EA Sports did themselves a great favor when they decided to drop EA Sports PGA Tour just as we head to Masters in real life, as it positions their game as the ideal companion for the Four Majors in the coming months. However, does the game provide an enjoyable experience comparable to watching the Majors? We find out in this EA Sports PGA Tour Review.
EA Sports PGA Tour Review: What is EA Sports PGA Tour?
With the title EA Sports PGA Tour: Road to the Masters, Electronic Arts returns to the fairway after a seven-year absence. Aptly named Road to the Masters, the game gives players a career mode that truly gives them the full Masters experience on the golf course. Developed by EA Orlando and EA Madrid and published by EA Sports, the game came out on Early Access on April 4, 2023, and launched globally on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X on April 7, 2023, just in time for the first Major of the year, the Augusta Masters, which itself plays a huge role in the game. And that's exactly the identity that EA Sports is trying to hit: it's the home of the Majors – but is this synchronicity with the real-life events enough to make this a good golf game?
EA Sports PGA Tour boasts deep, unique, fluid, and strategic gameplay, using realism as a vessel for making the game feel like playing real golf as much as possible. To do this, EA Sports PGA Tour utilizes a stick swing system that lets you control the swing of your golf club with one of your sticks (or mouse, if you're playing with a mouse and keyboard setup). This is, at least on a surface level, similar to the control scheme that was utilized in PGA Tour 2K23, so many players who are moving from that game to this might find this as the more familiar control scheme. Unlike PGA Tour 2K23, though, EA Sports only has this control scheme available at launch, with a button press-timed control scheme coming out later as a post-launch update. Although I personally liked using the stick swing system, it still is disappointing not to have the option to switch between control schemes at launch.
Admittedly, EA Sports PGA Tour is very disadvantaged when it came out just months after the release of PGA Tour 2K23. Comparisons are bound to be made, and although EA Sports PGA Tour does shine in many aspects, a lot of its weak points are highlighted because of this. For example, many players would end up frustrated by the stick swing system. Naturally, players who have experienced the 2K control scheme would be conditioned to time their swings the way they did in 2K. EA Sports PGA Tour has a lot of factors playing into their swings and the results of their swings, and many would easily dismiss the control scheme as simply being inaccurate and erratic. It also doesn't help that the learning curve for this is very high, and I can imagine many fans being turned off by the difficulty of the game at first. Even the touted “Gameplay Innovations Powered by Pure Strike” does not make itself felt so much. But give it some time and get used to EA Sports PGA Tour's controls, and you'd actually have a deeper, much more strategic gameplay compared to 2K.
That being said, EA Sports PGA Tour also boasts a deeper career mode, which is this game's main game mode. While there are a lot of other game modes available for offline play, the options available for online play are very limited and sparse. In our PGA Tour 2K23 review, we noted how shallow the game modes are, and EA Sports PGA Tour itself, except for its career mode, offers even fewer ways to play. That being said, if you like more player customization options, a skill tree-based progression system, and course creators, then you're better off sticking with PGA Tour 2K23, as EA Sports either don't have these or are sorely lacking in these aspects. But if you love the grind and climbing the rungs of the golf sport's ladder, then EA Sports PGA Tour is the meatier game.
All of this, however, is bogged down by the game's sluggish and confusing menus. The UI for this game is all over the place, and many menu options and settings feel like they're in places they shouldn't be in. For example, the player's customization options can be accessed only through the main menu. That means, if you're playing through your career and you level up and have some skill points you could spend for your character, you actually have to quit Career Mode and return to the main menu to make your upgrades. It's frustrating because it would have been easy to integrate the upgrades menu right into the Career Mode screen, but somehow the developers missed out on this. The entire game feels slow in general as well, which you'd also experience when you play against the AI. Not only can you not skip their turns, but they also take forever to do their turns. On top of it, it's also weird that the fast-forward buttons for the ball follow-up and the fast-forward button for the player reaction that follows right after are assigned to different buttons. This wouldn't be a big problem normally, but for some reason again, EA Sports PGA Tour doesn't have remappable controls.
It also doesn't help that the game has horrendous performance on PC. While our time playing the game with the PS5 was met with very few bugs and glitches (we did experience a crash exactly once, though), the PC port is bogged down even more with slowdowns, screen tears, and frame drops. You'd just be unlucky when that happens during your swings. So, until EA Sports releases a patch, you might want to stick with the console versions for the time being.
Apart from that, EA Sports PGA Tour will have more content coming to it post-launch, so there are definitely a lot of things players could look forward to as we go along the Majors this year. Players can look forward to more licensed pro golfers, more licensed courses, and of course, more Majors-related events for online game modes.
One part that both EA Sports PGA Tour and PGA Tour 2K23 have in common is their lack of a compelling story. There's a lot of potential here. Almost all of the other sports games have their own story mode with, albeit cheesy and sometimes campy, narratives. I believe that in this part, it's still better to have something rather than nothing at all, and it could help hook in more players and get them more invested in the careers of their created characters.
One thing that EA Sports PGA Tour is undoubtedly better compared to PGA Tour 2K23 is in the graphics department. Developing solely for the next-gen consoles definitely helped EA Sports create a game that has a higher tolerance on graphical load. This probably is the cause for the performance issues we've been experiencing on PC, but on the PS5, the game looks fantastic. The foliage, the courses, and the presentation all come together for a fantastic package that really drives home the point that this is the Home of the Majors. This makes all of the course overviews at the start of each hole feel even more special, as everything looks really good and it almost always feels like a waste to skip.
However, one odd weakness that the game has is its character models. For some reason, the characters don't really resemble their pro-player models. This gives me the feeling that 2K has really been just good at making these models, and that EA Sports is playing a little bit of catch-up. In any case, it's not that the characters look horrendous. Not at all. They do look good, but some characters just have faces that don't 100% capture the look of their models. In some cases, the models look really old compared to their real-life counterparts.
In everything else, even if the UI design is bad in terms of where things are located, everything does look pristine and look clean, giving the overall presentation a good look.
Music and Sound Design
Another aspect that makes the overall presentation of EA Sports PGA Tour shine is its music and sound design. While music in itself isn't that big of a deal for a game like this, the sound design is perfect, with every swing and every finish feeling much more satisfying. Add to that the amazing commentary that does keep track of what everyone's doing in your game and makes references to past events, and you've got a game that is worth listening to.
There really isn't a lot to add to this, EA Sports PGA Tour's sound design just works, and the best way to know that is by not having many comments about it.
Verdict: Is EA Sports PGA Tour Good? Is It Worth Your Time and Money?
EA Sports PGA Tour hands down is the better game when comparing it to PGA Tour 2K23. Standing on its own feet, it has a lot of holes filled and it is great on many strokes, but not by any account a perfect game. Its unforgiving difficulty could have been much more manageable if the game offers more support to new players apart from its tutorial message windows, which appear to be something you can't view again once you've seen them once. It takes a long time before EA Sports PGA Tour becomes good, and its slow pace all over makes it hard to recommend to just anyone. But those who are willing to spend time getting to know the ins and outs of the game's more complex systems will have a good time. If player customization, online matches, communities, and custom courses aren't that big of a deal to you, and if you're one of the people who exclusively plays career mode, then this is exactly for you. But a lot of mishaps, both in technical performance and game design, shows that while EA Sports PGA Tour is a good comeback for the series, there is still a lot of work to be done before we have in our hands the perfect golf game.
Editor’s Note: ClutchPoints received PC and PS5 review copies to allow us to cover this game. These copies did not, in any way, affect this EA Sports PGA Tour Review’s final score and verdict.