It’s been two years since 2K made its debut in the golf video game business, and as such, there was some excitement about how they would build off of their very strong first entry, PGA Tour 2K21.
They got Tiger Woods to be the cover athlete, added more PGA Tour and LPGA Tour pros to their roster to be available to play in the game, and struck deals with a few more club and apparel companies, but the hope that the game would really expand in its second edition two years later just didn’t materialize. PGA Tour 2K23 is very similar to the first offering, with the same positives and negatives to the last edition.
We’ll start with the positives. The one thing that really makes this game stand out to its competition is the course creator. It’s the star of 2K and HB Studios’ offering, the best part of the game for every golfer who has believed they could construct a great course — or for those who want to get really weird. You can get lost in the course creator for days changing the smallest details in an effort to create your masterpiece, and it really is an impressive course building engine.
From a gameplay perspective, it’s still a game that can be as difficult as you want it to be, mirroring the maddening line all golfers toe between playing well and playing poorly. That remains a positive, to me, as it’s a game that keeps you coming back to try and improve in a way previous golf games didn’t because of how easy they are to master. You truly do have to think your way around a course and consider everything from the slope of the fairway to the wind to the elevation, which is what makes golf … golf.
However, 2K23 still has the same issues on the course as the previous game, where the rough and sand are far too penalizing and every course playing as if it were a US Open venue. Being able to hit shots only 65-70 percent of your normal distance out of the rough isn’t realistic on most PGA Tour courses, and if they just bumped that to 75-80 percent for heavy rough, it’d remain a challenge but not make some approaches impossible in a way that’s just not the case for PGA Tour players.
The swing system is almost identical to what was in 2K21, with the same issue of not being able to build a unique swing, just working within the one stock swing built into the game. It’s a disappointment considering the additions of so many pros to the game, as there’s nothing about their golf games that differentiate them. The tempo changes from full swings to the varying shot types you’ll hit around the green are maddening to figure out. That may not be a terrible thing, but beware that you’ll chunk some chips and bunker shots in baffling ways when you thought you made a decent stroke.
Overall, it’s still a good golf game with a few flaws, but for fans hoping for something like more expansion of the career mode, there’s not a ton. The best improvement is the addition of a badge system similar to NBA 2K. Figuring out your player and club builds are, genuinely, a great part of the game, as you can tinker with varying elements to try and make your player fit your style as best as possible—- it’s something of a middle ground for the inability to build a unique swing.
Beyond that, though, there’s not much to say about the career mode. You still play your “rival” heads up, one tournament at a time, trying to beat them to win some gear. Your sponsors don’t even so much as provide you with a base set of gear, but after you reach each tier, you get a random piece of equipment or accessory. The lack of majors — which all have a deal with EA Sports — remains a bit of a bummer, as does the lack of diversity of courses, as you have the various TPCs and then a bunch of created courses that fill in the gaps on the schedule.
The reality right now is that we have two golf games that have half of the formula for a great game, and as long as exclusive rights deals exist, I’m not sure we’ll ever get the complete experience. EA Sports’ return to the golf gaming arena will bring the four majors back as well, including all of the major championship courses we’re accustomed to playing in a game, headlined by Augusta National. 2K, meanwhile, has an incredible course creator engine and far superior gameplay to the EA games of the past, which leaves one to wonder if EA’s offering will be able to match that quality when it returns next spring.
All told, PGA Tour 2K23 is a good but incomplete golf game. If you have 2K21, you’re really not missing out on anything other than you can play as Tiger (or Michael Jordan or Stephen Curry) in quick play — but even then, it’s just a Tiger skin of the same golfer as all the rest. If you don’t and want to get a golf game, it’s a more than worthwhile investment. Maybe their next edition will open up the world further, but right now, we have a very similar game with a few updates and new faces.