Electronic Arts are inarguably the biggest sports video game developers in the world. We have seen Madden, FIFA, NHL and UFC games come through their studio with the former three becoming yearly releases, coinciding with the beginning of their respective seasons. However, one of their first-ever officially licensed sports games was their pro-golf ‘PGA Tour’ video game series back in 1990.
EA Sports have been releasing instalments into the PGA Tour series since 1990, spanning over an incredible four decades. Their first instalment was available on the classic Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo and Amiga among others and the games’ realism was considered ground-breaking at the time. They released their second instalment two years later and from 1994 to 2013 they also became yearly released.
The popularity of the series reached heights so tall that Tiger Woods, likely the biggest star the sport has ever seen, leant his name and likeness to the game. For 15 years the official title was changed to ‘Tiger Woods PGA Tour…’ with Tiger himself featuring on the cover of every release. The longevity of the game means it has been available to play on every generation of Sony and Microsoft’s respective PlayStation and Xbox consoles.
Although every release has been greeted with excitement from fans, there has been some favourites among the bunch. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2012 was very popular amongst fans due to the fact that the Augusta National was added as a playable course. Along with the addition of a caddy, this modern instalment introduces Jim Nantz’s iconic voice to commentary and bought the game into a new era.
According to IGN though, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 is the highest rated entry into the video game series. It of course was not the first PGA tour game released but the changes made to this game started the modern-day golf simulation as we know it. It was upon this release that the developer perfected digital analog swing control, added legends like John Daly as playable characters, introduced a real-time events calendar and even gave players licensed in-game equipment to use such as Ping putters and Titleist balls.
After some 27 different releases of the video game, and a name change to reflect a new star in Rory McIlroy in 2015, developments of new games went on hiatus. EA provided several updates to keep the game fresh but ceased sometime in 2017. Video game publisher 2K released their own version of the game in 2020 but it just wasn’t quite the same. Then finally, in March 2021, EA Sports confirmed that a new title was in the works, and they were aiming for a release that coincided with the 2022 Masters.
The rumoured title of ‘Road To The Masters’ hinted at a career mode unlike ever before. Fans hoped they would be able to take to the Augusta with their own player and challenge the likes of Jordan Spieth. Spieth is currently amongst the favorites to take home the coveted Green Jacket this year according to 2022 Masters odds and in the latest game, fans will be able to see if they have what it takes to pip him to the post. The official press release promised players that “golf fans will be able to build their virtual career and experience the sights, sounds, and thrills of the PGA TOUR including THE PLAYERS Championship, FedExCup Playoffs and more unforgettable events”. Using the same Frostbite engine that was used to develop 2015’s ‘Rory McIlroy PGA Tour’, EA also promised “stunning fidelity, breathtaking immersive environments, and approachable, dynamic gameplay.”
Those hopes of a 2022 release were dashed recently however when EA announced that they would be delaying by a full year. Although no reason was given for the revised release date, additional information on the game was given such as the introduction of playable female golfers following EA’s partnership with the LGPA. “Through our PGA Tour and LPGA partnerships, all-new PGA Tour athlete tracking integration, and events like The Players Championship and FedExCup Playoffs, players will be able to get an all-access pass to pro championship golf like never before,” EA Sports general manager Cam Weber said.
With this release being tailor-made for the Xbox and PlayStation next-gen consoles, the gameplay is expected to be better than ever and will be complemented by the 4K visual capabilities of the respective consoles. They also announced that this will be ‘the first-ever video game to integrate ShotLink data, resulting in unrivalled gameplay authenticity’. ShotLink is a revolutionary platform for collecting and disseminating scoring and statistical data on every shot by every player in real-time.
The PGA Tour games have always been such a hit with fans due to their realism. EA’s new partnerships with the likes of the LPGA and ShotLink will only heighten this sense of pragmatism within the game. Although we may be waiting a little longer than we had hoped, there is no doubt that PGA Tour 2022 is set to be a ground-breaking instalment into the biggest golf video game series in history.