Wednesday, January 27, 2021

PGA Tour 2K21 (NSW) Review

It's been a while since PGA Tour 2K21 released on the Nintendo Switch--but not nearly as long as it's been since the last PGA Golf game to hit a Nintendo platform! At launch, PGA Tour 2K21 was a bit buggy and prone to crashing. How has the game improved since launch? Let's find out with this special SPC review.

The Nintendo Switch finally gets into the swing of things with its first professional golf outing.

It has been over eight years since a Nintendo platform has had a professional golf game, the last of which was Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters on the Wii. Since then, if you were a Nintendo fan with a desire to take to the virtual links, then you weren't getting much--other than a Mario Golf game here and an indie romp there. A Nintendo fan wanting a realistic sim golf game? Well, you weren't getting anything at all! Now, with the Nintendo Switch, that dry spell ends with PGA Tour 2K21 from 2K Sports, and fortunately for Nintendo fans, this golf simulation lands on the green in regulation.

Rather than utilize a three-click system that is traditional for many golf games in the past--also notable in the arcade golf games Nintendo fans might be most familiar with like Mario Golf--PGA Tour 2K21 uses the analog stick entirely to putt, drive, and hit the ball. Pull back on the stick and then push it forward to hit the ball. However, you have to do so with the right rhythm, or else you'll find yourself with an errant shot due to swinging too fast or more commonly, at least for me, too slow--hooking the ball to the right. It took some getting used to, especially coming off of the three-click system having been drilled into my head for so long, but once I got over the initial small hump, I was driving, putting, and chipping like a pro. It helps that the game's interactive tutorials are present at the beginning of the game for players who wishes to utilize them, and for those that don't and wish to learn by playing a round themselves, that is an option available to you. The tutorials are always accessible in the menus regardless.

Be the ball. Na-na-na-na-na-na.
It wouldn't be a golf game review without a Caddyshack reference, would it?

Various settings in the game make it so you can customize how basic or difficult your experience out on the links is. You can move sliders up and down to determine how generous the game affords your swing timing, and you can even make it harder by playing by true simulation rules, where no distance indicator or overhead view is available to you. 2K Sports has brilliantly straddled a line between a game that is perfect for pros and/or those yearning for a strict simulation, and those who just want something that, like a 120 yard chip shot with a 9-iron, is approachable. Either way, you're bound to have a good time.

On higher difficulties, on-screen assists like this viewable putting line will be unavailable to you.

The main attraction of PGA Tour 2K21 is its robust career mode, offering players a chance to either start in the minors and work their way up the PGA Tournament, or start directly in the pros and play event to event, week to week. Either way, you're getting over two dozen events to play, though all of these are stroke-based events. Prior to each new year--and like the golfing sliders mentioned earlier--you can custom tailor your career via sliders by opponent, course, terrain, and even weather difficulties, as well as set how many rounds of each event you'll play. From there, it's playing each event each week. In the meantime, you can sign up with sponsors and attempt goals to earn various gear and equipment for your custom golfer, such as getting a certain number of birdies in a row, going a round without a bogey, or getting a high average drive in a round. 

The sun may be in my player's eyes, but a birdie is on his mind.

Speaking of your custom golfer, you have myriad options available to you to create your virtual you--or if you prefer, some other creation. Only male golfers are available, sadly, but what's here to customize otherwise is just fine and dandy. Everything from your upper body attire, pants, shorts, socks, jewelry, hats, and more have multiple pieces for you to go through and try on initially. You unlock more gear as you gain experience and from the aforementioned Sponsor Goals available in the career mode.

If you're not just content with being able to create your own golfer or satisfied with the multitude of real world golf courses available to you to play rounds on, you can also create your own golf courses. You can have the game generate a series of 18 holes in one of several themes and locales and edit it that way, or you can just start fresh and plop down your own creations your own way. The latter, however, takes a great deal of time and effort, due to Switch performance. Simply performing the act of plopping down an object takes about three seconds to generate on the course. It might not seem like much, but it certainly adds up when you're trying to make your course look more aesthetically pleasing. Then, there is an all-version issue with discovering courses, where the search system could provide some better tools to specify what types of created content you're looking for.

Customize your course in painstaking detail with the in-depth course creator.

On the subject of performance, the Switch version suffers quite a bit. Load times can be lengthy. However, I can happily say that once the game has loaded a course--whether custom created or one of the game's real life courses--there are no loading screens to be found mid-round. With that positive, comes another negative, and that is that the Switch version of PGA Tour 2K21 is, quite frankly, ugly as sin. While the golfer models aren't overly horrid (damning with feint praise, if I ever did so), the courses are particularly lifeless and drab due to poor texturing, jagged edges that you could cut your arm on, and a total lack of crowds--though the latter sort of ironically fits these pandemic times. The commentary is well done, as is the TV broadcast-like presentation, such as the pleasant and relaxing music between holes, and the cutaways to other professional players on the tour performing replay-worthy shots. 

While we're at the tropics, I certainly hope this isn't a day at the beach (read: the bunker)!

PGA Tour 2K21 for Nintendo Switch was a mess at launch with rampant bugs, many resulting in crashes, visual glitches, and otherwise reprehensible qualities to an otherwise quality game. It is my pleasure to report that in my 25 hours with the game, I only suffered one reported crash, and that was in the course creator. Thankfully, I save habitually in that mode, so nothing major was lost. 

No doubt those seeking the most visually impressive golf simulation will wish to seek PGA Tour 2K21 out on another platform of their choosing, but for Nintendo Switch owners who want a great simulation game of pro golf (or those who just want a portable pro golf game), PGA Tour 2K21 is it. I don't mean that in a "take it or leave it" sort of way, either. It's honestly a superb golf simulation, offering controls that can be tailored to suit both beginners and veterans of the genre (and of course everyone in between). Swinging the club feels fantastic, and the system incorporated into the game featured is fun and especially refreshing coming off decades of three clicks gauges and swing meters. For a terrific round of golf, don't pull out a Callaway club: pull out PGA Tour 2K21 on Nintendo Switch from your bag instead.

[SPC Says: B]

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