For video games focusing on sports, there is always the problem of trying to balance the realism of the experience and making gameplay fun, and depending on your preference; there are always vastly different results. Yet, in 2K and HB Studios’ PGA Tour 2K23, it is a happy marriage of the two resulting in likely one of the best golf games ever made.
On the simulation side of things, players can expect realism out on the course, whether it be the ball physics, the shaping of your shots, as well as an increased focus on both your swinging rhythm and path. Everything any fan loves about the sport of golf is quite authentically recreated in PGA Tour 2K23, and that’s not all.
Throw in the arrival of playable pros led by none other than Tiger Woods, a vastly improved MyCareer mode, progression systems that matter, a robust multiplayer ecosystem online, and the always fun Topgolf party experience, and it all makes a nifty package that will satisfy most for a long time.
Even at first glance, the benefits of taking a two-year gap between PGA Tour 2K23 and 2K21 are immediately apparent. It is not often that we see sports games take a break from the annualised cycle, but if the improvements are as significant, it should be an approach embraced by the very fans of such franchises.
Take the swinging mechanics in PGA Tour 2K23 as an example, which has always been one of the series’ strongest calling cards due to HB Studios’ pedigree. Not only are you still getting that thrill of hitting the perfect shot, but it is made all the better this year with the new swing meter and three-click mechanic to cater to different playstyles.
From a user interface perspective, it is now much more intuitive to find the perfect sweet spot using the swing meter, making perfect timing and followthrough easier and more consistent for those that take the time to master it. For those looking for a less technical-heavy approach, the three-click way of hitting the ball should suffice as well.
The first click sets the power for any particular shot as you hold down the button, with the subsequent two clicks determining the accuracy and the rhythm involved by stopping a line in two designated areas in a circle. Land everything perfectly, and watch the ball sail through the air. It is still evoking that arcade feel to things, but it is much more involved and relatively technical, which makes it a good companion to the analog swing system.
Even with these two seemingly distinct ways of playing the game, that same commitment to balance remains. Both methods can be further tweaked with six difficulty levels, so even the more arcade-like three-click system can get increasingly complex. Thankfully, the inclusion of an excellent Training mode offers multiple ways to develop skills, including swing calibration, lessons, chipping practice, a driving range and a putting green. Be it pros or rookies, you are getting all the help you’ll need to be good at golf.
In general, PGA Tour 2K23 is further bolstered on the green with general improvements around the board. Putting feels much more true, so there are fewer instances of perfect approaches being scuppered by a surprising lip out. It also pays to maintain a consistent and generally stable swing, for bad swings are going to be more damaging, but at the same time, there is also a bigger window for players to recover by making good shots.
Beyond the underlying systems, PGA Tour 2K23’s offerings of game modes are all quite entertaining. MyCareer will likely be where most players will spend their time in, and this mode will give you plenty of reasons to stick around. Just like before, you will be charting a course for the big leagues starting at the bottom, obtaining cash, sponsors, and items, while also enjoying meaningful progression brought about by new additions.
Each club type now features different skill trees in which earned skill points can be applied to provide a nice boost based on certain situations. Although there are set conditions required for these bonuses to take effect, the fact is that good play is always being rewarded, and your improvement as a player should see such benefits, even if it is not always apparent.
In addition, players can further augment their strengths or shore up their flaws by using the Archetype function. Each chosen Archetype comes with vastly different pros and cons, and can be adjusted at any time to suit the course you are playing on. If being a one-trick pony is your best chance of getting a win, by all means, make your choice and exploit your advantage.
Another way to further improve your game is through fittings, where clubs can be modified to get better stats. The usual way of getting these game-changing modifications is by beating rivals in tournaments, but PGA Tour 2K23 also allows you to purchase them in the in-game marketplace, which is not ideal at all. While you are more than welcome to enjoy the power that comes offline, going online and being flooded with boosted players might not be the best experience.
The same goes for the golf balls too, which feature modifications in the form of consumables that can be used for every round. When you are able to impact the four stats of spin, flight, bounce, and roll upwards to 60 points, there is no denying how much that can affect the game. Fortunately, you can ignore all of that if you wish, but the option being there is nonetheless worrying. As for the Clubhouse Pass, which is similar to battle passes, only having cosmetics up for grabs just adds another layer of progression to reward players, and as long as it stays that way, having a premium track above the free track is still generally acceptable.
Whether you choose to exploit the boosts or play things pure, you will be able to do so on a good list of official courses. Adding on the already existing courses in the previous entry, PGA Tour 2K23 adds Wilmington Country Club (South Course), The Renaissance Club, and St. George’s Golf to the mix. If that’s not exactly the breadth of additions you were hoping for, the course creator remains the best option to expand the selection, and judging from the creations thus far, the scene is vibrant and alive.
Unfortunately, on the tournaments side of things, The Masters, US Open, PGA Championship, and The Open are missing from the game, with only the FedEx Cup, the playoffs, and The Players Championship rounding up the base highlights.
Multiplayer is also a great avenue to spend some time golfing, with Online Societies likely to be a huge draw. Playing in clubs, learning the game, and testing yourself in tournaments against friends and foes can up the stakes compared to MyCareer, and it is largely a fuss-free affair. There’s also Topgolf if your crew is just free enough for some quick golf without going a full round.
The return of actual pros as playable selections in PGA Tour 2K23 will be good news for some of the community, and there are plenty of familiar and well-known faces to choose from. Tiger Woods is obviously the star attraction, but the likes of Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, and more bring the star power.
At the end of the day, there is no denying PGA Tour 2K23 has done everything right as the latest entry in a sports game franchise. Improvements have been made in all areas of the game; technical players are getting their money’s worth, while rookies need not fear having a high barrier of entry. Save for the slightly out-of-place consumable and pay-to-win mechanics, PGA Tour 2K23 would have been a hole-in-one, but in any case, we’ll settle for a birdie instead.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
PGA Tour 2K23 can easily make a case for being the best golf game ever made, and despite some questionable inclusions, we are inclined to agree whether you are a seasoned pro or someone new to golf.
Gameplay - 9/10
Presentation - 8.5/10
Geek Satisfaction - 9/10
Value - 8.5/10