Get ready to hit the links along with twelve PGA Tour pros. Publisher 2K partners up with HB Studios—developers of The Golf Club franchise—for a brand new entry the the 2K Sports family. You can check out PGA Tour 2K21 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, PC and Nintendo Switch consoles.
PGA Tour 2K21 Details
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Stadia and PC
Reviewed on: Stadia
Developer: HB Studios
Publisher: 2K Sports
Genre: Sports, simulation
Modes: Single player, multiplayer
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
Welcome to the Tour
PGA Tour 2K21 is easily the most comprehensive PGA Tour sim in a number of years. It features 15 genuine PGA tour stops. Players will experience these courses and more in career mode, as they earn points and compete for the FedEx Cup.
Of course, the Tour is not 100% genuine. Developer HG Games fills in the rest of the season with original courses of their own creation. There are definitely some nice stops, but (perhaps most noticeably) some “Major” tournaments such as The Masters are missing.
This isn’t to say that the courses that are present aren’t challenging and fun. They look great and pose some engaging gameplay, testing your golfing acumen. However, without the ability to participate in keystone events like The Masters, PGA Tour 2K21 still feels like only a partial taste of what could ultimately grow into a more comprehensive PGA sim. Hopefully these are pending additions for future releases if the franchise continues to thrive.
Playing with at least a few of the pros
PGA Tour 2K21 features a handful of real PGA Tour superstars. Including cover athlete Justin Thomas, a dozen big names appear in the game, including Jim Furyk, Cameron Champ, Matt Kuchar, and more.
To be honest, while the presence of these greats is certainly welcome, I am once again a bit conflicted on just how much this lineup draws me to the game. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to see some of my own favourites like Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia on the roster. Still, it’s only a splash in the pool of existing PGA talent, isn’t it?
When PGA Tour 2K21 was announced, to me the name suggested a more complete take on the world of the PGA. Perhaps it’s a bit naive on my part. Nonetheless, imagine a similar sports game like 2K’s NBA or WWE franchises releasing a game with only a sprinkling of real talent—filling out the rest with original creations. When fans purchase NBA 2K20, they expect to play with the entire NBA roster. Is it strange to expect to play PGA Tour 2K21 with at least mostly real PGA players?
Again, I understand this is likely all licensing logistics and not a conscious decision to omit some of the biggest names in golf. Nevertheless, I’d love to see more familiar faces increasing my immersion in the simulation aspects of a “PGA” game. Hopefully this is once again the path the franchise will take if it’s successful.
Mastering the stick
PGA Tour 2K21 revolves around a very deep shot system. I fully admit that I’ve been getting my golf fix in recent years from games with a more arcade-like approach, including a fairly simple button-timing swing mechanic. There is no such approach here.
Instead, PGA Tour 2K21 relies on a very nuanced interpretation of back swings and down swings that ties directly to the right thumb stick. Mastering the subtle timing and precise movement involved in a perfect swing requires an amount of skill and practice that accurately mirrors the sport itself. There is almost never a 100% sure shot, and simultaneously always room for improvement.
Furthermore, there is a wealth of mechanics in shot type, approach, club selection and many more of the most subtle aspects of true golf. A lengthy tutorial introduces many of them, but PGA Tour 2K21 then leaves it up to the player to learn when and how to use them to shape their game.
Things aren’t perfect on a technical level to be sure. Players may still occasionally agree with the game’s interpretation of a lie or the probability of a certain club or shot performing well under specific circumstances. Still, for those looking to bolster or show off their real-life golf IQ, PGA Tour 2K21 may be the most realistic opportunity to do so in video gaming to date.
Huge potential for greater things to come
Some of the most exciting aspects of PGA Tour 2K21 are truly those on which we will need to take a “wait and see” approach. At the time of this review, many of the online modes are not yet active. However, the game promises a robust multiplayer suite in the form of Online Societies that could have significant potential. Here players can even run entire tournaments and seasons.
If PGA Tour 2K21 can truly embrace players into its social hub, its potential grows exponentially. Building on its solid base of realistic gameplay, I can see it developing into a fantastic experience that caters to the spirit of golfing with friends whilst at the same time transcending the oft-prohibitive logistics of cost and distance.
Futhermore, PGA Tour 2K21 also employs a creative suite where players can design their own courses. This may help fill in at least some of the gaps left out of the official course list, depending on just how creative the community gets. It also has the potential to generate incredible replayability—again pending just how active the player base ultimately is.
PGA Tour 2K21 is a promising new franchise that could shine even brighter given time
The moniker of PGA Tour 2K21 is still a bit ambitious in my opinion. Limiting itself to 12 pros and a FedEx Cup pursuit (with some notable tournaments MIA), I still feel like it’s more of a medium association with the Tour than a full-on, immersive simulation. Nevertheless, the partnership between 2K and HB Studios is still in its infancy. There’s no doubt that the future looks bright for this up-and-coming franchise.
If I may offer some pure speculation, the prospects of PGA Tour 2K21’s future could hinge entirely on the performance of its online modes and creation tools. Sure, the career mode is fun and the gameplay mechanics are mostly solid. However, whether or not these additional modes give players a reason to stick around for weeks and months to come could greatly inform just how aggressively its creators pursue an expanded licensing agreement in future iterations.
+ Solid gameplay with a wealth of realistic golfing mechanics
+ Enjoyable career mode revolving around the race for the FedEx Cup
+ Replayability potential with course creation and Online Societies
– Only 12 real-life PGA superstars
– Mixed content feels more like a collaboration than a truly immersive PGA sim
OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF PGA TOUR 2K21
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4.25/5