It's been a number of years since EA has released a golf title, and most would understand that it was probably due to the Tiger Woods controversy, forcing EA to find another champion to be on the cover of their franchise after years of the same golfer. To no one's surprise, current World Number One Rory McIlroy is now the new face of EA Tiburon's franchise that they have maintained for the last 8 years. With the two year gap from 2013's Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14, EA Tiburon sensibly looked to the new generation for their main audience as they went about developing their new PGA Tour title. And to break new territory in sports games as a genre, Rory McIlroy PGA Tour will be the first sports game to utilize the power of the Frostbite 3 engine, formerly popular for the Battlefield series. With new gameplay modes and new ways to play the game, let's see if Rory McIlroy PGA Tour can hit the fairway, or if it lands in the bunker.
As soon as you start up Rory McIlroy PGA Tour for the first time, you will experience a prologue section that has you learning the basics, with the real Rory McIlroy offering his thoughts on various shots like the opening tee, putting and general views on the beautiful courses he's participated in along with the excitement of the final holes in a tournament. EA has been using this method of recording real athletes to add a sense of immersion for the player and this is certainly no different. It's wonderful to see a champ so humbling and sincere when discussing any of the tutorial related topics, and offers a great look into the mind of the World's Number One Golfer. Finally, you get to take control of McIlroy as he competes for the US Open Championship at Chambers Bay. Completing this then opens the full game for you to play around with.
Rory McIlory PGA Tour offers standard modes like Play Now, Head 2 Head, and online tournaments. Career mode comes in the form of TOUR PRO Career. You get to choose your backstory which is your choice of any one of these three options: Prodigy, Collegiate, or Instructor. What these essentially do is unlock special and unique commentary for your player, depending on which backstory you have selected. As you level up your golfer, you will be given the opportunity to apply attribute points to improve a set of character stats. Utilizing advanced techniques like fades or natural spins help boost the amount of XP you earn.
As a way to open up to a variety of players over the years and evolution of the popular golf game, Rory McIlroy offers three distinct gameplay styles, along with a custom forth which allows you to incorporate certain elements of the former three. Longtime series fans will feel most accustomed to Arcade mode, which uses the simplistic left stick to swing the club, and to add power and spin while the ball is in the air. Classic style is a revival of the three click controls of older golf games. Essentially, power and accuracy are controlled by means of a swing meter; stopping each in their own zones ensures better accuracy and in turn, mishits will determine how far off you are. Finally, TOUR mode is essentially a simulator mode whereby it turns off all assists. Your swing power and overall accuracy is entirely determined by the speed and direction of the left analog stick "“ forcing players to place a higher emphasis on timing and applying the perfect angle for your swing. The catering to different demographics is much appreciated, as there are times where I'd want to just get a quick match in with Arcade, and if I'm feeling really adventurous, TOUR mode lets me tinker around with the new ball physics and see how precise you need to be.
As a fun optional mode for players, Rory McIlroy comes with the goofy Night Club Mode, offering a brand new way to play with over 170 challenge maps across three different courses. Each challenge has you aiming for a three-star rating, so angry bird fans will instantly recognize this addiction. Essentially you get points for successfully hitting the ball in specific target zones. Harder to reach zones with smaller circumferences will reward you with the most amount of points. Getting a hole for the putting challenges also offers the same bonus points. Other modes will have you aim through different rings in the air. And to top it all off, there are power-ups you earn along the way that add to the silliness. Things like nitro given your ball one more blast of distance, while nudge lets you tap the ball in any direction for those near misses. Other great power-ups include Below Zero, which creates an icy ball that bounces off any surface and can ricochet off walls. There are about nine power-ups to choose from, and they all offer great little tweaks that can help maximize your score. Oddly enough, Night Club can also serve as a very unorthodox tutorial mode, as you will be placed in situations that have you mastering concepts like shot shaping and playing in high winds.
Rory McIlroy comes with 13 playable courses available at launch. This includes the pre-order bonus for the TPC Scottsdale map, which is available to players 60 days post launch for all users. Some may be turned off by the smaller number, considering the previous Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 came with 20, on top of the additional 6 included in the Masters edition, and additional 18 that came in the form of DLC. Apparently there is a license expiry for courses like Augusta National and The Masters, so we may end up seeing those as DLC along the way. Included in these maps are fantasy maps; one based in the Grand Canyon, and one randomly inspired by Battlefield 4 complete with a ship that collides into the course.
Despite the quantity of courses available, EA Tiburon have at least ensured each map contains a considerable amount of quality. Because of the Frostbite engine, maps are now able to be fully loaded without any load times between holes. Each course behaves as naturally as their real world counterpart. Firmer courses like St. Andrews will offer more bounce and roll while softer courses like Bay Hill will stop the ball more quickly. On top of monitoring how you swing, it is now imperative to understand and appreciate where you're swinging in relation to the physical course itself. EA have also gone ahead and improved the physics of the golf ball, adding environmental elements like unique reactions to rocks and trees. More outlandish uses of these new physics are best seen in the fantasy maps, where you could bounce a ball off the Grand Canyon to get to the hole a bit quicker.
Rich Lerner and Frank Nobilo lend their voices for the commentary throughout each match, and recorded 21 voiceover sessions for the game. They will call back a player's previous performance from the day before during a tournament, and will provide a great breakdown of the best places to lay up, or any notable hazards for certain courses. The delivery may not be as human as the real thing, and there are times that really didn't have me convinced, but it's possibly the best attempt to date in a golf game.
After a two year hiatus, it's good to see EA's popular golf series return in good form. It may not revolutionize the genre, but it at least offers a package that's accessible to a wide array of players and fans thanks to the different gameplay styles you can choose from. Night Club mode was a fun feature to waste time in, and completely goofy thanks to your default character being a very old person with back problems that still manages to dance after every win. The Frostbite 3 engine works exceptionally well here, offering beautifully designed courses that are as large in scope as they ought to be. And they've finally managed to eliminate in-round loading which not only shaves off a considerable amount of time while playing, but also keeps you right in the game without a need to pause. Hopefully we'll see more courses revealed later on the game's life, but coming from someone who doesn't really play golf games, Rory Mcilroy PGA Tour has certainly left a positive impression.
|Fantastic courses thanks to the Frostbite 3 engine.|
|Night Club mode is a lot of fun.|
|Different Gameplay Styles offer varying degrees of fun and challenge for players.|
|Total number of courses greatly decreased since the last installment.|
|While the fantasy levels offer more in terms of the number of courses, they just feel out of place.|
|Commentary is definitely improved, but still doesn't sound all that convincing.|