The first few rounds of PGA Tour 2K21 felt like many trips I've taken to the real-life golf course: Long but inaccurate tee shots, bad scramble golfing and plenty of missed putts once I finally reached the green.
Maybe the game's a little too realistic.
Jokes aside, HB Studios and 2K Games' latest golf sim -- a progression of The Golf Club series -- features tough-at-first mechanics that become easier over time. It has many improvements over The Golf Club 2019, including an expanded roster of real-life courses and players to compete on/against in the game's MyCareer mode.
The game includes astounding attention to detail. Options in MyPlayer include dozens of face, hair and body templates when making the player's appearance and customized per-round outfits, meaning all of us can don Tiger Woods' signature Sunday red. Player reactions and emotions in the game are extremely realistic, as are the graphics and overall feel of the courses.
The intricacies extend to the game's course designer, in which just about any feature you can think of on a golf course is doable. Just about the only thing I couldn't create naturally was an island hole reminiscent of the 17th at TPC Sawgrass, though it's entirely possible I simply haven't figured it out yet.
But that's no worry because you can play the actual hole. Sawgrass is one of 15 real courses included in the game, up from six last year, which introduced PGA Tour licensing to the franchise. The list is absent big-time courses like Augusta and Pebble Beach, but a roster highlighted by Quail Hollow Country Club, Riviera Country Club and 11 TPC courses provides plenty of reasons to be excited. The four Major tournament in MyCareer all have different names than their real-life counterparts, but the season is capped by the FedEx Cup.
In a similar sense, players looking to compete in MyCareer against the likes of Woods, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy will be disappointed, but the game boasts a deep roster of pros headlined by cover athlete Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau (though it looks like the game features pre-quarantine of DeChambeau and not the bulked-up linebacker version).
Completing in-game challenges helps rewards players with in-game currency that can be used to upgrade outfit and equipment in MyPlayer, though as was the case in The Golf Club 2019, the golfer's attributes cannot be upgraded. That continues to be a fun wrinkle, as players can't be upgraded to start automatically hitting the ball 350 yards off the tee. Players can also receive in-game currency by completing sponsor challenges, a fun element that gives players more goals to attain during rounds.
And that is the crux of PGA 2K21: There's always something to leave the players wanting more. Between sponsor challenges and the returning rivalry feature in MyCareer, players have goals to attain even if they're not competing for trophies every event. The customized difficulty settings also allow players to dictate which elements of their swing require manual focus.
Beginners can adjust their settings so the A.I. can take wind, lie, club and type of shot into account for them, so they can focus solely on the swing. As players get more comfortable, they can make those settings manual at any time.
The one downside of blanket customization comes to tournament settings. It's fun to not know how strong the wind will be during a tournament, or how the conditions might vary from round to round. Those elements being on the user to decide before the start of every round takes away that surprise.
Overall, PGA 2K21 is contains an in-depth player and course creator, and the game's dynamics create a constant desire to come back for more. Even with the limitations of the MyCareer mode, it's a fun option for anyone craving a realistic golf sim.
Rating: 8 out of 10
DBLTAP was provided an advance copy of PGA 2K21 by 2K games for the purpose of this review.