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EA Sports PGA Tour Preview: Back into the swing of it

And we're hoping for a slow-mo power drive.

EA Sports PGA Tour is hoping to reignite the fabled franchise on current-gen consoles after a seven-year absence, and developers at EA Tiburon spoke to Stevivor on how they plan to achieve that.

Game Designer Ben Ramsour explained that PGA Tour will rely upon four key gameplay pillars: major tournaments, the world’s top golf courses, realistic gameplay and a robust career mode.

The path to the Masters

“Our game is the exclusive home of the Majors,” Ramsour continued. “By far, the number one most requested feature for our golf video game.”

Ramsour promised “the full breadth of championship golf — the pageantry, the stories, and the high stakes,” with “modern presentations packages” that will help to illustrate how each major tournament is unique and special.

As an example, the package for The Open Championship opens with an introduction by six-time victor Sir Nick Faldo.

The LPGA will also feature in PGA Tour, with the opportunity to compete at one of the LPGA’s major championships, the Amundi Evian Championship.

As we detailed in our EA Sports PGA Tour release date and pre-order bonuses post, EA also plans to tie post-launch content into golf’s biggest tournaments.

Golf’s top courses… right down to the azaleas

While tournaments are important to golf, it’s the courses that those spectacles are played upon that are arguably more important.

Ramsour said that EA Tiburon has worked closely “with former geologists to map each course” featured in PGA Tour — and there are 30 “bucket list courses” coming at launch — with “cutting edge… photogrammetry and GPS mapping tech utilising helicopters, airplanes and drones.”

Each course, developed inside EA’s proprietary Frostbite engine, possesses “a level of that [made] possible by the latest generation or gaming platforms,” Ramsour continued. Each location also has its own specific physics profile that aims to reflect ball behaviour as if you were playing on the real thing.

Ramsour pointed to Augusta National’s thirteenth hole, called Azalea, made famous by its multicoloured azalea flowers.

“Augusta’s botany team gave us access to their tree health software to ensure we properly placed every tree… that a user will see in our game,” he said.

“We’ve even talked with their superintendents about the different coloring of the azaleas at the exact time of The Masters.”

It’s not just PGA courses inside the game either; international favourites like St Andrews — the oldest golf course in the world — will feature alongside New Zealand’s Tara Iti and Canada’s Banff Springs.

It’s all about the shot

Next, Game Designer Craig Penner detailed EA Sports PGA Tour‘s Purestrike technology.

Designed to make gameplay “more authentic and immersive than ever before,” Penner said that Purestrike “provides unique golf swings with a fluid feel and realistic outcomes on every golf shot.”

A whopping 1,300 unique physics profiles power 20 different shot types. Players will use these combinations alongside different club types and points of impact upon the ball to produce myriad outcomes.

“What this means for you is that when you grab the controller and step behind the ball, your options are virtually unlimited,” Penner said, “allowing you to attack each course and each hole just like the pros you see on TV.

“Shot types add this wonderful new layer of depth to every shot so that as your mastery and understanding of each shot type grows, you’ll start to think and plan your way around the course.”

Using on-screen data like wind speed and direction, players will first select a club and line up their shot. The one control scheme shown in a hands-off gameplay demo focused around a swing arch — players will use a controller’s analogue stick to swing back and forth. As you’d expect, the better your timing is, the more precise your shot will be; you’re challenged to stop pulling backward and instead launching forward as your club hits the top of the arch.

Bit hit moments rewarding perfect timing will be instantly identifiable; if you manage to pull off the feat, time will slow and magical sparks will fly from your club and through your shot, all in celebration of your performance.

In something of an untested boast, Penner continued to say that “we actually expect certain pros will use the game to practice their putting in the run up to The Masters.”

Game-wide progression

Finally, EA Sports PGA Tour will feature “a career mode that gives users meaningful choices to build their golfer from the ground up in their quest for the championship,” said Ramsour.

It all begins with a create-a-player that provides male, female or gender neutral options.

“The unique game-wide progression system credits you at every turn, no matter where you play,” said Lead Producer, David Baker.

“As you play with your created player, you’ll earn XP to increase your golfer’s level and earn skill points,” he continued. “These skill points can be spent to increase your golfer’s ability, unlock new shot types with varying tiers and even more advanced strikes.”

In addition to career mode, PGA Tour will also offer online and offline matches and tournaments. Up to 16 players can take part in online modes; the one we were shown basically let each golfer play at the same time; opponents were shown as ghosts in comparison to your character. While that certainly sped up a game of golf, it was somewhat offputting to see another player suddenly pop-in on the green to take their shot as you’re trying to line up your own.

A challenge system will help to provide XP and keep the game feeling fresh, Baker added.

“Challenges are server-driven live updates based on what is happening in the real world,” he said.

“Replicating the highlights or historic moments with decades of historic data at our disposal from shot, link and other archives, we can create almost limitless challenges that capture golf’s rich history.”

EA Sports PGA Tour heads to Windows PC, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X and PS5 from 23 March 2023.

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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for close to fifteen years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.