EA Sports Rory McIlroy PGA Tour is this year's NHL 15. Moment-to-moment, the gameplay is great, and thanks to a few solid control schemes, anyone can play it. But beyond the swinging, putting, and aesthetics is a lacklustre, depthless sports game. Period.
And this really is a shame because the title gets off to a hot start thanks to the immediately noticeable production values. Clothing wrinkles on the character models, professional golfers look strikingly realistic, and the authentic courses, like Chambers Bay and St. Andrews, feel like taking a virtual tour of the real thing.
And the good doesn't necessarily stop at the beauty, as playing a golf game has never felt better. You can choose from three different control schemes: Arcade, Classic, and Tour. Arcade will probably be the most familiar for returning players; depending on how far you pull the analogue stick back will determine the shot length, and the straightness of your motion will impact accuracy. Meanwhile, Classic brings back the three-click swing, and determines the quality of your shot. And if you want to get really serious, take a jab at Tour controls, where the speed of your follow through and backswing is factored in and there aren't any assists such as ball spin or zoom. Quick rounds also deserve a shout out, making it so that you can play a full four-round tournament in the time that it would take you to play 18 holes. The lack of load times between holes, courtesy of the Frostbite 3 engine, is a plus as well.
Unfortunately, that's where most of the good stops. While the courses included look and play awesomely, there aren't many of them – especially compared to the last entry in the franchise. So, while you may enjoy the scenic vistas of the Pacific Northwest or the historical links of Scotland, you'll get pretty sick of playing the same holes after a while. Even the fantasy courses like the one based on the Battlefield map Paracel Storm grow stale after a few rounds.
If you want to see just how boiled down EA Sports Rory McIlroy PGA Tour truly is, look no further than career mode. You'll start by creating your player, building him or her from a disappointing list of preset faces, and choosing if they're a prodigy, college star, or teacher looking to make it big on the tour. You'll pick your outfits and clubs, and play the next tour event you have scheduled. That's about as far as the customising goes, though. After each round your XP is added up, but you won't get to choose where to distribute it. Want to have the putting prowess of an early 2000s Tiger Woods or the driving strength of Dustin Johnson? Better hope that the system distributes the XP into the right categories. And thanks to the lack of authentic courses, you'll play in the aptly named BioWare Classic at a made-up course rather than The Masters at Augusta National. What's more, you won't be able to see how much money you made from an event (not that money plays any part in the game anyway), you won't be able to browse the full leaderboard of a tournament, and you won't even be able to look ahead and see upcoming competitions on your schedule.
The lack of meat on the bones doesn't stop there either. Want to play as fan favourites Bubba Watson or Tiger for a quick 18 this time around? You can't. Want to play a game of alternate shot or Bingo Bango Bongo with a few friends? You can't. Want to go online and join a country club or create your own? Sorry, but you can't. The feature strip feels pretty cheap frankly – especially when the series took a year off to upgrade to new-gen and rebrand itself as 'Golf Without Limits', a tagline that is more taunting than promising.
If you get bored of the shallow career mode or vapid Play Now options you can head on over to the new addition of Night Club Challenges, which allow you to do a little target practice at night on courses illuminated with neon. It'll also give you a break from the repetitive commentating from the new team of Rich Lerner and Frank Nobilo. While the Jim Nantz and David Feherty replacements give pretty in-depth and interesting previews, they often give the wrong lines for situations. You could be four-under on the day, hit one bad shot, and Rich will start going on about how disappointing your entire round has been. And try not to hit a putt past the hole too hard or you'll get the "Wow, he hit that one like a plumber!" line over, and over, and over again.
It's not often that you can say a previous iteration in a sports franchise is significantly better than the newest and prettiest, but for EA Sports Rory McIlroy PGA Tour that is very much the case. The graphical upgrades and gameplay tweaks don't make up for the massive lack of depth and sacked features, meaning that this outing is very much below the property's usual par.