Review – PGA Tour 2K23
I have to say that I had high hopes for PGA Tour 2K23, especially after they decided to skip a year and get Tiger Woods back on the cover. It seemed like HB Studios and 2K were going to pull out all the stops and give us a really special golf game. Unfortunately, I may as well just put up my PGA Tour 2K21 review because besides a few changes and additions, this is largely the same game and not a lot of my critiques were addressed. I’m not going to go into full depth detail here since the gameplay remains the same, but I’ll talk about its minor tweaks.
The biggest addition to PGA Tour 2K23 is that they were able to get the likeness of far more professional players, still not all of them, but a decent chunk are present now. The biggest change is that unlike the last entry, you’ll now be able to play as the professionals instead of just play against them. There are also more licensed courses to play on which is great. Again, this is a good step forward, but with the power that 2K has in the sports world, especially in the NBA, this still feels bare minimum from where we should be.
The changes to MyCareer don’t seem like a good replacement or upgrade to what we already had. Like before, clothing does nothing to alter your stats, but now clubs don’t either. Instead, you’ll need to unlock Fittings that will be attached to your club head, shaft, and grip to increase its stats as well as ball sleeves that change shot stats. Each Fitting comes with its positives and negatives, but this is the only way to change your stats. Your player stats cannot be increased also, all you can do is pick between a list of archetypes. The archetypes: Greenspan will focus on putting, Powerhouse on power for driving distance, Woodsman for your recovery shots, Rhythm to help with your swing timing, and Sculptor for shaping shots and distance control. You cannot set points yourself which makes this system feel very restricted.
There is also a large perk system that you can spend perk points on after your level up. There is a perk tree for each major part of your game i.e. driving, putting, woods, irons etc. However, most of these seem like a waste and just tacked on to add more of an RPG feel. The perks go from giving you a positive boost if you play badly, to the next tier being a positive boost if you play well, and this goes back and forth for multiple tiers. For example, to activate the FIR Finder perk that gives “Normal shots receive a Shaping boost off the Tee”, you need to hit three fairways in regulation. If you miss a fairway after it’s activated, the perk is removed until you meet the requirements. The perks don’t tell you how much of a bonus there is, so there is no telling how it will actually effect your game.
Another system that got tweaked that I feel like is for the worse is the sponsorships. Just like the previous game, as you play you’ll have companies offering all sorts of deals. Here you can choose a specific sponsor for clothing, clubs, and balls. So if you want Callaway clubs or clothing, make sure you accept the sponsorship for the item you want to earn. Each sponsor will also have multiple tiers of unlocks that grant clothes, club attachments, and balls no matter what.
The biggest change to this, however, is that you can no longer choose the difficulty of the sponsors mini challenges. Before you could choose Easy, Medium, and Hard, and you would get rewarded more or less depending on the difficulty of the challenges. Now you just earn match XP towards the sponsorships and fill up a tier bar until you unlock something. Now you’re stuck with a small handful of in-game challenges, which makes it far less enjoyable since some holes won’t have a bonus.
The only real addition to the gameplay is that they now added a three click swing system where you no longer have to use the right stick to pull back and forward to swing. Now you simply hold the “X” button to increase power, then you tap “X” again for a line at the top, and then tap “X” again when it gets to the bottom. The idea is to have both lines at twelve and six for the most accuracy. If you tap too early or too late, you’ll hit a fade or draw and possibly lose power. Besides that, the gameplay remains largely the same.
Another addition is Topgolf. I love Topgolf, well, the real Topgolf, because the implementation here is stale and boring. The fun of real Topgolf is getting together with friends, drinking, eating, and playing fun golf minigames that non-golfers can still have fun with. However, in a video game where none of that is present and you golf like a pro anyway, Topgolf is just boring. There is only one mode to play as well, unlike real Topgolf. I feel like this was just a marketing advertisement more than a real thing with effort put into it.
My main issues with PGA Tour 2K23 are the same ones I had for ’21; there is just a lack of fun to the gameplay. Yes there are plenty of options to make it super easy, and I feel like they’re trying to add some of that arcade fun with the perk and attachment system, but none of it makes the game feel different while playing. You aren’t super leveling a character, or being able to do over the top fun challenges. It all still feels like a straight golf sim, which is great, but I would love some flavor, some fun presentation, but it’s still lacking in that department.
This gripe also bleeds into the visual presentation of the game also; it feels like a more boring version of televised golf. There are less player interactions, less crowd moments, and a less dynamic feeling than live sports. Where a video game can actually strive is in its style, but it’s just lacking that. When I overpower a shot and hit perfect accuracy, give me some sweet sound effects and a slow motion replay of that hit.
Speaking of replays, there is definitely a bug or something going on with the replay system, because it doesn’t work half the time. Too many times am I watching a replay and it will just stay focused on the player and not change to the ball, which is just boring.
Besides the lack of presentation, the visuals are crisp and clean for the courses, but still feel stale like the last game. Which is a shame especially after how much hype the WM Open got after that hole-in-one earlier this year, showing how excited and crazy the fans can be at that tournament. I just want a little bit of that feeling like the environments and crowds are real.
PGA Tour 2K23 is unfortunately just another iteration and not the evolution I was hoping it would be. Most of the changes to MyCareer seem to be a step back or even sideways, to where I was hoping it would go. The addition of extra pros and courses is fantastic, but still seems lacking compared to 2K’s other sports games. There is still a ton of growth to be had for this golf series, but if you still have 2K21, there isn’t really a need to upgrade unless you really want to play as a professional player and not just your career player.
Courses look nicely rendered, but stale with a lack of overall presentation.
Solid mechanics for the golf sim, but the perks system needs some rethinking.
The soundtrack is a standard country club elevator type music. The announcers do a decent job, but there is an awkward way they go from talking to you and then talking about you.
Great mechanics for a golf sim, however, the lack of presentation and “fun” side modes can make anything but playing the career mode boring.
Final Verdict: 7.5
PGA Tour 2K23 is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.
Reviewed on PS5.
A copy of PGA Tour 2K23 was provided by the publisher.