The Golf Club was an oddity in sports gaming. As an unlicensed indie game, it garnered enough support to release a second iteration, one that caught the attention of the Professional Golfers’ Association and massive studio developer and publisher 2K Games. Both then teamed up with creators, HB Studios, on a fully licensed third installment. The studio then moved to a bi-annual release schedule and changed the game’s name to PGA Tour 2K21.
The studio’s most recent installment, PGA Tour 2K23, sticks to its roots in gameplay feel and control. With the standard control scheme players will use one of the two joysticks on PlayStation and Xbox to aim and the other to swing. On the left side of the screen, it will show a curved power meter and the player will pull back the swing stick to the desired power and then push forward to release the shot. An exception in display is made for the putting controls as the power meter is straight and at the bottom of the screen.
A new swing style was also implemented called the three-click system. The player will hold a button to increase a circle to the desired amount of power. Then watch a needle spin counterclockwise and press the button twice in designated yellow areas to determine accuracy and straightness. While it may sound simple, those familiar with the traditional analog stick controls may have a hard time adjusting.
In Michael Goroff’s October 11, 2022 EGM article “Five Things You Should (or Need) to Know about PGA Tour 2K23” he explains he had difficulties with input delay with the three-click system until he switched to a lower graphic setting, “as someone who generally prefers a higher frame rate to resolution, that isn’t an issue, but PGA Tour 2K23 is already looking pretty dated, even on Quality mode. It didn’t ruin my experience, but it’s a trade-off that’s certainly worth noting, I think.”
The other main pillar is the realism HB Studios strives for in the creation of their games. There’s never a moment when a perfect shot goes in the wrong area or has wild unexplainable bounces. When you swing perfectly you know and when you don’t, it’s painfully obvious as your ball will slice or hook quite sharply. This is even more unforgiving on higher swing difficulties. The game however offers a multitude of difficulty settings so you can tune the performance to your liking.
In terms of gameplay performance, it falls short. Often the swing power meter will lag resulting in an undesired over or under powered shot. The commentators seemingly only have a handful of lines and hardly any relevant dialogue to feats performed. The replay system for when you hit a really good shot, such as a putt longer than 20 feet or chipping the ball in from off the green, will often only focus on the golfer and not the shot that was made. Shallow commentary and poor presentation present itself as low-budget especially in comparison with 2K’s other titles such as their NBA series.
This shallow commentary paired with the lack of licensed major events and courses, such as the Masters at Augusta National or the US Open makes the career mode lack depth. In the October 15, 2022 IGN article “PGA Tour 2K23 Review” by Matt Paprocki he states, “the career mode feels like filler as it works around licensing restrictions and takes us through second-tier courses like the Detroit Golf Club and TPC Southwind. That’s an issue when it’s the primary way to play.”
There are options for players to play online against each other, as well as online custom leagues called a Society. A new addition includes a Top-Golf game in which players are challenged to hit targets at a Top-Golf driving range, with points being awarded the closer you are to the center. However, there are no other challenges and only a singular facility to play at, leaving another shallow feeling.
Unfortunately, the game is mediocre in every way. Realistic swing models are hampered by input lag. Graphically the game seems stuck in 2020, while not awful it should have improved. The lack of game modes and lack of depth within the ones given are not conducive to a long lifespan. Matt Paprocki said it best in his IGN review, “There’s not much to be excited about in PGA Tour 2K23, with poorly presented golfing on second-tier courses. It’s fiercely accurate to the real sport but lacks personality and variety, 6/10.”
Written by Jesse Neufeld, Lethbridge College
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