Monday, October 24, 2022.
by Adam Dileva

PGA TOUR 2K23 Box art HB Studios has made a name for themselves ever since their debut The Golf Club title back in 2014, making for a very simulation version of Golf. Eventually they partnered up with 2K and now and are the developers behind the latest PGA Tour 2K23, as there was a year break in-between the last release, PGA Tour 2K21. I quite enjoyed PGA Tour 2K21, so I was excited to see what would be added and improved with this year’s iteration, and while the addition of Tiger is a huge deal, it seems 2K has started to slowly add their monetization model as well this year. One of the bigger changes is how there’s been a major menu overhaul, so it’ll look a bit different from the previous version.

To begin your golfing career you can decide to start competing in the beginner Korn Ferry Tour, or jump straight into the competitive big leagues in the PGA Tour, aiming once again to win the FedEx Cup. You’ll create your own MyPLAYER creation and then compete and go head to head against some of the biggest names in Golf such as Tiger Woods, Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson and more while also taking on some rivals. As you compete and hopefully win each tournament, you’ll be earning points and hopefully cementing your legacy as this season’s greatest golfer when you raise that FedEx Cup above your head and go to compete in The Players Championship.

Speaking of rivals, it’s an interesting addition, allowing you to choose between two or three different rivals shown, but there’s really not all that much else to it. All you need to do to beat your rival is outscore them, and that’s it. There’s no special rewards for doing so, so major money gain, no special clubs or gear. You simply win and get told good job basically. Kind of a disappointment, so I’m hoping this is further expanded in future iterations.

There's a handful of different tournaments you’ll compete in with your MyPLAYER during the Career, such as the WM Phoenix Open, The Genesis Invitational, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and more, but there are a handful of notable omissions, like The Masters. To win these tournaments though you’ll need to not only have skills on the links, but will start off by creating your MyPLAYER and choosing from one of the five new archetypes that act as a ‘class’ or specialty of sorts.

With these archetypes you can choose from Powerhouse (Not great at the short game, but will blast the ball from the tee further than anyone else), Rhythm (A great all-rounder. Not impressive in any area in particular, but consistent), Sculptor (Can easily finesse their shots around obstacles and has great control, but won’t do well on the green), Woodsman (Can easily ‘fix’ a shot that’s in the rough), and lastly the Greensman which is what I specialized in (Won’t win any records off the tee but will absolutely make up for it on the green with unmatched putting skills).

I wasn’t sure what I would think about the whole archetype system, but being able to choose one of make up for where your skills lack or further improve what you’re good at was an interesting touch. On top of this addition, you will also be able to further improve your golfer with Skill Points and Fittings. Skill Points are earned by leveling up, allowing you to improve certain aspects of your game, categorized between Assist Skills, Zone Skills and Passive Skills. I wanted my golfer to be a putting master, so that’s where I decided to use my Skill Points as I earned them. These give you bonuses and activate and deactivate automatically based on the ones you have and situations you find yourself in.

You’ll also have Sponsors that will give you offers after each round, offering balls, clubs and apparel based on the brand. You can decide to stick with certain ones or switch whenever there’s a new opportunity, but there may be consequences from switching sponsors constantly or too often.

As you begin your MyPLAYER career, you’ll need to first begin by creating them however you see fit, deciding to try and replicate them after your own likeness or trying to recreate the appearance of someone else. While there’s a handful of options, it’s certainly not the most robust player creator out there either. Once they look exactly how you want you would then choose your archetype listed above before hitting the links. While previously you were only able to compete against the actual Pro’s, this time you can play as them in other modes which is always exciting.

With twenty licensed courses included at launch, there are some noteworthy omissions, but still enough variety to keep you entertained. The twenty courses are Atlantic Beach Country Club, Bay Hill Golf Club & Lodge (Arnold Palmer Course), Copperhead (Innisbrook), Detroit Golf Club, East Lake Golf Club, Quail Hollow Club, Riviera Country Club, St George’s Golf and Country Club, The Renaissance Club, TPC Boston, TPC Deere Run, TPC Louisiana, TPC River Highlands, TPC San Antonio, TPC Sawgrass, TPC Scottsdale, TPC Southwind, TPC Summerlin, TPC Twin Cities and Wilmington Country Club (South Course).

While almost every golf game player has gotten used to the analog swing controls that were introduced years ago, 2K has reintroduced a 3-Click swing in PGA Tour 2K23 which was a welcome addition. As for analog swing controls, it’s as you’ve come to expect over the years, starting your swing by pulling down on the Right Stick then upwards afterwards with how straight you do so determining your shot’s path. These controls seem a little more difficult than previous year, needing to be very accurate or else you’ll slice severely.

I was excited to learn that there’s a 3-Click swing control scheme that has been brought back. This emulated the old-school golf game controls, and while it has its own challenges like the Analog swing, I really preferred it. With the 3-Click, you’ll see a large circular power meter in the bottom right corner, so after you aim your shot where you want the ball to land, this is where you’ll be staring at intensely once ready to swing. Start your shot by holding ‘A’, this will start to fill the circle from the middle outwards. The circular white ring is your ideal power based on where you aimed and if you put it into the red it will give a little extra power, but will be much harder to do the subsequent clicks for accuracy. Once you’ve hit ‘A’ to choose the power you want, a bar will start going counter clockwise around the circle. There’s a small green section you’re aiming for at ’12 o’clock’ and another at ‘6 o’clock’. Hit in these two green areas and you’ll have a perfectly straight shot, but the further you miss the small section the more your shot will slice based on where you stopped the moving line. The best part is that this control scheme stays constant, regardless if you’re hitting off the tee with your driver, using an iron, pitching or even putting. It’s great to have a classic control scheme back and was probably the best new addition to PGA Tour 2K23 that I enjoyed.

Given that this is a 2K game, you can expect some sort of storefront or way to entice you to open your wallet more, even after purchasing a full priced game. This is where the Clubhouse Pass comes into play. While everyone has access to the ‘free’ version by default, it won’t give you any worthwhile rewards, which is where the paid versions come in. Think of this like a Battle Pass or Season Pass, as the content will be refreshed every 10-12 weeks, allowing you to work towards unlocking new bonuses, items and more. As you earn XP you’ll reach new tiers which unlocks said items.

There’s three different tiers: Free (No purchase necessary), Clubhouse Pass Premium ($9.99 USD – Giving you the opportunity to unlock the 50 tiers of content as you level) and Clubhouse Premium Pass Plus ($19.99 USD – Basically the same as Premium, but you’re automatically granted the first 20 Premium rewards as a skip). It’s quite a grind to get through all 50 tiers, but was incredibly disappointing that the Free version of Clubhouse Pass is basically useless. There’s only a few rewards you can get being on the Free version, and even those aren’t all that great when you see what you could be earning compared to Premium.

There’s a Pro Shop where you can but new gear and apparel, but one of the biggest changes is that gear and apparel don’t have stats tied to them in 2K23. You earn money from winning Tournaments and matches, but it’s such a low amount that it’s almost embarrassing. You just won a huge tournament? Enjoy your couple hundred dollars. Just beat Tiger Woods as your rival? Enjoy your couple hundred bucks. Want to buy a new club or a cool looking shirt or hat? You better start grinding as the costs are much more than that. You can expect a slew of real world brands for all your clubs and clothing from Air Jordan, Adidas, Bridgestone Golf, Ben Hogan, Callaway, Cobra, Cuater, Ecco, FootJoy, Goodr, Hugo Boss, Linksoul, Mizuno, Nike, Original Penguin, PING, PUMA, Royal & Awesome, Skechers, TaylorMade, Tattoo Golf, Titleist, TravisMathew and Wilson. The gear will rotate on a daily and weekly basis, but keep in mind it’s all cosmetic now, not tied to performance.

Where the performance increase come into play is what’s called Fittings. These are basically attachments for your clubs and specialty balls. This is how you can modify your favorite clubs by adding these Fittings to them, changing their stats positively and negatively. There are three slots Fittings can go on the clubs: Head, Shaft and Grip. There’s tiers of Fittings as well, from grey colored commons all the way up to much more expensive and rare ones. It’s an interesting system, though you’ll need to grind to get the best Fittings if you want to be competitive online. Of course the Fittings cost in-game money to attach to your clubs, and to put a Fitting onto all of your clubs costs quite a bit, which is where the lack of earning any reasonable amount of cash winning matches becomes an issue unless you constantly grind.

There are also Fittings for your golf balls, acting more like a useable power-up in a way. The issue I have here is that these balls only last for one round and are consumable, and these can make a drastic difference with the higher end balls. This means if you want to be ultra-competitive online, you’re going to need to use your Legendary balls and then of course spend more money to purchase more. This kind of put a sour taste in my mouth, as you might not be able to do as well as someone else because they choose to use the better balls, not simply have better skills.

Being able to save replays of your best shots is always welcome, though for some reason the majority of my replays when they do the TV style focused on me shooting, the camera tended to always focus on the wrong thing, like having it stay focused on me after I hit the ball instead of following it to the hole, or watching the ball in a weird angle where you can’t see how impressive the shot really was because it was simply following it in the sky instead of in relationship to where I took it from.

Course Designer returns and is as robust as ever, allowing you to create the course or hole of your dreams. The tools you’re given are plentiful, as you could make any type of course you want and then be able to share it online with the community to play. I’m sure it won’t take long for people to recreate famous courses that aren’t included in the core game, but I’ve also seen some absolutely wild and unique creations that you could would only see in a game. I did find the controls for the designing to be a little confusing and convoluted, but I’m sure with some time and practice it would make more sense.

While Golf is a solo sport, playing with or against others is where the real entertainment comes in. Online Societies return from 2K21 vastly unchanged. This is where you can basically make a group or club for you and your friends, or anyone really, to join and compete in hand crafted tournaments. Make the rules, handicaps and plenty of other options; your society, your rules. I was hoping for this to be improved from 2K21, but it’s really no different.

Of course you can choose to play online against friends or anyone else, playing in Stroke Play, Skins, Alt-Shot, 4-Player Scramble and the always interesting, Divot Derby. Divot Derby is almost like a race, with players all teeing off simultaneously with the first golfer to make it to the ninth hole and sink the putt first winning. New though is an arcade game called Topgolf. This is a 4 player driving range style of drive-off where everyone has 10 balls to score as many points as possible based on where the ball lands in the colored targets. Each shot there’s a special target that will net you double or triple points, and there’s a very strict time limit, so you can’t spend much time aiming or else you won’t be able to shoot all ten balls. The player with the most points in the end wins.

Visually, PGA Tour 2K23 looks as you’d expect for a recreation of the Golf sport. The courses and details on the greens and fairways looks fantastic, as does the backdrops. I’ll be honest, I was expecting a bit more playing on an Xbox Series X, as the players themselves look decent, but not amazing, and the crowd nearby watching shots are lifeless and have no detail. Of course the official Pro players are instantly recognizable, but your created MyPLAYER can stand out like a sore thumb beside them at times. There is a Quality/Performance option for the visuals on an Xbox Series X depending on your preference.

As for the audio, it’s also as you would expect with solid commentary, but I’m not sure how many new lines were recorded, as I could tell some of the lines I heard hundreds of times in 2K21 was repeated here. I also eventually got a weird bug where my commentary was echoing, unable to fix this in everything I tried. Your swings and that hit of the ball off the tee sounds wonderful, as does hearing a huge divot come from the rough as you try and land in a Pitch shot for birdie.

Being able to choose your caddy that you’ll see now and then between shots and holes is a cool touch, though I would I could have fully customized them like my own golfer. The lack of particular golfers and courses is still 2K23’s shortcoming, just as it was in 2K21. Yeah it’s cool we again get to compete for the FedEx Cup, but players want to compete for that green jacket in the Masters and play on some of the most infamous courses out there.

PGA Tour 2K23 may have skipped a year, and maybe that’s where my expectations were higher than they should have been, but there’s really not a massive upgrade from 2K21 overall. Yes the gameplay is still solid and I really loved the addition of the 3-Click Swing, but the heavy microtransactions and a useless Free Clubhouse Pass is a bit of a turnoff and shows 2K’s influence on the great HB Studios.

**PGA Tour 2K23 (Tiger Woods Edition) was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 7.9 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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