Golf is a game of patience and skill. It’s about taking your time, choosing the right tools for the job, and getting the perfect shot. It can be slow to watch, sure. But it can also be exciting to play. PGA Tour 2K21 is trying to step onto the green with a game that offers this experience. And while it’s successful, some tech issues and low production values hold the game back.
PGA 2K21 is the first game in the series to be nicknamed 2K. Originally self-published by developer HB Studios under the title The Golf Club, the series was taken over by 2K a few years ago. You’d think this would be a boon to the franchise. After all, 2K is not exactly a small publisher. You should be able to provide the resources necessary to create a truly state-of-the-art golf simulator.
“Unlike other sports games these days that implement things like social media, training, and skill points to keep things off the field interesting, PGA Tour 2K21 just takes you from one game to the next with little in between to get you to employ. “
Unfortunately, despite 2K’s commitment, the PGA Tour sometimes still feels like an extremely low budget. Visually, the game is on everyone’s lips. The surroundings look neat. There are some nice water and light effects and the graphics are clear enough to distinguish the fairway from the rough. Character models are well animated, but the models themselves don’t hold up well, especially the faces. The eyes open too wide for too long and the mouths are a terrifying sight. This wouldn’t be a problem if the game didn’t take close-up shots frequently after most holes. The PGA Tour 2K21 also suffers from a serious anti-aliasing problem. Sometimes it gets so bad that objects actually seem to shimmer through the artifact.
The game is also mixed in the audio department. The music is pleasant enough, but short and repetitive. I can only hear the same smooth pseudo jazz piano riffs so many times before I’m tired of them. The announcers, meanwhile, are performing well, but their commentary can sometimes be out of place. It seems like not enough lines have been drawn to cover all of the circumstances on the green. There have been more than a couple of times where I’ve started a course with poor performance and ended up one or two over par. But I would manage to pull it together in the end and be well under par on the final holes.
At the end of the game the commentators talked as if I had been solidly below level on the entire course, without mentioning my difficult start or my comeback on the final holes. Compared to other games I’ve reviewed this year like MLB The Show and UFC 4, the comment feels like it. It repeats itself too often and often doesn’t quite match the action on the screen.
“PGA Tour 2K21 is trying to step onto the green with a game that offers that experience. And while it is successful, some technical issues and low production values hold the game back.”
The game also suffers from some slow load times between games. Their duration was quite inconsistent. Sometimes a course loaded pretty quickly. But after playing games, it often took a long time to get back to the menu. I’m not entirely sure why, but after the first match of Career Mode, it took the game over five full minutes to load the Career Mode menu after the match. The inconsistent loading times are frustrating and are made worse by the fact that they cannot be relied upon to at least always take a long time. Sometimes courses load quickly. Sometimes the game seems to slow down at a snail’s pace.
It’s a shame the PGA Tour 2K21 is still suffering so badly on the technical side of things, despite the financial backing from 2K. It’s unfortunate because despite these issues, the game is actually a lot of fun. The experience on the green is an absolute pleasure and meets the high-skill feeling of professional golf. The controls are smooth, fluid and responsive. The game gives you many options to help you refine your approach, including a bird’s eye view to help you aim your shots more precisely. The swing and putting mechanics are easy to understand and PGA Tour 2K21 does a great job of making the experience easier for beginners without sacrificing the depth that more experienced players want. There are plenty of assists too, including a one-time aiming aid on putts.
The game also helps you choose the racket and shot each time, meaning those with a more casual understanding of the sport can rely on the game’s support for a decent performance. But if you want, you can ignore these assists or even deactivate them entirely. And when you do, PGA Tour 2K21 has a well-done golf simulation game. The physics is realistic, clear and consistent. The ball always interacts with hills, wind and other obstacles exactly as you would expect, and the game does a great job of simulating the differences between fairway, rough and bunker. Swinging in different situations actually feels different.
Unfortunately, while the experience on the golf course is excellent across the board, even the rest of Career Mode suffers from the same lack of polish as the rest of the game. There’s just not much here to keep you going unless you are fully invested in the actual golfing experience. Career mode is pretty barebone.
You start in an amateur match that serves as a testing ground for you to enter the professional world. From there, you’ll enter the PGA Tour and compete for the top spot on the leaderboards. Unfortunately, that’s really all. Unlike other sports games these days that implement things like social media, training, and skill points to keep things off the field interesting, PGA Tour 2K21 simply gets you from one game to the next with little in between to keep you occupied.
“While the experience on the golf course is great across the board, unfortunately, even the rest of Career Mode suffers from the same lack of polish as the rest of the game.”
You will make money after each game and through optional mid-course challenges, but these rewards can only be used to purchase new clubs and outfits. The new clubs have some mechanical differences, but not enough to really feel like they make a difference. I didn’t notice much difference between the standard clubs and the unlockable clubs.
Cosmetics, on the other hand, are just that – cosmetic. The quality is pretty hit or miss, and aside from changing the way you look, they don’t do anything. This is a far cry from many other sports games where you can spend your free time exercising, improving your skills, and interacting with fans and rivals. There is a competing system, but even that feels out of date. Unlike other games where your rivalries grow organically based on your behavior on and off the field, in PGA 2K21 you simply step through a series of predetermined rivals. You can actually check it out in Career Mode and see your progress towards unlocking the closest rival. I suppose it’s a bit of a goal to aim for, but compared to the organic way rivalries work in other sports games, this feels dated and uninteresting in comparison.
PGA Tour 2K21 offers a mechanically solid golfing experience that truly rewards skill and practice. The gameplay on the green is a lot of fun and really makes you want to keep playing. Unfortunately, it’s really the only thing that drives you as the rest of the experience feels several years out of date. It’s a shame because with a little more tweaking to the graphics and modes, PGA Tour 2K21 could have been a stellar sports game. The way it looks, it’s just a decent one.
This game has been reviewed on the PlayStation 4.