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Almost a hole in one

The PGA Tour is in full swing and the fans are in golf fever. 2K and HB Studios – creators of The Golf Club – teamed up to provide entertainment for fans at home with PGA Tour 2K21, the last iteration of the long series. Controls can be finicky, and learning to steer correctly off the tee or land hard shots takes a significant amount of practice. However, mastering these shots provides a significant amount of satisfaction and creates a fun experience.

PGA Tour 2K21 relies on career mode with a bespoke player. This person will compete against professionals like cover athlete Justin Thomas, Cameron Champ, Sergio Garcia and many more. Players can start in lower tier tournaments, like the Q-School or the Korn Ferry Tour, or they can jump straight into the top tier PGA Tour season. This is where they can go in search of trophies, millions of dollars and fame. While jumping straight to the FedEx Cup may not be the best option for new players.

Taking a more patient approach to career is best thanks to the game’s swing mechanics. To properly steer, putt or chip a shot, you need to pull down on the right stick and then push forward quickly as you land on the correct power setting. Doing this with the right timing will result in a perfect shot, while too slow a movement will send the ball far to the left. Moving the stick too fast will push the ball to the right. Controls can be finicky on the DualShock 4, occasionally causing frustrating errors at critical moments.

Even the simple movement of the thumbs isn’t the only factor that determines whether a shot goes in the right direction. Clubs made by Bridgestone, Callaway, Taylor Made and other manufacturers also play a role. Some have better distance stats while others offer more forgiveness on each ride. Choosing the right club for each situation is often as important as proper thumb management.

While there are some frustrating moments early in learning swing mechanics, they can be very useful when paired with the level of shooting options. You can adjust multiple aspects of each shot by placing a custom backspin on the ball and curving it like a bullet Wanted. The game will recommend specific shots for each situation, but only a few are the best option. Others send the ball into the rough. It’s much more beneficial to mess with the wide variety of options, especially when the wind is moving at 10 mph.

(Photo: 2K)

Learning the systems can be very overwhelming for new players, but HB Studios provides a number of assists to make the experience less formidable. There is a shot preview that will provide a rough estimate of where the ball will land after each shot. This isn’t always accurate as it doesn’t take wind into account, but it helps you plan your shots. Once you reach the green, there are dozens of white, red, and orange dotted lines that show the slope and direction the ball will move. This avoids the hassle of looking at the screen and trying to figure it out just from the texture of the grass.

One of the best assists available is the put preview. This option can only be used once per hole, but provides a line that specifies where the ball will go. When paired with the dashes showing how the green moves, it’s much easier to sink 40-foot putts while securing a much needed Birdie. PGA Tour 2K21 it would be very frustrating without this assist, but instead it makes you feel like a golf legend.

Throughout the season, my Personal PLAYER strives to find success and finish au pair courses in North Carolina, Texas, Arizona and Massachusetts, among others. Commentators Luke Elvy and Rich Beem provide action analysis and occasionally delve into conversations about Tom Brady, the New England Patriots, and other random topics. They also judge players harshly based on the quality of their swings, leading to some funny but occasionally reworked comments.

Winning and accumulating FedEx Cup points is the main goal, but HB Studios adds a fun level of depth to make the season more interesting. They pit other golfers against the created player in “rivalry” based on the number of swings and other factors. Winning each rivalry unlocks custom outfits that can make your character flashy or extremely awful depending on your particular fashion sense. However, this creates ridiculous moments when the game puts a photo of a real golfer next to a digital character.

If the simple fight for the FedEx Cup Championship isn’t enough, HB Studios also offers local and online multiplayer options for up to four participants or a player with up to three ghosts. Players can take one of 15 licensed professional courses or opt for bespoke environments. These courses can be very serious recreations of fan favorites or they can be the most ridiculous creations, filled with alligators, airplanes and cars.

The only real problem with PGA Tour 2K21 is that some images are rather unpleasant to look at. From time to time the buildings in the background come in and out of sight while the trees seem to belong to a different generation of consoles. The same description applies to fans standing around the green on each hole. The character models are pretty ugly, and many are just copies with swapped color palettes.

When struggling with certain swings, the ball will often go into a crowd and show another pattern problem. The ball will occasionally pass through an NPC, making it look like a ghost. Other times, the PCN’s feet will stay in place as his torso leans sharply to the left or right as if his spine has been broken.

Ultimately, the ugliness of the characters and buildings in the background doesn’t become a big deal after the first few holes. They simply blend in with the backdrop as fairways, bunkers, and actual water hazards take center stage. The main features of the game are much more pleasing to the eye.

PCA Tour 2K21’s Career mode offers the opportunity to go head-to-head against some of the best golfers on the PGA Tour, making fans feel like legends. The swing mechanics can be frustrating at first if not enough time is invested in practicing, but extended play time provides a real sense of progression and leads to a fun experience. The backgrounds and fans aren’t particularly nice to look at, but they no longer distract after a few holes. Eventually, 2K and HB Studios created a platform for golf enthusiasts to create a memorable career while visiting some iconic courses, and largely succeeded with solid play.

Rating: 3 out of 5

PGA Tour 2K21 is currently available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC. A PlayStation 4 code was provided by 2K for the purpose of this review and was revised on a PS4 base model.

Disclosure: ComicBook is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.

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