Birdies, eagles and bogeys appeared everywhere when we took to the golf course in the latest golf game from 2K and HB Studios.
It has been just over two years since HB Studios released their first golf game after getting 2K on board. A lot of players were afraid the introduction of 2K would result in a microtransaction nightmare, but fortunately that wasn't the case with PGA Tour 2K21. Unfortunately, the situation is different with PGA Tour 2K23. The game is designed in a way so that anyone with deeper pockets can get advantages, and specially early on in the game. Luckily, the game also has several positives.
First and foremost is the new user interface for this version. It has been totally redone for the better. Some placements of some of the menu options are up for discussion, but in general it makes sense. The menus are just as responsive on the PC version as last version, except for the societies. These are incredibly slow and remind us of the console version of the previous game. On PlayStation 5 the menus are significantly quicker than they were before, and they create less frustration than they did.
Where PlayStation had a few advantages on 2K21, the game seems more balanced between the platforms this time around. The green grids don't seem to have a different appearance like they did, and the Xbox-players have also reported that the swing plane is easier to hit in 2K23, where they had a big disadvantage. There are still some tweaks that ideally should be made, but hopefully that is fixable in a future patch.
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On the golf course the game is pretty much flawless. Everything feels just a little bit better than its predecessor, and partly because the level of difficulty makes it extra rewarding to hit a good shot. Just like when you hit a good shot on the real golf course (We've been told...).
Graphics and sounds have received a few adjustments and improvements without being revolutionary in any way. New commentator tracks where they, in detail, give a lot of information on the real-life courses are amazing to listen to the first couple of times we play the course, but after that it does get a bit repetitive. We decided to turn off the commentators midway through our second season in career mode, but highly recommend having them turned on for the first season. Sounds from golf clubs hitting balls are better than ever, and you can easily recognise the difference of you hitting a Cobra driver and Mizuno driver, again, just like in real life.
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The career mode also has some additions that we welcome with open arms. The ability to change some of the courses during the season to other official courses makes it less boring to play several seasons as you don't have to play the same courses over and over again. Some tournaments do not offer changeable courses, but those are mostly the big tournaments you really want to play anyway.
But it's not the career mode that makes this game. Ever since The Golf Club came back in 2014, and Greg Norman's course designer was introduced, the game has been living mostly on the community making their own courses, and this is still a huge factor in 2K23. Several thousands of courses have already been ported over from the previous game, and there are more to come, both ported and new courses. This makes it possible for you to play new courses pretty much every single day. Some are good, some are bad, some are fantastic, and some are just a meme, but mostly the community creates playable courses that you will enjoy.
HB Studios' golf series has always been known to be the better of pure golfing simulation games, and it has always been the Canadian company's wish to have you grow as a player simply by playing the game again and again. With the addition of attributes to the various golf clubs, they went a little off-track with this philosophy in 2K21, and this time they push it even further. Adding attributes to every single club, ball and characters makes it possible to create a more unique experience depending on your style of play. This is also where microtransactions enter.
The cost (virtual currency) of adding attributes to your golf clubs are one thing, but you also have to open your virtual wallet to buy golf balls that will help you massively out on the course. As an example, you can buy golf ball attributes that makes your ball fly longer in the air and roll shorter on the green. We are hopeful these attributes will be even more balanced in the future, but for now it gives a massive advantage out on the golf course. The VC can be earned by playing the game, but since the golf balls are consumables, you will have to buy new ones at a faster pace than you can earn currency if you want to stay competitive.
Thankfully, you don't have to play at a competitive level to enjoy PGA Tour 2K23. There are ways to play with the easiest settings to the most extreme ones. Depending on what you prefer the most. Golfing with friends is always fun, and they have also introduced the new Top Golf-mode.
Sadly, the Top Golf mode is more a gimmick than anything else. In real life, Top Golf is a "party game mode" where you often gather with friends with a little something to drink while hitting targets set up at various distances with a ton of different game modes. In this game you unfortunately only have one mode, and it gets boring after a very short time. At the time of this review there isn't even leaderboards available for it. This has been announced to be coming in the future, but for now we are stuck to remembering our best score and compare to our friends. This mode had so much potential and we were really looking forward to it, which makes it so sad that it is so underwhelming.
A very welcoming part of the game that a lot of fans of the famous Tiger Woods-games will appreciate, is the ability to play as a pro. You can choose to play as one out of 14 playable pros including but not limited to Tiger Woods himself, Justin Thomas, Lexi Thompson, Brooke Hendersen, Lydia Ko, Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele. With 2K's natural partnership with NBA we also get a few basketball players available like Michael Jordan and Steph Curry. Unfortunately, players like Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland are missing from this line-up, both as playable pros and as names on the leaderboards during the career event. It makes us wonder if we can expect something down the line.
Another thing many players have requested is the 3-click-swing, for those that can't swing the analog stick straight for various reasons. HB Studious has added a new way to perform the 3-click-swing rather than the traditional way we know from earlier golf games. It might sound easier to use, but we promise you that you will have a hard time getting used to it, and it takes just as much out of you as a player as the analog swing.
2K has shown us with both NBA and WWE that they are great at character customisation, but unfortunately the PGA series is still behind in this area. You can unlock or buy a series of clothing, but changes to your base character is limited. For some strange reason we can't even adjust our weight (!), only the height. We are really struggling to figure out why this adjustment is gone from the last game. The lack of possibilities to change our character the way we want makes it harder to create a personal relationship to it, which we feel could have gone a long way to enjoy the game even more.
PGA Tour 2K23 is an improvement from the previous game, without doubt. And we will wholeheartedly say that it's worth the investment if you enjoy golf games. When it comes to the grading of this review it will be lower than the previous game, but it is in fact a better game even though it disappoints in several areas where they could have done so much more. And yes, the microtransactions are a big no-no for us. As we were quoted on the last game from HB Studios - this is the best golf game out there, until the next one.
8 / 10
Game mechanics are solidly improved. Several ways to customise your golf bag.
The importance of microtransactions. Little to no improvements graphic wise. The potential of Top Golf is not taken advantage of.