2K began expanding its sports title into golf with PGA Tour 2K21, and it did good enough that developers HB Studios got acquired and what seems to be the beginning of a new annual sports game.
That was two years ago. The team skipped a year, but PGA Tour 2K23, the sophomore entry of like a very long franchise, is getting close to release real soon.
I had some hands-on time with the upcoming golf game, hoping to see how much this entry will improve. In some parts, I feel it’s heading to a good place. But keep expectations tempered on what’s being added and improved- despite the extra year of development, the level of improvements and additions still feel like what you’d expect from an annual iteration.
First, the new 3-click swing option. For old-school golf game fans who prefer this method, or for those who find the analog stick swing option to be hard or inaccessible, it’s a great addition.
It works as it was explained previously, requiring the first click to be a button hold (to determine swing power) and the next two clicks will affect how the ball swings- a hook, a slice or a straight shot as intended.
PGA Tour 2K23 has added more to the MyPlayer customisation. You get more options to create your custom character this time- though I argue it’s still not as robust enough.
Don’t expect to be able to recreate just about any other person, but you can create an ideal-looking male and female golfer.
Go to the Pro Shop and you should see more apparel choices with more brands. From simple polos to loud shorts, and even a kilt, there are more ways to show some swag at the tee. Heck, you can even save a four-day outfit loadout, should you wish to rock to the clubhouse in new attire for every different day of a golf tournament.
And expect more apparel unlocks should you invest in a clubhouse pass, this game’s battle pass. There is a free and premium tier, but you really have to get the premium tier if you want the freshest drip- for male and female golfers.
If you prefer the more zany cosmetics, those are still around. Want your putter head to be a flamingo head or the shape of a taco? Sure, why not.
There’s also a new way to customise your golfer and that’s the new skill trees and archetypes.
Archetypes change the base stats of your golfer to suit a particular playing style. A Greensman excels at sinking putts at the cost of weaker swing. A rhythm golfer has decent overall swing but lacks power to drive the ball to distance. The five archetypes can be switched at any time.
And then there are the skills, which are tied to the club type. Most of them act as situational buffs that either help you when you’re in trouble or get you to finish the hole easier after performing well.
The effects are subtle- like a “putt path boost”- to the point that I haven’t seen any of them trigger or affected my game. It’s not too overpowered to the point that upsets the hardcore fans, but too subtle for a casual player like me to notice.
Clubs and golf balls can also be customised and the appearance and stat improvements are separate equips. The set of Callaway or TaylorMade or Mizuno irons and it’s all cosmetic. What changes the attributes are “fits”, that change the stat balance of your clubs- so it improves on one attribute at the cost of the other.
Gameplay-wise, expect the solid golf game from 2K21 is in 2K23. The presentation in MyCareer is great with the TV-style camera angles, the courses look beautiful and the dynamic commentary is on-point.
In one of the tournaments I participated in MyCareer, a fully-rendered model of a BMW car, the sponsor of the tournament, is placed right at the first hole, for example. As you’d expect from the real-life PGA Tour event.
A cool thing you can do in MyCareer is the ability to swap the courses of some rounds to your liking. You can put in a course you want rather than suffer through one you loathe.
You can start a rivalry against another pro player, attempting to beat them at the tournament for rewards. And you can sign for sponsors too.
But for the most part, it feels familiar to the last game’s career mode.
On the casual front, PGA Tour 2K23 introduces TopGolf. It’s an actual real-life place where you can go swing some balls in. And it’s effectively a golf mini-game to test your swing accuracy. It’s not all about driving the ball the furthest, there are various holes that you can sink the ball in. Some will be highlighted that scores bigger points for that shot. The best score after 10 shots win.
TopGolf works best as a party mode with multiple players- you can have up to four players compete. But there is value for solo players- something to unwind from after the more serious MyCareer mode, or a good way to gamify your practice and improve your swings.
All in all, the new additions to PGA Tour 2K23 look to be of value, and I haven’t mentioned that more pros, including Tiger Woods, are in the game and playable.
But is it enough? I still come away feeling the new feature and additions for this year’s entry haven’t really rocked the boat enough, and the improvements haven’t really addressed the previous game’s issues in full just yet.
While I’m not fully impressed, I applaud the developers’ efforts seen in this year’s title. This game has a bit more trimming outside of its already solid gameplay from 2K21. Though don’t expect any major shake-ups other than that new swing option.
But still, PGA Tour 2K23 is shaping up to improve upon its debut game in many ways. For golf fans and golf game fans that’s been pining for a new one, this one is likely to deliver what you craved.
PGA Tour 2K23 will be out on October 14 for the PS4, PS5, PC (Steam), Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.
Played on PC. Preview build provided by the publisher
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