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Rory McIlroy PGA Tour Review

by Dean James

EA Sports has been providing sports fans with a variety of different game series over the years, with their line of PGA Tour games being second only to Madden in longevity. Transitioning from the Tiger Woods name that has been present since 1998, 2014 was the first year in a long time to not have a game. The series is back yet again with the world’s #1 golfer in Rory McIlroy PGA Tour, while it makes the first leap to current-gen consoles with superb gameplay across three control options they don’t quite make up for  a rather bare bones experience.

One of the biggest selling points of any sports game is providing players a true to life experience that puts them in control easily. Rory McIlroy PGA Tour provides players with three different control options, each of which have their positives and negatives. The game offers an excellent Prologue, which is a way to allow players to try out each of the three control schemes if they so wish and then move on from there.

Arcade is the simplest of them all, with you utilizing the left analog stick to swing back and forth to decide power and accuracy, along with setting placement of the ball, power, and even spin during the ball’s flight. Arcade is the perfect name for this, as it almost feels like something out of the arcade staple Golden Tee. For a simplistic experience that can still be fun, this is a great option for casual gamers.

Classic is a little more involved on the swing itself, with a 3 click mechanic that is essentially the same as seen for the classic pitching setting in various MLB titles over the years. This one is definitely more difficult to be accurate on than Arcade, but allows you to have more control specifically on the power and accuracy.

Tour style takes the Arcade style and adds some other mechanics, such as being able to curve shots by swinging in different angles on the left analog stick. This one also allows you to choose how long or short your shots are, based on how fast or slow you move the analog stick. This is the style that requires the most nuances, but definitely does get grating more quickly than the rest do when playing in long gameplay sessions.

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Easily the biggest disappointments with Rory McIlroy PGA Tour are the minimal number of options with both golfers and courses. The game offers only 12 real golfers, along with five random golfers that include an old man and woman, as well as a Battlefield soldier. Even the first entry for last-generation consoles included nearly double that with 21, with the roster size increasing a good bit to 28 modern golfers in the last one, along with nine legends and three athletes from other sports included.

EA Sports titles are often kind of disappointing with their first outing on each console generation, but the drop in the amount of golfers is rather embarrassing. It gets even more frustrating when you see the names of other real golfers that have been in past entries, like Zach Johnson, showing up on the leaderboard in the game while playing, while knowing he’s not even included. Even worse than the overall numbers, they completely cut out any LPGA golfers that had been a staple of the series for the last many years. The game has the two hottest golfers around with McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, but they missed the cut with the removal of so many others.

Golfers are not the only thing that saw a major reduction in Rory McIlroy PGA Tour, as the number of courses have also dropped pretty dramatically. The last outing had 20 courses in the base game, with a ton of DLC courses to purchase as well. Rory McIlroy PGA Tour offers only 11 real-life courses on disc, with one additional being a pre-order bonus. This isn’t to say that the courses don’t look fantastic due to the new Frostbite engine, but the number of them is a problem.

Gamers can play at some top courses like Chambers Bay, where the 2015 U.S. Open was held, but the license with Augusta National and the Masters Tournament expired. While they said this and many others could be added as DLC, this is something they really should have worked to have and put in the game, rather than taking a huge step back and likely requiring players to pay extra for it later. If that ends up being added to the game, along with maybe more golfers, Rory McIlroy PGA Tour will feel more like a starter pack than a full game.

Rory McIlroy PGA Tour offers gamers a few different game modes to try out, though nothing is too involving. Play Now is obviously the default quick play option for gamers, though it is quite annoying that one cannot create a player here to use beyond the minimal selection. Instead, you have to enter the game’s PGA Tour Pro Career mode and start one to do this.

PGA Tour Pro Career is the type of game mode that people look for in a PGA game, allowing you to create yourself or someone else and take them through a career. The only issue with creation is that like a lot of this game, it is incredibly bare bones. Rather than utilizing a detailed and complex character creator like most sports games that allow you to focus on an individual player, this one only features 11 head choices and 8 hair styles, making it hard to distinguish created players from one another for the most part.

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From that point, your created golfer starts off with very low stats that are increased by competing in more events, with bigger bonuses for doing well and placing higher on the leaderboards. There is also a leveling up system based on how you do, with more attribute bonuses being unlocked at higher levels. Something quite useful is that better clubs are unlocked at higher levels, which means there is no need to spend money in-game to have to buy them.

Tour Pro Career mode is something that still feels like it could have been expanded on much further than it actually is within the game. Essentially it is nothing more than play an event, go to the menu and see if you leveled up enough to access new clubs, and then play the next. Other sports franchises have done a great job at making these type of modes more story driven and personal, while this feels as detached as it gets. It can be a lot of fun as a way to replicate the PGA Tour experience on the course, but definitely could have seen more added.

more like a starter pack than a full game

The Night Club Challenge mode is something kind of unique and definitely will take a lot of your time while playing. Set across three different fictional courses at night, the Night Club Challenge features different mini-games that almost feel like mini-golf at times, which can be very enjoyable. Taking things a step further, this mode introduces boosts like the simple Rocket to more advanced Super Spin and Nudge.

This mode is similar to something from a mobile game like Angry Birds, where you can earn up to three stars based on your performance. These aforementioned boosts are the only way that you can earn the highest point totals, making them essential and quite useful. The only disappointing part is that you cannot do two player or online with this mode, which could have made it even more fun by adding competition to the equation.

While there isn’t any online in Night Club Mode, there are two variations of online in the game. First is a typical head to head in either ranked or unranked, where you face off against other golfers. Players play each hole at the same time under a time limit and as a result, there were no issues with lag.

Online Tournaments are kind of different, as you do not face off directly against other players, but instead there are ongoing daily and weekly tournaments that you can compete in and then be ranked on the leaderboard based on your results. This is something that is much more laid back and relaxed than the other online mode, as it can be played at your own pace, but it is still something that can be very enticing to participate in anyways.

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For the most part, Rory McIlroy PGA Tour plays very well on the golf course itself, from transitions to the actual gameplay. However, the main menu and loading could use some work on a future patch. There is a lot of freezing at times where the screen lags on something as simple as hitting the back button to go to another part of the menu. There were even a few times where the game glitched and overlaid the main menu between courses on PGA Tour mode, without pressing a button. This isn’t something that will constantly plague players, but it can get bothersome when it does.

The Verdict

The PGA Tour game series returns after a short hiatus with the first entry on current generation consoles. The game offers players some of the best gameplay yet, but much of the game feels like a step back from previous outings. The number of golfers and courses have been drastically reduced, with real female golfers completely removed, and even Pro Career Mode feels very impersonal. Night Club Challenges and online play do help to enhance the experience, but Rory McIlroy PGA Tour overall feels like only part of the main course, with the rest of the meal possibly coming as later as DLC.

"meh"
meh

Rory McIlroy PGA Tour

  • Available On: Xbox One, PS4
  • Published By: EA Sports
  • Developed By: EA Tiburon
  • Genre: Sports
  • US Release Date: July 14th, 2015
  • Reviewed On: Xbox One
  • Quote: "Rory McIlroy PGA Tour brings back the franchise after a short hiatus and while it looks and plays great, the game itself feels like only a tease for the full potential that this series has shown in the past."
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The Good

  • Frostbite Engine provides most realistic experience yet
  • Three distinct control schemes
  • Night Club Challenges can be addicting

The Bad

  • Drastic cut in number of real golfers and courses
  • Personal touch missing in Pro Tour Mode
  • Game freezing in menus and loading screens
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