On Aug. 21, a major PGA Tour video game title will make its return to the market when PGA Tour 2K21 drops for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
HB Studios, which has produced The Golf Club franchise, is heading up the project for 2K and earlier this week they hosted a virtual press preview event that Uproxx attended to offer details about will be in the game as well as some gameplay preview. For gamers that have been waiting for a PGA Tour video game to make a return, there’s plenty to get excited about. Let’s get into everything you need to know about PGA Tour 2K21, including game modes, who and what is in the game, customization options, microtransactions, and much more.
What golfers are in PGA Tour 2K21?
A dozen PGA Tour pros got scanned into the game, headlined by cover athlete Justin Thomas and (pre-beefed up) Bryson DeChambeau. The pros serve as your rivals in your MyCareer, with various challenges to clear to beat them, unlocking prizes along the way. Players were given 360-degree facial scans but their swings were not scanned and no motion capture work was done for this edition.
What courses are in the game?
There are 15 officially licensed courses that will be in PGA Tour 2K21 upon launch. Detroit Golf Club is also in process of being scanned and created and will be added after the game’s release, with plans for at least one more course addition.
Atlantic Beach Country Club
Copperhead Course (Innisbrook)
East Lake Golf Club
Quail Hollow Club
Riviera Country Club
TPC Deere Run
TPC River Highlands
TPC San Antonio
TPC Twin Cities
How will the courses play?
We spoke with lead designer Shaun West of HB Studios about the course scanning process, which they promise will provide the most realistic gameplay a golf game has ever seen. In partnership with Terra Imaging through a process that took three months per course, the courses were scanned by drones, providing HD video as well as terrain details, to allow the studio to create exact replicas of the courses.
“The process that they use for scanning the courses flying drones over it, taking photogrammetry and video and combining all that information into 3D data that we could then optimize and put into our course designer really let us take the product to the next level,” West said of the process, which began with The Golf Club 19. “We’ve taken that a step further this time using that process with all of our courses we’re launching in 2K21.”
Previous games have had green scans to replicate the undulations of the putting surfaces, but with the Terra Imaging process, HB Studios is able to bring a more complete course to the player. As anyone who has played Sawgrass or East Lake or any of these courses can attest, the course designers put painstaking detail into the sloping of fairways and bunkering to make the course play as desired, and that hasn’t always translated to video game golf.
“We wanted to take this step and make sure that it wasn’t just the greens, we were stepping back from there to the bunkers and the fairways and even the tee boxes,” said West. “We wanted to make sure the elevation changes and all of those nuances in the fairways, like those lumps and bumps that you see, they’re easy to forget if you’re just looking at photo reference to build a course. So, this scanning process allows us to map the entire square footage area of the course. It’s literally everything. We clean up some trees and noise that might be on the course to flatten out those areas, but in general we’ve got very precise data for everything from the tee to green and it’s been a huge success thus far.”
The gameplay video we’ve seen has shown the fruits of that labor, as there’s not just general sloping to fairways, but a very real look to them and how the mounds and dips effect tee shots and lies.
What does the gameplay look like?
You can check out a brief clip of how putting functions here. In general, it looks very clean and, with the caveat of everyone having that one swing, quite realistic.
Who announces the game?
Luke Elvy and Rich Beem are in the booth, with John McCarthy as the on-course reporter.
What does the MyCareer mode look like?
Starting with Q-School on the Korn Ferry Tour, your player (which can be fully customized with facial features, hair, accessories, etc., BUT will not include facial scanning options) will begin their PGA Tour career. The season runs for 30 tournaments, playing the 15 licensed courses in the game as well as some other courses that were created and imported from The Golf Club 19, and ending with the Tour Championship at East Lake. You gain sponsorship deals as you go along, as well as competing with your aforementioned rivals. The MyCareer mode was the focal point of this edition of the game — along with online play and the course designer (!) which we’ll get to and more.
You gain XP and VC throughout your career to add more gear and clubs — VC can also be purchase.
So, more microtransactions?
Yes, in the sense that it’s an option, but as they told it to us it won’t matter a ton. For one, all players stay at the same level and all have the same swing, which is to say you don’t increase skills through XP or VC boosts. On top of that, while the clubs all have various attributes, they attempted to balance them to where any club with a certain strength (say, distance) also has a weakness (like, forgiveness) so that buying new equipment does not automatically make your player better. As such, players are rewarded for working their way up to new equipment, but there isn’t a prohibitive advantage to dropping major money on VC.
That’s good news, but how does one make it more challenging or get better?
There are six preset difficulty modes, ranging from Rookie to Legendary, that will make the game easier or harder — and customizing difficulty settings is also an option. These will impact swing sensitivity and forgiveness for errors with your swing, how much the rough and other conditions impact the ball and more. Playing at a higher difficulty will also give you an XP multiplier for each round.
OK, so about that course designer note. That sounds really cool. How’s it work?
It is very cool! The course designer allows you to fully build your own course, either through beginning templates or by starting with a totally blank canvas of a property. There are various themes to begin with — like desert and tropical — and literally thousands of different objects, trees, bushes, hazards, ponds, lakes, bunkers, and other assets you can add to your course. New to this year’s game compared to The Golf Club 19 is the ability to put any object in any course — rather than being confined to objects from your chosen “theme.” Once you finish building a course, that will be uploaded to the PGA Tour 2K21 community and available to play on all platforms. It’s going to be maybe the best part of the game, and surely the part that will keep players coming back for more even once they’ve mastered the 15 courses in the game.
You also mentioned online play, what will that look like?
There are two ways to play online. One is through online matchmaking, which will allow you to drop into matches (of various formats) against players from all over — NOTE: there is no crossplay, so you can only play against those on the same platform. You can play stroke play, match play, skins, alternate shot, and, new to this year’s game, 4-player scrambles.
The other option is to create or join a Society, which is really the hallmark of The Golf Club franchise. This allows you to run your own club with friends online (or open one to the public) and create tournaments, play matches with others in your Society. For those that don’t want to operate a club, you can simply join one — there will be massive, open to all societies available to join.
Let’s go back to customization. What brands have products in the game?
A number of the major club manufacturers and clothing lines in golf are available — with some notable exceptions like Titleist, Ping, Nike, and others.
Polo Ralph Lauren
Grand Slam Performance
Can I customize my swing?
No. As they explain it, the focus on this year’s game was on the career mode, online play, and getting all of the courses replicated as best as possible. As such, they updated their standard swing in the game, but that is the lone option. That said, the training mode does allow you to perfect your swing and calibrate your joystick (right stick is the swing stick) to ensure your transition is smooth, as fast or slow transitions lead to draws and fades, respectively.
What are the swing control options?
The game allows for a number of swing control options to allow players to make the swing they want at any given time. You can shape your shot right or left (left bumper + left joystick) to hit draws and fades, with your swing tempo also factoring in. You also can change your attack angle to create more or less spin, as well as partial swings, which you’ll have to control with your backswing, which will be assisted by a percentage bar at the bottom that will show you the preferred range to draw the club back for the distance you’ve chosen.