2K Sports’ recent acquisition of HB Studios encouraged me to revisit PGA Tour 2K21 this week, a game which I liked a lot when I reviewed it last year but felt was still one iteration away from excellence. To be honest, I’ve been blown away by many of the improvements made, and while there are still obvious weak areas, I think the future looks bright for simulation golf.
While the core of the game remains the same, HB Studios has added some key features. My favourite is the fact that you can now run the release at 60 frames-per-second, and it performs flawlessly through backwards compatibility on a PlayStation 5. The feature is also available on the PS4, although it’s obviously less stable on the last-gen console.
The game feels much smoother at 60 frames-per-second, and it really elevates the presentation; even broadcast-style transitions look more authentic at the higher framerate. Obviously this is still a PS4 game, so the image quality can look a little soft when you’re playing the game on a 4K television, but we’ve no doubt future iterations will look clean when developed natively for next-gen hardware.
NBA 2K21 is one of the best presented sports games on the market, with tons of flavour commentary and television-like flourishes. While PGA Tour 2K21 isn’t quite at that level just yet, you can see that it’s the benchmark HB Studios is striving for; commentators will discuss the layout of official courses in career mode, while the game will occasionally cut to highlight reel putts.
The gameplay feels really good, and it can be customised to your tastes. You need to move the analogue stick backwards and forwards to shoot, but your timing and precision play a big role in the quality of your shot. You can make this as easy or as difficult as you’d like to, and while it’s quite simple to master, there’s a relatively high skill ceiling.
One thing that’s neat is how it’s all designed around multiplayer, so you can quickly add a guest to your rounds – with unique settings and handicaps – and play couch or online sessions. A new mode named Divot Derby allows up to 20 players to compete in a Fall Guys-esque race to the ninth hole, and it works outstandingly well – it even has tailor-made commentary.
The customisation options have also been expanded since launch, with the addition of a Battle Pass-style Clubhouse Pass unlocking licensed clubs and cosmetics. To be honest, the rewards in this are a little weak in the game’s second season – there are a lot of samey looking baseball caps in different colours – but you can see how future entries could really improve on this.
The only downside for me right now is that the loading times are far too long – even on a PS5 – and it’s something that’s going to have to be optimised. I also think that, because it’s all built off The Golf Club engine, official courses can still feel like they’re made up of too many preset assets, and thus lack the prestige and presence of real-life PGA Tour locations.
But I’m really happy to see 2K Sports sign up Tiger Woods and take this series seriously. The gameplay is great, and there’s a lot of meat on this game’s bones. It’s going to benefit from further investment and iteration, of course – this isn’t the finished article yet – but if HB Studios can continue to build from this very strong foundation, then we’re in for a treat over the next few years.
Did you buy PGA Tour 2K21, and what are your thoughts on the game? Is this a title you’re planning to pick up at some point in the future? Hit the fairway in regulation in the comments section below.