After EA's golfing franchise Tiger Woods PGA Tour has been put on hiatus, the franchise is back with a new leading sports star - Rory McIlroy PGA Tour.
With a supposed new focus on more realistic golfing mechanics on top of increased visuals thanks to the Frostbite 3 engine, fans of the series have quite something to expect when it comes to this "reboot" of the franchise.
Does EA's new golf franchise start off with "a hole in one" or is this a franchise simply struggling to keep up with Tiger Woods?
Updated Core Mechanics - "Bad Teacher"
After an overly long prologue with too many cutscenes, Rory McIlroy actually starts off quite promising.
EA and developer EA Tiburon truely took it to heart to reshape the game's control schemes in a more realistic and flexible fashion. With that said, a great addition to the game is first and foremost its ability to play via three different control setups that are each tailored to your liking. You are given the option of choosing between a classic ‘three-click’ swing timer, and two variants on the more contemporary analogue thumbstick-based setup, which comes off as far more newcomer friendly and "arcadey". To say it differently, this means, that one comes off as a more simplified system with arcade-style power boosting and aftertouch spin controls to the ball, while the other uses a more realistic method with all assists turned off. Resultingly, this more detailed and professional mode requires far more time to get used to and to learn, even though the simulator aspects of the game are underlined well through it.
Yet despite these new control mechanics, the game unfortunately does a fairly poor job of presenting them to you. While there are no real problems getting into the arcade mode of playing, getting into the professional control scheme turns out to be very hard. It often feels like the game only scratches the surface of its mechanics in tutorials and rushes through training sections quite a bit too quickly to really help you understand what's going on and how to play. This often unfortunately requires that especially newcomers will have to tediously teach themselves the mechanics rather than the game teaching them.
|The Arcade Mode of playing is definitely the most intuitive of the bunch.|
Rory McIlroy PGA Tour however does a moderate job of outbalancing its slight tutorial issues by offering players a healthy dose of customization options to their way of playing that transcends simply choosing between classic, arcade or professional play.
Therefore, you can also set up each of the three mechanics to your liking. For example this means that you can turn path aids displayed in your HUD off while you are doing long shots, yet have them displayed when you are close to the hole and putting (which is often the case because putting is either hard to learn or very poorly explained in the tutorials).
Physics work pretty well in Rory McIlroy PGA Tour. Long shots feel incredibly rewarding when pulled off right and they are realistically influenced by wind, strength of shot, the choice of your club, and other factors.
Furthermore, golf balls have a realistic amount of weight to them, meaning that they believably bounce off of surfaces like trees or get stuck in the sand without them feeling to light or heavy.
|Knowing how to do good putting is a true thing of "learning by doing".|
Modes - "NHL 15 flashbacks"
As soon as you are done going through the basics, tutorials and overall prologue of the game, you will quickly realize what the game's biggest negative is - its lack of enough content.
Very much resembling the same key problems of last year's NHL 15, Rory McIlroy is surprisingly and disappointingly short on enough content in terms of modes and courses to keep you busy and entertained with.
Especially compared to the last entry in EA's golf games, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14, it is somewhat baffling how this game is supposed to reinvigorate a sports franchise with new life with so little to offer. With only roughly half the amount of courses to play on, only about a quarter of recognizable players to choose from (with Legends and female LGPA players gone additionally), and an incredibly lackluster character creator that offers only the absolute most basic customization options, one truely asks oneself what developer EA Tiburon spent all their development time on.
The career mode is at least equally as disappointing as the selection of courses and options. The career mode is usually (aside from multiplayer) the true core of one's experience. Building your own character and playing to the top is what makes a career so rewarding. Yet this feel is pretty much entirely gone in Rory McIlroy PGA Tour. Mostly due to mysteriously misguided decisions like no amateur competitions from which to start your rise to the PGA Tour, no pre-tournament practice rounds to gain additional XP and train your skills, and no additional objectives and challenges aside from the main PGA Tour to help you shape your career more individually with for example winning a set of tournaments in a season.
|At least there is a cool Battlefield course...but only one.|
What makes things even less personal and immersive, is the fact that career mode feels slapped together and rushed. You are never able to clearly make or plan your path in your career. You are always only getting pushed from one tournament to the next. What takes the fun even out of that is the way the game displays your achievements. Whereas you could walk around your trophy room in previous Tiger Woods games and gaze at all of your accomplishments and wins from each tournament, Rory McIlroy PGA Tour instead simply shows you some text screen prompts that you won and doesn't even exactly tell you how much prize money you earned.
Underlining the assumption that the career mode here was made as a pure afterthought is the offered option in the game to play the career mode with "quick rounds" letting you have to only play 9 holes instead of the actual complete 18 holes. How is this a good simulation of a career in golf?
Other than the career mode you can simply play individual courses against selected opponents.
|The Night Club Challenge will give you Far Cry: Blood Dragon flashbacks.|
The disappointment continues with the game's multiplayer features.
Sure enough you can play online or locally against other human players, yet gone is the ability from previous games to form a Country Club or community with your friends. What pulls the teeth out of multiplayer even more so is the lack of modes: only Stroke Play and Match Play are offered in multiplayer making it very quickly a boring and repetetive affair with little variety.
Rory McIlroy PGA Tour obviously tries to distance itself very much from the classic Tiger Woods modes like Skins, Best Ball, Battle Golf, etc. yet simply gives nothing in return.
The only truely new mode is the game's Night Club Challenge, which has you play golf with certain power ups that make it somewhat feel like a golf version of Mario Kart or Blur. With nitro boost power-ups and other over-the-top perks, it's a fun, short diversion despite its about 170 challenges to complete. Yet its also as far away from a golf simulator as it gets and would actually more fit into a crazy mini-golf game.
|If you want to be part of a golfing community, look elsewhere.|
Utilizing the Frostbite 3 engine from EA's Battlefield franchise, Rory McIlroy PGA Tour looks pretty good...when up close.
Faces of famous players are recognizable and textures and details on clothing and gear look convincing, yet the game looks very flat when looking at whats in the distance. Therefore, while the terrain and the golf course up close look very detailed and nice with the grass on the courses fittingly having different density and height in specific spots, the textures on hills in the background as well as models of trees look surprisingly muddy and as if they weren't loaded in correctly.
What makes getting immersed in the game further graphically difficult is the way the game sets up its courses. While people in the audience are just varied enough to convince, what immediately takes you out of the experience are weird decisions like having multiple wild bears walk around in the nearby woods (10 meters away from the crowd) or having killer whales dive up and down the nearby river like dolphins. Sure enough it's supposed to make the scenery more vivid yet these attempts to do so by randomly slapping wild life into your surroundings comes off more as laughable and distracting than anything else.
Soundwise there is not much to talk about here. Without any music the focus is clearly put on focussing on your shot and the commentators' well...comments. Even though the fundamentals of nice commentary work are given here and matches are convincingly filled with trivia about the players, they simply too often repeat the same lines, making it unfortunately all feel very calculated and artifical after only a short amount of time playing.
|The visuals only look really good when up close.|
Summed up, Rory McIlroy PGA Tour is a very dissapointing attempt to reinvigorate EA's golf franchise that previously went on hiatus after Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14.
Despite offering a respectable set of tools and mechanics to choose from that can even be customized and shaped to your liking by playing either in a classic, arcade or professional or more detailed way, the game simply gives you little to do with it.
Career mode feels like a slapped together afterthought with little in terms of accomplishment, planning, immersion or even fun to be had while progressing through its set amount of tournaments.
Regarding the modes overall, aside from career mode, there is only very little else to actually do in the game aside from standard matches against AI opponents.
Looking at the multiplayer, playing against your friends online or offline is good and all, but with only two modes to choose from, the game is practically trying to make even this a very dull and monotone affair rather quickly.
Only the new Night Club Challenge offers a nice albeit very over-the-top and arcadey diversion with its power-up driven gameplay, even though calling it actual golf would be stretching it quite a bit.
Rory McIlroy PGA Tour is a bad way to "reboot" EA's golf franchise. Especially in comparison to the previous Tiger Woods games that offered loads more modes and overall content, Rory McIlroy PGA Tour simply feels like an unfinished game that striped away many key modes while offering pretty much nothing in return. Thus, it unhealthily invokes bad memories of a certain past game with very similar problems - last year's poor NHL 15. And this is not a good thing.
Final Verdict: 4 out of 10
Big thanks goes out to EA for providing us with a review copy of the game.
Big thanks goes out to EA for providing us with a review copy of the game.