This year’s NHL 15 is EA Sports Rory McIlroy PGA Tour. The gameplay is fantastic in the moment, and everyone can play it thanks to a few simple control schemes. But there’s a lacklustre, shallow sports game underneath the swinging, putting, and aesthetics. There’s no way around it.
And it’s a shame because the game gets off to a great start thanks to the high production rates that are instantly apparent. Character models’ clothing wrinkles, professional golfers seem incredibly lifelike, and authentic courses like Chambers Bay and St. Andrews feel like a virtual tour of the real thing.
And the good doesn’t have to end with the aesthetics; golfing has never felt so good. There are three different control schemes to choose from: Arcade, Classic, and Tour. Returning players will probably be most familiar with Arcade; the shot range is determined by how far you pull the analogue stick back, and the accuracy is determined by how straight your motion is. Classic, on the other hand, reinstates the three-click swing and decides the accuracy of your shot. If you want to get serious, try Tour controls, which take into account the pace of your follow through and backswing and don’t have any extras like ball spin or zoom. Quick rounds are also worth mentioning, as they allow you to complete a four-round tournament in the time it would take you to complete 18 holes. Because of the Frostbite 3 engine, there are no load times between holes, which is a bonus.
Unfortunately, that’s where the majority of the good comes to an end. Although the included courses look and play fantastically, there aren’t as many as there were in the previous instalment of the series. So, while the scenic vistas of the Pacific Northwest or the historical links of Scotland may appeal to you, you’ll grow tired of playing the same holes after a while. After a few rounds, even fantasy courses like the one based on the Battlefield map Paracel Storm become stale.
Look no further than career mode to see how stripped-down EA Sports Rory McIlroy PGA Tour really is. You’ll begin by creating your player, selecting from a disappointing list of preset faces and deciding if he or she is a prodigy, a college star, or a teacher hoping to make it big on the tour. You’ll choose your outfits and clubs before heading to the next tour stop. But that’s about the extent of the personalization. Your XP will be added up after each round, but you will not be able to select where it will be distributed. Want to have the putting prowess of Tiger Woods from the early 2000s or Dustin Johnson’s driving prowess? Hopefully, the system would assign the XP to the appropriate categories. You’ll play in the BioWare Classic at a made-up course rather than The Masters at Augusta National due to a shortage of authentic courses. Furthermore, you won’t be able to see how much money you earned from an event (not that money matters in this game), you won’t be able to search a tournament’s full leaderboard, and you won’t be able to look ahead and see future tournaments on your calendar.
Golf Without Boundaries
The absence of meat on the bones does not end there. Do you want to play as Bubba Watson or Tiger Woods for a fast 18 this time? You can’t do it. With a few buddies, want to play a game of alternate shot or Bingo Bango Bongo? You can’t do it. Want to join a country club online or start your own? Sorry, but you won’t be able to. To be honest, the feature strip feels cheap – particularly after the series took a year off to update to new-gen and rebrand itself as ‘Golf Without Limits,’ a taunting rather than enticing tagline.
If the shallow career mode and vapid Play Now choices become too much for you, try out the latest Night Club Challenges, which allow you to practise your target shooting at night on neon-lit courses. It’ll also give you a break from the new team of Rich Lerner and Frank Nobilo’s monotonous commentary. Although the replacements for Jim Nantz and David Feherty provide in-depth and interesting previews, they often offer the wrong lines for situations. Rich will start complaining about how frustrating your whole round has been if you are four-under on the day and hit one bad shot. Also, don’t drive a putt too far past the hole, or you’ll get the “Wow, he hit that one like a plumber!” line over and over.