Two years on from the release of PGA Tour 2K21, PGA Tour 2K23 has arrived. So, have there been any improvements to the overall experience? Well, I took to the course to find out, competing against the pro’s, seeking out as many FedEx Cup points as I can to lift that trophy at the end of the season, while taking some time away from the big events to hit up Top Golf with my mates.
When first loading up PGA, the player selects the swing method they wish to use and I have some good news for a lot of fans out there, the 3-click swing is back, baby! Though dissimilar to the 3-click style’s we’ve seen in the past, it only has a small learning curve. The player is then sent to a tutorial where they learn the basics of swinging, shot-shaping, chipping, putting and everything in between. This gives players a good feel for the game and allows them to understand the ramifications of certain ball lies that they might encounter during play, and for returning players the tutorial is not mandatory.
Once completing a short tutorial, the player selects a pre-set difficulty, of which there is three options. Players can variate the degree of difficulty in almost all aspects of the gameplay, from the amount of information that is given for the wind and ball lie, to the amount of preciseness needed for a good swing. The more challenging the players makes it, the higher experience multiplier they receive. I suggest toying with these options until finding something that remains challenging, without having to lose multiple balls a round. Swing timing is what anchored me down from making the rankings I needed to proceed to the next part of MyCareer, and while PGA offers a swing calibration, my swing timing never seemed to get any better. This could be my lack of ability, but I seriously tried to get it right and I was always swinging too slow or too fast, hooking and shanking all over the place. Fortunately, the option of turning off swing timing is available.
The main event for PGA Tour 2K23 is the MyCareer mode, and the first thing players must do is create their character. This year gives the option of playing as a male or female character, as they surprisingly play within the same tournaments. Character customisation meets a happy middle ground of expectations, with a decent number of options to create the player that is wanted. Players then select their playing archetype, with each one focusing their player’s base attributes on specific aspects of the sport. For example, the Greensman archetype improves the players putting abilities, but lessens their ability to make recovery shots. This year’s edition of PGA also offers up Skills. Skill Points are earned through levelling up and are spent on the different golfclubs used on the course, like receiving a spin boost on fairway shots with a hybrid or receiving a timing boost on chip shots. There are a lot of options here and players have the option of resetting the points for a small fee of in-game currency, VC.
When jumping in to a new MyCareer, players are given the option of where to start their career, Q-School, the Korn Ferry Tour, the Korn Ferry Championship or straight into the PGA Championship. I, of course, made my way through Q-School, earning some much-needed experience that assisted me on my way to the PGA Tour. Now, to say that the list of licensed courses and players available in this rendition of PGA is disappointing, might be an understatement. Unfortunately, 2K have once again fallen short of what us golf fans would consider a hole-in-one when it comes to creating a true PGA Tour immersion but, that is how the licensing cookie crumbles. PGA still offers up eleven playable tour pros’, with twenty available licensed PGA courses.
Experience is naturally earned through gameplay, with XP bonuses for completing random challenges that show up for some golf holes, though there were times that these bonuses failed to show up on some events. Levelling up also rewards players with many items, including new apparel and club fittings that can be used on different clubs to improve its attributes. Club fittings that players earn or buy within the pro shop do cost VC to install on each club, but not enough that it becomes impossible to afford it. VC is awarded generously and while the cost of new apparel and clubs don’t necessarily break the bank, they also do not enhance the players golfing attributes, they are merely visual changes. Extra items can also be earned by signing with one of the available brands, ensuring to keep the relationship with them strong by remaining loyal and performing well.
I found some time to jump into Top Golf with my pals and it was just a good fun competition, with options of playing their shots simultaneously or to swing at it one-by-one. We also jumped into a full round, and it is exactly what you would expect, with several different types of play and the pro’s unlocked to play as. It was just fun, without having to be too competitive.
Graphically, PGA Tour 2K23 holds up well, especially in the lighting and shadowing. There are even some finer touches like the ball leaving a small divot on the green in an approach shot. Character models do fall a bit short, most of them showing a bit of a robotic look that feels unnatural. During an event the live coverage can pause, showing a replay of a previous shot and it is bizarre, most of the time missing the shot completely and focusing on the reaction of the player that made it. Grids below the player when aligning a shot reveal the direction of the slope that the ball lays which is very helpful for shot shaping and it does disappear when inside a hazard.
There is not much in the way of a soundtrack here, focusing more closely on the in-game commentary. It did not take long until the commentary was put on mute, and I opened Spotify on the side. It is repetitive and it feels like it was recycled from 2K21. Often the commentary will make a remark that a shot was awful when it turns out to be a blinder, and vice versa and it really feels like they are just there for a roasting when playing a poor round. The only silver lining is that the commentary is not a necessary part of gameplay, so players won’t miss out on anything.
Brandon Waite. See my profile here.