PGA Tour 2K21 Review: Nearly a Hole in One

The PGA Tour is in full swing, and fans have golf fever. 2K and HB Studios — creators of The [...]

The PGA Tour is in full swing, and fans have golf fever. 2K and HB Studios — creators of The Golf Club — have teamed up to provide entertainment for the enthusiasts at home with PGA Tour 2K21, the latest iteration in the long-running series. The controls can be finicky and learning to properly drive off the tee or land difficult shots takes a considerable amount of practice. However, mastering these shots provides a significant amount of satisfaction and creates an entertaining experience.

PGA Tour 2K21 relies on the career mode featuring a custom-created player. This person will compete against such pros as cover athlete Justin Thomas, Cameron Champ, Sergio Garcia and many others. Players can start in lower-tier tournaments, such as the Q-School or Korn Ferry Tour, or they can move straight to the top-tier PGA Tour season. This is when they can set off in pursuit of trophies, millions of dollars, and fame. Although skipping straight to the FedEx Cup may not be the best option for new players.

Taking a more patient approach to a career is best due to the game's swing mechanics. In order to properly drive, putt, or chip a shot, you have to pull down on the right thumbstick and then push forward quickly while landing on the correct power setting. Doing so with the right timing will result in a perfect shot while moving too slowly will send the ball far off to the left. Moving the thumbstick too quickly will force the ball to the right. The controls can be finicky on the DualShock 4, occasionally resulting in frustrating misses at critical times.

Simply moving your thumbs correctly also isn't the only factor in whether a shot goes in the right direction. The clubs made by Bridgestone, Callaway, Taylor Made, and other manufacturers also play a role. Some have better distance statistics while others offer more forgiveness on each drive. Picking the right club for each situation is often as important as proper thumb management.

While there are some frustrating moments early while learning the swing mechanics, they can be very useful when paired with the level of shot options. You can adjust multiple aspects of each hit, putting a custom backspin on the ball and curving it like a bullet in Wanted. The game will recommend specific shots for each situation, but only some are the best option. Others send the ball off into the rough. It's far more beneficial to mess around with the wide variety of options, especially when the wind is moving at 10 mph.

(Photo: 2K)

Learning the systems can be very overwhelming for new players, but HB Studios provides a number of assists to make the experience less formidable. There is a shot preview that will give a rough estimate of where the ball will land after each hit. This isn't always accurate given that it doesn't account for the wind, but it helps you plan your shots. Once you reach the green, there are dozens of white, red, and orange dotted lines that show the slope and the direction that the ball will move. This saves the trouble of looking at the screen and trying to figure it out simply by the texture of the grass.

One of the best assists available is the putting preview. This option can only be used once per hole, but it provides a line detailing where the ball will go. When paired with the dashes showing how the green moves, it's much easier to sink 40-foot putts while securing a much-needed Birdie. PGA Tour 2K21 would be very frustrating without this assist, but it instead makes you feel like a golfing legend.

During the season, the custom MyPLAYER strives to find success and finish under par on courses in North Carolina, Texas, Arizona, and Massachusetts among others. Commentators Luke Elvy and Rich Beem provide analysis of the action and occasionally delve into conversations about Tom Brady, the New England Patriots, and random other topics. They also harshly judge players based on the quality of their swings, leading to some entertaining but occasionally rehashed comments.

Winning and stacking up FedEx Cup points is the primary goal, but HB Studios adds in a level of entertaining depth to make the season more interesting. They pit other golfers against the created player in "rivalries" based on the number of swings and other factors. Winning each rivalry unlocks custom clothes that can make your character look either flashy or extremely terrible depending on your particular fashion sense. However, this does create laughable moments when the game puts a photo of a real golfer next to a digital character.

If simply fighting for the FedEx Cup Championship is not enough, HB Studios also provides local and online multiplayer options for up to four participants or one player with up to three ghosts. Players can either head to one of the 15 licensed professional courses, or they can opt for custom-created environments. These courses can be very serious recreations of fan-favorites or they can be the most ridiculous creations, full of alligators, airplanes, and cars.

The only true issue with PGA Tour 2K21 is that some visuals are rather unpleasant to look at. Background buildings will occasionally glitch in and out of view while trees appear to be from a different console generation. The same description applies to the fans standing around the green on each hole. The character models are quite ugly and many are just copies with swapped color palettes.

When you struggle with certain swings, the ball will often go into the crowd and show off another issue with the models. The ball will occasionally pass right through an NPC, making him appear to be a ghost. Other times, the NCP's feet will remain in place while the torso will sharply slant to the left or right as if they broke their spine.

Ultimately, the ugliness of the characters and background buildings don't become much of an issue after the first few holes. They just blend into the background while the actual fairways, bunkers, and water hazards take center stage. The primary features of the game are far more pleasant to the eyes.

PCA Tour 2K21's career mode provides the opportunity to go head-to-head against some of the best golfers on the PGA Tour while making enthusiasts feel like legends. The swing mechanics can be frustrating at first if enough practice time is not invested, but extended playtime provides a true sense of progression and leads to an entertaining experience. The backgrounds and fans aren't particularly enjoyable to look at, but they no longer distract after a few holes. Ultimately, 2K and HB Studios created a platform for golf fans to create a memorable career while visiting some iconic courses, and they largely succeeded with a solidly-built game.

Rating: 3 out of 5

PGA Tour 2K21 is currently available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. A PlayStation 4 code was provided by 2K for the purpose of this review, and it was reviewed on a base model PS4.