Golf is a wonderful game. I grew up playing, though I’ll never argue that I’m any good at it. Finding cheap Par 3s and playing over several days during the summer months was a staple for me.
After leaving college, golf has become a thing I do every few weeks. It’s an outing, and rounds with friends are fun for a few reasons. There’s the game, of course, that never gets easy no matter how many times you play. Then there are the courses. If you play the same course again and again, the experience gets a little rote. The game stays fun, but the playing field gets stale.
Rory McIlroy PGA Tour, then, suffers from a fate of sameness. The core gameplay is fun, albeit with some oddities here and there. It certainly isn’t the diverse offering that is real golf, but EA Tiburon managed to build a title that feels good when in actual play.
What kills the experience here, though, is the lack of content. This is one of the thinnest sports games I’ve played in a long time, and when boredom sets in in a matter of days on a title that should play for months? There’s not enough here.
Rory McIlroy PGA Tour feels like a set of great ideas that saw too much trimming in the run up to release. It’s sparse, and not even fun golf can save it from that fate.
Golf on Frostbite 3? It’s not as pretty as it should be.
One of the biggest initial selling points for Rory McIlroy PGA Tour was that it was the first game to move away from the Ignite Engine, the one now typically used for EA Sports’ games, and moved to the Frostbite 3 engine, that’s the one that powers the likes of Battlefield.
The idea here was that EA Tiburon would be able to develop wonderful courses on the back of a really strong set of tools that regularly create completely dynamic battlefields filled with great views and highly detailed scenery. That was the idea in theory. The idea in practice? Sort of a miss.
There are moments, I’d say a majority of the game, that McIlroy looks pretty good. It’s not as gorgeous as one would think a “next gen golf game” should be, but it does have a nice aesthetic. Each course sort of has its own personality, and that shines through in environments and color selection.
Then there’s the other, let’s say, 35 percent of the time. I can’t possibly mean it’s literally 35 percent, but it’s less than the majority but enough to be noticeable. McIlroy becomes a mess of recycled character animations, textures that never load and constant (and I mean constant) pop-in.
Courses feature animal life, for instance. This is cool. I love this. TPC Boston, for example, has foxes. Neat. It’s just that the foxes both look not so hot and pop-in. Always.
Now the upside here is that EA Tiburon managed to do away with loading between holes. Once you start your round, there isn’t a single loading screen after the initial one. It’s just straight play, and that means you can pound out 18 holes very quickly. It’s a trade-off, for sure. You’ll suffer weird pop-in and slow loading textures, but the speed of play is really nice when you’re playing through a four round tournament in career mode.
I’m not sure if it’s worth it, though. I love gorgeous golf games, and Rory McIlroy PGA Tour is a disappointment in this arena, even when you talk about the unique courses like the one based on Battlefield. Sure, it’s a weird, war-torn course made of broken battleships and par 3 holes, but I was surprised by how underwhelming its looks were.
You hear “Frostbite 3” and “golf game” uttered in the same sentence, and you sort of assume the best graphically. What we get here is middling, and that’s disappointing.
Fine. How about the actual golf?
Well… it’s fine. In fact, I’d say that the game moves from fine to fun once you hit your stride during rounds. Nothing feels quite like that first hole in one with Rory McIlroy PGA Tour. The same goes for chip-ins, extra long putts and recovering from horrific lies.
There are three ways to play McIlroy, and you’ll pick yours at the onset, though you can change whenever you want. My favorite was arcade. This puts the club swing on the left stick, and it gives you plenty of shot previews to assist play. Tour removes those previews while keeping your swing on the stick. It also hits you harder for rough swings. The Classic mode is that old three click control style that puts the swing on button presses rather than the stick. Players who love older games will like this.
Then there’s the custom mode. If you like the ability to read putts but want the assistance of the Arcade mode, you can tweak that to your liking. I really appreciated being able to fiddle with all these input methods, and I think this is the highlight of McIlroy.
Putting can be tough here, even with Arcade’s fancy putt preview. It’ll give you the trajectory of the ball, but you still need to figure out swing distance, and that can make or break putts from five feet out.
The fact of the matter is that the foundation of this golf game is solid, it’s just that the dressing that’s going to make it a game to last a year or more is weak. I’m getting to that next.
A definite lack of content. Period.
Rory McIlroy PGA Tour offers this: Play Now, Night Club Challenge, Pro Career, Online Play and Prologue. That spans 12 or 13 courses, depending on whether or not you pre-ordered the game. That course count is like half what we normally have.
So, a reduced number of courses. What about the career mode?
It’s equally sparse. You can set the background for your player, whether you were a college star or a young prodigy. All that does is slightly tweak the commentary during play. You’ll level up to 75 and slowly unlock fancy attributes that dictate your play specialties. Do you want to be the grip it and rip it type? Or, do you want to hone your skills down to precision and putting? You can select specific boosters to do that. Then you’ll unlock equipment, but it isn’t nearly as good as it used to be.
PGA Tour games in the past saw players unlocking new shades for, like, +5 to putting or a new driver that would add +2 to power. Here? None of that. You unlock clubs that affect your overall, but you’ll hit the optimize button every time and never look back. It takes a lot of the stat management out of the game, and that was some of the best long play stuff this series had to offer.
You can sim your way through rounds in order to play events quickly. Basically, the game sims the holes you don’t play based on your attributes while you play the more important holes. You might tackle 20 holes over a full weekend of play in order to pick up a title, and that’ll only take like 30 minutes. You can turn this off, if you like, but I actually enjoyed being able to speed up my run at the FedEx Cup.
After that? There’s no weather in this game, besides sun and wind. No rain, no snow, nothing fancy. The Night Club challenges basically turn the course to night play, add neon lights and task you with shooting through rings in order to unlock stars.
That’s really it, folks. The game feels thin, even with the modes that are present. I appreciate all the time saving tweaks and features like attribute-based simulation and the ability to play without loading between holes, but the absence of stuff like specific stat boosting gear sort of stinks. There’s less gear, less courses and less playable players. Tiger Woods? His name never even showed up on a leaderboard in this one.
The gameplay foundation of Rory McIlroy PGA Tour is strong, but the actual house that makes up the game itself is practically paper thin.
The simple fact of the matter is that, even with two years between releases, this first golf outing for the new generation of consoles from EA is a miss. There’s certainly something to enjoy in Rory McIlroy PGA Tour, and I’ll definitely have some friends over for a few rounds of load-less play between holes.
It’s just that all the stuff that used to keep my attention with these games for months and months is gone. I want to be pouring over stats in between rounds in order to pick the best wrist watch for my golfer in order to better my putting. I liked that stuff, and that’s what kept me playing for months after release when it rained on that one Saturday I was supposed to play a real life round.
Instead, I see this game getting pushed aside pretty quickly. Where other years of PGA Tour occupied my nearby shelf for months on end, Rory McIlroy‘s time in my life is quickly expiring. Blame that on a lack of courses, players and content. There simply isn’t enough here.
Wait for a sale or skip it, that’s your call.