they to do? Well thankfully EA were more than aware that a young, talented and charismatic Irish man by the name of Rory McIlroy was making waves in the world of Golf, but this time for all of the right reasons. To say this young man is a hot property is an understatement. So Rory became the new face of EA's long running sports franchise, PGA Tour Golf which has been running I think for even longer than the PES and Fifa sims, as I know I had a PGA Tour Golf game back in the day for the Mega Drive.
So what else has changed besides the cover star? Actually rather a lot. Graphically this game is more than pleasing to the eye, and runs as smoothly as anything I have seen for some time. It actually uses the same engine as Battlefield 4, and there is even a Battlefield themed fantasy course (I am getting ahead of myself here!). Textures are smooth, ball physics are spot on and there are more options in this game than you can shake a 9 iron at.
We have a new control system, utilising the left stick for performing your golf swing, Right and left trigger for club selection and the D-pad alters camera direction, whilst Y can aid you zoom onto the green and the left stick lowers or elevates the camera angles when using the player aids. Not comfortable with all that and you can activate the old traditional '3 click' system if you prefer to do that.
Golf can be an unforgiving game in the real world, and this is no different here. The commentators will as they have done so in the past, offer their judgements ranging from high praise to really very disparaging sarcasm! Like yeah I know I'm in the bumker but Jeez do you really have to rub it in like that? Apparently they do.
As you can see from the top image the graphics are very pleasing to the eye. Courses look lush and lavish as you would expect and the Coyote links course and Wolf Creek course are noteworthy for a) being in the wilds and b) looking like they are player fantasy created courses, they are not, no indeed, and be warned if you thought Saw Grass was a beast to play, well these two have to be the two most challenging courses in the game as well as the real world.
These are as authentic and as spot on as you would expect, Balls roll and bounce realistically and that goes for the way the conditions effect the lie of the ball in the rough and if and when the ball gets effected by the wind as it soars towards the green and fairways.
The soundtrack is as genteel as you would expect, no dub step or rap here no siree! The in game sounds obviously include the autentic THWACK of club hitting the ball, the 'Oohs' and 'Ahh's' of the crowd depending on how good or bad, as the case may be, your shot was, All in all nothing that jars but there's nothing that really makes you go wow music wise.
The screen shot here just shows you a few options, there are others in sub menus. and I'll leave you to find those for yourself. It's not all serious Golf though. There is of course the inevitable career mode, but whereas in the old days you would enter the competition, you would play all 18 holes, over a course of a few 'days' hoping to make the cut for the next round. Here though, you are dropped in the listings depending on your performance in the previous tournament. Win and of course you are going to be high up the table and will probably start round 1 on day 1, just having to navigate the back 9 holes. Do badly and well, I think you can get the rest.
But the fun comes with the one on one, friend vs friend mode, and the fantasy courses, hence the battlefield 4 themed course. There's also the 'night club' a novelty challenge based mode that take golf out of the realistic sim mode and into the arcade and is great fun.A neon lit golf club with targets to hit, and at times amuses as well as frustrates but it keeps me coming back too it. Like this mode a lot.
Now if this review seems all sun and rainbows so far, it's online that mars things. Lobbies seemed quiet, and when they weren't I experienced some lag, scene pop up, and frame issues plus some slow load times. Much prefer this game in the off line modes, you can play with your friends in the living room (up to 4 of you) without the issues above.
When is a player aid NOT a player aid?
When it appears to be not that user friendly that's when. It's at times, hard to judge just what the aid is telling you so when you think you are going to hit the fairway or the green, imagine the frustration when I took the shot and it landed in the crowd, the rough or sometimes out of bounds even if the guide was assuring me, no you'll be fine mate, go ahead swing....
Putting aid is also hard to get to grips with. In past editions of the game you would get and hear from a A.I caddie that would advise you on shot selection and club. This for some reason, has been removed and that's a disappointment.
So as we settle down at the 19th hole....
I reflect on my experience and find yes, I enjoyed it. Did I miss Tiger's smiling face? No. Did I miss the A.I. Caddie? Yes (bring it back!) Did I want to tell the commentators to shut up when they were being less than complimentary about my efforts? Heck yes! Do they HAVE to be that caustic? Is this as good as the old games in this series? Yes, is it better? In some ways yes, in others no. It may not be quite the same old thing churned out one more time, there are quite a few tweaks but yes, you can go retro with the controls if you wish to do so, but it's not as impressive as other new versions of existing sports sims, i.e NHL, NBA etc etc. Novices may find it a challenge, but you should adapt easily enough, though I suspect that this would appeal more to fans of the series rather more than it would attract new players.