PGA Tour 2K23 Preview - Tiger Goes Next Gen (2024)

The PGA Tour 2K series is one of the more interesting franchises around. It is comfortable not being a yearly title, walks the line between feeling somewhat “indie” while having a big-name publisher and license behind it, and seems to be enjoyed by a wider variety of people than the usual sports games. Perhaps that is inherent to the sport of golf itself — what with many variations of golf showing up on Steam and beyond — but it also says to me that the folks at HB Studios do enough right to draw in people beyond just the traditional golf fans. With that said, PGA Tour 2K23 has really gone under the radar, so let’s get into my PGA Tour 2K23 hands-on preview and start talking about what’s here in the latest version.

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PGA Tour 2K23 Preview

PGA Tour 2K23 Preview - Tiger Goes Next Gen (1)

Tiger’s New Home

Tiger Woods signed a contract with 2K back in 2021, so we knew this was always going to happen, but it’s still surreal on some level to see him in a non-EA game if you grew up playing with him in those EA games (as I did). PGA 2K and EA’s Tiger Woods games are vastly different in terms of what they’re going for on the gameplay front, but getting to use him again in a 2K game was a feel-good moment for me.

It also hits a little harder than it would have in PGA 2K21 because now the pros do have their own ratings in the game. This includes ratings like putt weight, power, timing, putt path, and shaping. These ratings do vary by pro, and these ratings will also be things that play into your own MyPlayer when you go about creating them. (Yes, you now have ratings as well.)

On the course, I felt right at home using the analog swing. One of the subtle but major changes seems to happen with the backswing now. Instead of the backswing and downswing weighing into how much the shot fades or draws, the tempo and pace of that transition between the backswing to downswing matters most for that element of your swing.

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Beyond that, yes, 3-click swinging is here now. It’s a bit different than the old-school 3-click swing many probably remember, but functionally it works the same here now in a circular UI format. During my play session there was a bit of a latency issue that impacted the timing of the button clicks (either due to the TVs or frame rate setting it seems), which led to delayed inputs after I would press the button for the “clicks” so to speak. In other words, I did not get the “purest” experience for this new control system, but the optionality this mechanic will provide should help widen the audience that much more. However, I don’t see myself converting back to 3-click swinging as I do think the analog swinging (and the difficulty it provides) is one of the main reasons I like coming back to the PGA 2K series.

Burrowing down another layer, it’s going to take more than a couple rounds to get the best feel for how ratings will change the game, but I definitely felt like using a pro who was stronger as a power hitter versus someone who was better at shaping their shots does and will matter. Obviously, it still comes down to whether you are executing your shots or reading the greens properly, but this still opens up a whole new portion of the game that just was not there before. A fresh part of the strategy is utilizing your strengths and weaknesses in a way that did not exist in prior PGA 2K games.

I also am happy to say it seems like HB Studios spent a good portion of their focus on trying to refine shot types and re-balance things. This comes through in more obvious ways like punch shots now being available and the flop shot not feeling as unbalanced. And then it comes through in smaller ways like only having the specific splash shot available for use when you’re in the sand.

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One of the bigger downsides for this version of the game will likely be the graphics and overall punch being delivered on new-gen and high-end PCs. There is a certain expectation level that comes with showcasing your game on new platforms, and I don’t think PGA 2K is going to blow people away in this department. The frame rate has been ramped up, and the draw distance and crowd density seem boosted on new-gen systems, but I was not “wowed” by what’s going on here. While the shadows and things of that nature seem better, having larger crowds that still don’t really move out of the way of balls or having water that doesn’t really seem to be moving much at all takes away from the ambiance and livelihood of a big-time PGA event even if the polygon count has been juiced.

That being said, it is good that PC players will not be frozen out here. They are getting the same version of the game that new-gen players will be getting, and that also means PC players probably will have the best looking version of the game if your rig is up to the task. On top of that, I did see pot bunkers for The Renaissance Club. This has been one of those “small” elements missing on golf courses, so to see them for the first time in PGA 2K23 was a welcomed sight.

Another factor that plays into things here is what else is on the course. Seeing caddies and things like that in cutscenes is a great new touch — caddies are still a bit of a mystery box for me in terms of how they will impact gameplay, and I assume we’ll learn more about them in the weeks ahead. But, again, the problem here is HB Studios maybe not going one step beyond that so I see caddies on the course as I hit my actual shot, or I see other pros I’m playing against in my group off to the side as I’m lining up a putt. In effect, the cutscenes are providing one instance of the world that is more alive than the one you actually see when you hit your shots.

For those looking for bigger shake ups with the gameplay than some of the ones I have already mentioned, I don’t think anything here will move the needle for you to a major degree. There is no option where how you move the analog stick throughout the entirety of the swing will cause a draw or fade — that’s still first and foremost tied to how you choose to shape the shot before swinging. In addition, one pain point that does still seem to be there from the past involves the penalty drops system being unchanged from 2K21.

PGA Tour 2K23 Preview - Tiger Goes Next Gen (4)

Even with those legacy negatives in there, what gives me confidence about the gameplay in PGA Tour 2K23 is that the base was already sound. HB Studios seems to have spent their focus on re-balancing shot types to give each one more obvious risks and rewards, and in general the studio had enough confidence to recognize the gameplay didn’t need a total overhaul. The biggest reasons I come back to play PGA Tour 2K are the satisfaction I get just playing through 18 competitive holes, and then also seeing what new courses are out there to try. I’m confident both those aspects are going to be just fine here in PGA Tour 2K23.

Course Designer

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Speaking of the course designer, in terms of things that were not really being shown yet by 2K, the course designer would be the first on that list. However, I know it’s very popular so I at least want to give out a couple little tidbits I put together. First, while we do get pot bunkers at an official course in the game (The Renaissance Club), those will not be an option for the created courses. HB Studios treated the pot bunkers that they had direct control over as a “proof of concept” so to speak, but they are not yet ready to unleash them into the wild for creators to use. It also seems like in general 2K’s focus was more on making the course creator more functional and easy to use for people.

This does not mean there are no new assets, as I’m sure new trees and stuff like that were added, but my guess right now is the new “assets” portion of course designer will not be the big selling point for it this year.

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The thing that I like the most about the course designer is it seems like HB Studios recognizes — when so many other sports games don’t — how important the community-created content is to the success of the game. HB will allow you to port your created courses to the new version of the game. In some cases, it will not be a perfect 1-to-1 transition due to either asset changes or whatever other technical issues that may crop up, but the point is they’re not making everyone start from scratch with courses. The created courses are a massive part of why these PGA 2K games do well (and have longevity), so it’s nice to know there will be a nice base when we boot up 2K23.

More will be shared here in the coming weeks for course designer, but I just wanted to mention a couple high-level things I heard while talking with the developers.


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2K will also have plenty more to say about MyPlayer in the future, and it technically was not the focus of the event, but I do want to mention a couple things here like I did with course designer.

The ratings aspect obviously matters here, and I would sort of sum up the system they’re going for as something like FIFA or NHL and the online balancing that goes on there with your players. You can’t max out your player’s ratings, but you’ll have a general archetype, which will shape which ratings can go higher than others, and then from there you’ll use gear and “fittings” to maximize your skills. But, again, you won’t be able to be 100 in every category, and this does not appear to be one of those “pay-to-win” scenarios where you “level to 99” by paying money. Your attributes have a hard cap, and I think the idea is to always have strengths and weaknesses with whatever build you decide to use.

Again, I did not really mess with this system myself, but I’m sure with all the new gear and brands in the game, that those elements will be a major focus at launch and beyond because gear will still have specific attributes and all that.

Career Mode

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Last up in the departments that we’ll learn more about in the coming weeks relates to career mode. That said, it certainly seems like the Rivalries system has been enhanced (and this feels like something you could figure out on your own considering Tiger is now in the game). I also am happy to mention that tournaments no longer will end in ties. The realistic playoff formats you would assume to be there (sudden death and aggregate) do now exist, and you will no longer have to deal with ties.

In addition, one other “small” element I’m happy to share is that those “fill-in” tournaments that existed in PGA Tour 2K21 can now be edited by you so you can bring in custom courses to fill those spots if you want to. In other words, the official tournaments will stay where they are and can’t be changed, but you have the creative license to play around with the other tournaments that are not real and tweak them to your liking.

I did not get to see this aspect with my own eyes, but I believe you can also change these as the career progresses, so it’s not like you have to lock in all these new tournaments at the start of the season.

Bottom Line

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I’m a big believer in confidence when it comes to sports games and how they’re shown. HB Studios more or less let me run wild in the game and didn’t put many restrictions on what I could look at or at least touch to some degree. I believe they know they have a good franchise and the core of the game is in a good place. So while I think the graphical engine and the “sweeteners” are not scratch golfers, most of the other elements here are in contention on Sunday.

It’s also a game that does actually play to multiple types of audiences and seems to be trying to find ways to satiate both. We’re getting MJ in the game and Topgolf, but we’re also getting more real pros, courses, quality of life improvements like the removal of ties from career mode. It feels right that PGA 2K does not come out every single year, and I think the two-year development cycle will lead to something here that feels fresh enough for veterans and newcomers alike.

If you would like to read more about PGA Tour 2K23, I also tried to answer as many questions from the OS community as I could (I asked them for their question on the forums), and you can find that feature later today here on the front page (and in the forums).

[Disclosure: 2K Sports invited Operation Sports and paid for its flight and accommodations at the one-day preview event.]


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PGA Tour 2K23 Preview - Tiger Goes Next Gen (2024)
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