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After ending their relationship with Tiger Woods in 2013, Electronic Arts quickly named Rory McIlroy his successor and announced that a next-generation PGA Tour game was in development. Flash forward more than two years later, and we now have the release of Rory McIlroy PGA Tour. 

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 was a fantastic game. It had incredible amounts of content, a variety of game modes, and robust online features. With a leap to the next generation of consoles, does Rory McIlroy PGA Tour live up to the standards of its predecessor?

Simulation sports games depend on how they control. I’m glad to say that Rory McIlroy PGA Tour controls fantastically, and includes options for all types of players. It includes three gameplay styles. The first is the arcade style. The arcade swing uses the left analog stick to to control your swing, and includes the ability to add power before your shot and spin while the ball is in the air (using the A or X button). This is the mode that longtime series fans will know and feel right at home with.

The next swing type is the classic style. The classic swing type revives the three-click controls of the golf games of old. In order to control your swing, you have to stop the meter in their respective zones. This is the easiest swing type in the game. You won’t mess up often. The trade-off when using the classic swing is that you lose the ability to add power and spin to your shots. So, while the arcade swing lets you finesse your shot a little more, you have to take your time and set up your shot with the classic mode.

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A look at how the “classic” gameplay style controls.

Finally, we have the Tour style. Tour is the most challenging gameplay style and is not for the feint of heart. Tour turns off all the games assists and pits you against the green for the truly ultimate golfing simulation. Using the left analog stick, the most sensitive inputs have an effect on your shot. Again, all your assists are off, so you don’t get your shot arc, putting preview, or even course zoom. So you have to pay careful attention to yardage and where your shot is aimed. It’s tough.

I ended up using the arcade style the most, being most familiar with it. You can also use a custom gameplay style and mix and match all three of the things I mentioned above (turn on specific assists for Tour mode, etc). Needless to say, the options are robust.

It’s a real bummer that courses like Augusta National aren’t in the game.

Speaking of the controls, I found putting to be a bit harder than in previous games. The putt preview from previous games makes a return, but it’s tougher to read the greens. Along with the putt preview you also see the break lines on the greens. These lines delineate how much of a break right to left or how down or uphill a putt is. However, sometimes when I manually controlled the camera, the game wouldn’t show those to me. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing wrong. Putting is an integral part of golf, and I feel like Rory McIlroy PGA Tour misses the mark. The more I played the game, the easier it got to putt, but in no way should it have been this convoluted.

While the greens are tough to read in Rory McIlroy PGA Tour, nothing else is. Rory McIlroy PGA Tour is a beautiful looking game. Character models are detailed and each have the mannerisms of their real life counterparts. It’s impressive to see Keegan Bradley as he rocks back and forth while he contemplates his next shot. It’s those little things that brings Rory McIlroy PGA Tour to life. The golf courses (the true stars of the show) look better than ever on current-generation platforms. Built from the ground up on EA’s proprietary Frostbite 3 engine, the courses are incredibly detailed. Whether you’re golfing off the Florida coast, or playing on the fictional Battlefield 4-inspired course, treelines pop, water looks great, and the sand is clearer than ever (you know you’ll be spending a lot of time there).

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Rory McIlroy PGA Tour is a great looking game

The most impressive thing that the Frostbite 3 engine allows is the negation of load times between holes. This is a big deal and drastically reduces the time it takes to complete a round of 18 holes. It shaves off about 15 minutes a round. Another new feature in Rory McIlroy PGA Tour that also helps cut down the time it takes to play 18 holes is the inclusion of Quick Rounds. Rather than play all 18 holes four times for each tournament, Quick Rounds will have you play a selection of five holes and simulate the results of the rest depending on your golfer’s attributes. This is a nice time saver, but in previous PGA Tour games, I’d set the game to have me play only the final round and play all 18 holes. I think that was the perfect balance for me. I felt like the quick rounds took me out of the action too much. It is great to see these time saving options available though.

Rory McIlroy PGA Tour features new commentary from the team of Rich Lerner and Frank Nobilo. You’ve probably seen Lerner and Nobilo from the Golf Channel and NBC. They do a great job with the commentary, riffing back and forth well with one another. However, they did feel a little out of place announcing play-by-play on the fantasy courses, especially the Battlefield 4 inspired course. Although it’s tough to replace Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo, Lerner and Nobilo do an exceptional job.

Rory McIlroy PGA Tour includes a variety of ways to play. Play Now lets you get right into the action and play a round of golf against your friends locally. It’s easy adding players into your game and it’s expedient starting up a match. You’re also able to go in and customize the options of your round. Do you want to play all 18 holes? What do you want the weather to be like? What tees do you want to start from, etc. It’s a nice set of options to have.

Rory McIlroy PGA Tour controls fantastically, and includes options for all types of players.

The other main mode in Rory McIlroy PGA Tour is the Tour Pro Career. This mode makes its return from previous games and hasn’t changed much. Tour Pro Career lets you take a created golfer through the ranks to become the best in the world. You’re able to assign attribute points to your character and level him up as you go. You’re also able to change your equipment, each piece having its own attributes, as well as your outfits. You’ll play in fictional tournaments, gain points and reputation, and try to be the best golfer in the world. I didn’t really enjoy this mode as much as Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14, because I didn’t feel like I was playing for anything. In PGA Tour 14, I knew that one day, my golfer would have the chance at a green jacket, while in Rory McIlroy PGA Tour, I don’t get that chance.

A new mode in Rory McIlroy PGA Tour is the Night Club Challenge. The Night Club Challenge includes over 170 challenge missions spreading three courses. The courses are all decked out with neon lights as well to give them a different flavor. The Night Club Challenge also includes power-ups that you can acquire over the course of completing the challenges. There’s about nine total and you can equip up to three at a time. Some of the power-ups include Nitro Boost, Remote Control, and Sticky Balls. They’re pretty neat and It’s a good balance of choosing the right power-ups to help you get the best score in a challenge. This isn’t a bad mode, it’s just … boring. After finishing up the first set of challenges, I didn’t want to continue. The challenges are things like “Putt the ball as close to the hole as you can,” or “Aim your shot so it lands in a specific area for maximum points.” The challenges gradually get harder, forcing you to use your power-ups. It’s really just a glorified tutorial mode.

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A look at the Nightclub Challenge mode

At the time of writing this review, EA’s servers wouldn’t allow for online play so I haven’t had a chance to play around with them. However, here is what you can expect in terms of online game modes. Head-to-head online mode makes it’s return. When playing online, each player completes a hole simultaneously and you see their shot arcs as you’re playing a hole. Also included are weekly and daily challenges and tournaments. One nice thing is that the tournaments will be separated depending on what gameplay style you’re using (Arcade, Classic, Tour). Daily challenges and tournaments will toggle specific conditions. Play a weekly tournament in high winds, or a daily challenge where the aiming arc assist is turned off. The online features are serviceable and will keep players coming back to best their friends. A glaring omission in Rory McIlroy PGA Tour is that of online country clubs. A huge part of what made the previous game’s online so successful was this robust feature that had up to 100 people all competing in their own club. Shame not to see it here.

My biggest gripe with Rory McIlroy PGA Tour is the limited amount of content that it has, especially compared to its predecessor, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14. Rory McIlroy PGA Tour kind of surprised me with how little there was in it. The game features only eight real life courses on-disk at launch (nine if you preordered the game), and includes four “fantasy” courses (totaling 13). That’s an alarming amount less than the 20 that PGA Tour 14 included (26 if you had the Historic Edition). It’s scary to think that EA are probably going to charge consumers for the courses in the future. PGA Tour 14 went on to have a plethora of DLC courses available for purchase and it would really stink if they made consumers buy them again … even if it’s for next generation consoles. I know that licenses change, but it’s a real bummer that courses like Augusta National aren’t in the game.

Rory McIlroy PGA Tour also has a lack of golfers to choose from. PGA Tour 14 included over 40 golfers ranging from PGA tour members to LPGA Tour members. The game even let players play as the legends of golf. Rory McIlroy PGA Tour doesn’t contain that luxury. There are only 12 PGA Tour golfers to choose from and five made up golfers (three that you unlock in Night Club Challenge mode). Yep, no LPGA Tour golfers in Rory McIlroy PGA Tour, which is a shame seeing as FIFA will have female players in their years iteration.

Rory McIlroy PGA Tour is a great golf game, albeit one with limited content.

Rory McIlroy PGA Tour is a great golf game, albeit one with limited content. The new additional gameplay styles are a great inclusion and the game looks better than ever. It’s great to see how much quicker it is to finish a round. Putting took some time to get used to, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not terrible. Rory McIlroy PGA Tour is serviceable when I want to pick it up and play a round with my friend, but I don’t see myself finishing the Night Club Challenges or even continuing too much further with my created golfer. I would’ve liked to see more content, especially for a game that’s been in development since 2013. I think Rory McIlroy PGA Tour is a good first take for a current-generation golf game and I’m excited to see what the future brings, but as of now, it’s a game I’ll forget about in a month or two.

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