PGA Tour 2K21 Review: “Like a Bryson DeChambeau Drive, It’s on the Right Trajectory”

by | Nov 9, 2021 | PGA 2K21

Golf is difficult. It is based on fine error tolerances and details that can lead to stick-breaking mistakes, but also to the greatest satisfaction in sport when done right. PGA Tour 2K21 brilliantly embodies this from shot to shot, offering a truly fun golf simulation that will scratch the iron swing regardless of your previous experience or loyalty.

Fast facts: PGA Tour 2K21

(Image credit: 2K)

Release date: August 21, 2020
Platform (s): PS4, Xbox One, PC
developer: HB Studios
Editor: 2K games

The main strengths of PGA Tour 2K21 lie in its solid and highly entertaining fundamentals that get the razor-sharp feel of the real game to the point. It’s forgiving and challenging at the same time – it features approachable gameplay that is easy to learn, but also detailed and rich enough to serve those looking for more.

You will quickly find that there is a strong emphasis on shot craft and swing management. Draws, Fades, Topspin, Backspin and Loft; they are all present in order to optimally approach every situation, but they also increase the difficulty of your shot. The result is the right balance between skill and danger as well as frustration and satisfaction with every swing. You also need to consider swing pace and rhythm. Perfect shots are possible, but elusive. So when you do one, that’s exactly the feeling that drives you when you play. Get it wrong and see hard but fair results.

(Image credit: 2K)

Fortunately, you are not left alone to master all of these nuances. Punch feedback shows your pace, and swing lines are important aids and reference points that allow you to improve stroke by stroke. On the green, in addition to the familiar gradient colors and grid lines, a putting preview line is welcome – and the limitation to a maximum of one look per hole means that you are still dependent on your own technique (and eyeballs). You can play all of your rounds this way by disabling the HUD – relying solely on your skills, your interpretation of the conditions, and the yardage book to encourage immersion and realism.

Fairway to heaven

The character customization process is another great achievement. It’s multi-faceted, with tons of options to get your golfer the look you want, all the way up to size and weight, and there are plenty of brands to outfit your golfer with too. All of this is housed in the MyPlayer area, a familiar element from 2K sports games and the hub from which you manage all facets of your alter ego on screen.

(Image credit: 2K)

Your golfer’s career is the most fun. You can join the PGA Tour right from the start or you can start with an amateur tournament where the top ranked players receive their tour tickets and advance to the main tour. The latter provides a useful journey that will allow you to hone your skills. while the actual PGA Tour includes around 30 events. It’s linear but very enjoyable during its 25 hours, especially due to the ambiguity of each shot, and offers a good mix of reward and challenge.

You will earn experience points as you progress through your career – but this is a largely disappointing mechanic as the points you earn from tournaments only unlock new clothes and rackets. Other characteristics of career advancement are neat on paper but completely inadequate. Sponsorship deals are career challenges that clubs and apparel unlock; In-round goals add an additional challenge; and player rivalries are challenge-based competitions that are also pretty confusing – why exactly am I having a rivalry with Jim Furyk? Given the lack of golf skill improvement, more sense of my player leveling up would be welcome, along with more reasons to improve my clubs as well. With the standard set, you can easily complete the entire season successfully.

Rough with the smooth

Wherever you go, disappointingly familiar golf game isms will accompany you: hideous comments worn out from your fourth round; boring crowds; silly player animations; and skippable shots with empty camera between holes and shots. However, where PGA 2K21 differs from previous golf games is in the difficulty levels, which allow you to freshen your career by improving the opponent’s skills and course conditions for a comfortably challenging balance.

While career is great fun, it’s too lean and simple to be a premise that you return to month after month. Seemingly positioned as a way to play a season quickly and easily, there is no way to build a golfer from hack to pro, invest XP in skills and abilities, and acquire a repertoire of shots. That role-playing element of career modes is a successful staple of the genre, so given the heavy emphasis on realism in PGA 2K21 elsewhere, it feels like a missed opportunity.

(Image credit: 2K)

However, this level playing field approach also has its advantages: as the player base grows, online gaming should be great fun as no one can beat other players by simply outperforming them. This means that the net-based options – 1v1 match play games, 2v2 alternate shots games, competitions, and online societies (where you can play custom seasons with your crew) will be competitive when the game comes in in the coming months attracts large audiences.

Long live your noble green

Unfortunately, there are significant career failures when it comes to famous courses and faces. The courses are limited to a handful of PGA Tour locations and the famous players present are not playable which is a huge mistake. The Tiger Woods series would have been rubbish without the option to be Tiger Woods.

Where 2K19 makes up for this a bit, is the rugged Course Creator. It’s intuitive, has helpful presets and simple options for editing the terrain and the ability to test each hole. The Creator also allows you to download and play courses that other players publish. Since the community is likely to recreate famous courses that aren’t available in the game, this is a great way to keep things fresh.

(Image credit: 2K)

PGA 2K21 manages to be a strong, less pompous successor to The Golf Club games while also channeling some of EA’s classics and continuing to establish the series as the go-to game of golf. Shot craft rarely fails, but is less successful as a career simulator. Further refinement and polish in this area – as well as more official courses and playable stars – would be welcome if the PGA branding remains. Right now, like one of Bryson DeChambeau’s post-lockdown drives, it’s on the right track.

Reviewed on PS4. Code provided by the publisher.