3 Up/3 Down: EA SPORTS Rory McIlroy PGA TOUR’s Tour Pro Mode

3 Up/3 Down is a new type of article feature here at Stat Box Stories which analyzes aspects of upcoming or already-released videogames for their strengths and weaknesses.  Today we take a look at the recently-announced Tour Pro Mode of EA SPORTS Rory McIlroy PGA TOUR.

After a year off spending time in the driving range and on the putting green, EA SPORTS’ golf development team at the EA Tiburon studio will return to the virtual links in July 2015 with the debut of the newly-titled EA SPORTS Rory McIlroy PGA TOUR for Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One.  Last year, The Golf Club stepped in and assumed the mantle of the first golf simulation title released on the new console generation, earning a solid fanbase on the strength of an in-depth course creation system, despite being–in many ways–a bare-bones first effort.  The sudden appearance of competition in the simulation golf gaming world makes this year even more important for EA SPORTS to get it right and make a solid first splash of their own in the new and more powerful home consoles.

One of the first major modes detailed for EA SPORTS Rory McIlroy PGA TOUR is the introduction of Tour Pro Mode, the new name for the career experience of past titles under the EA SPORTS Tiger Woods PGA TOUR moniker.  Full details can be found in a blog from EA SPORTS here.  Read on for my 3 Up/3 Down take:

3 Up

1. Quick Rounds

New this year is a feature called Quick Rounds, which allows players to complete a four-round tournament in the same amount of time as one 18-hole round.

Players can progress deeper in Career Mode in half the time, without compromising Skill Level or XP.

The EA SPORTS developers for their golf titles over the years have done a solid job giving gamers the options they want to customize the overall experience they get from a golf game; this is clear just from the depth of control customization and settings which affect the overall “feel” of the game.  While more details are needed to understand exactly how Quick Rounds will work, there’s enough information here to theorize that–much like “Quick Counts” in MLB The Show‘s recent installments–this will allow for a more realistic statistical experience while shortening the gamer’s investment of time.  If Quick Rounds posits a narrative whereby your player takes 18 holes out of the 72 in a weekend, trying to react to poor performance or stringing together positive steps in the chase for the top of the leaderboard, this could be a revolutionary approach to career mode fatigue.

Rory McIlroy PGA TOUR -- Attribute Bonuses

2. Attribute Bonuses

Attribute Bonuses are a new way to set your golfer’s strengths and weaknesses. Players select one Attribute Bonus (Balanced, Power, Precision, Finesse) and have the ability to unlock space for up to three more. With everything unlocked, there are thousands of combinations to choose from.

Skills can be set up to match a play style, or edited to give players the best chance on a particular course.

Distance bonuses may come in handy on a long, wide-open course, while accuracy and shot-shaping abilities will be beneficial on a tighter, more technical track.

In past iterations of the EA SPORTS golf games, progression through career mode and the upgrade process for your created golfer has essentially boiled down to a grind for more XP to max out all of the available attributes until you’re bringing the world’s best golfers to their knees with your abilities.  The information provided about Attribute Bonuses in this year’s game appears to provide for a more strategic overall experience to evolving your golfer’s performance.  The wording is a little inexact with regard to how the bonuses work–if there are only the four Attribute Bonuses (Balanced, Power, Precision, Finesse) and you select one but can then unlock three more, it seems as though golfers may be able to become all-powerful still–but it definitely sounds like the goal is for there to be different Attribute Bonus “builds” for your golfer which you’ll turn to depending on which course you’re playing in a given weekend.  Anything to spice up the strategic approach to the game of golf is a welcome way to stave off fatigue.

Rory McIlroy PGA TOUR -- Outfits

3. Tour Pro Hub Outfits

For the first time, players can set up different outfits to automatically rotate each round – Thursday through Sunday.

On its face, this seems like a small addition in the overall scheme of Tour Pro Mode; however, since so much of the career experience in a golf game is tied into unlocking new gear and outfitting your golfer, being able to customize what your created golfer will be wearing across all four rounds of a tournament lessens the amount of time you’ll be spending in the menu screens.  Instead of changing out your appearance between each round, setting it once for the entire weekend will keep you working on the gameplay instance.  One unanswered question remains, of course: how will outfits behave if a player is using Quick Rounds in their Tour Pro Mode experience?

3 Down

Rory McIlroy PGA TOUR -- Bios

1. Character Bios

Before hitting the course, players can customize their golfer’s appearance and select a bio. This creates a little backstory about your created player – as either a Prodigy, Collegiate or Instructor.

Admittedly, one must give credit to EA SPORTS here for at least recognizing that in previous games, there was no attempt to tell any sort of narrative with regard to a character’s career as they worked towards the PGA TOUR and golf greatness.  That being said, anytime bio backstories are made available but are so limited–such as the three choices here–it raises a little bit of concern with regard to how heavy-handed that bio might come into play over the course of Tour Pro Mode.  While there are some people who are big fans of the NBA 2K model of career mode storytelling, I personally don’t count myself among those ranks.  If Tour Pro Mode attempts to force one of three hollow narratives across a player’s career, then players may react in a manner which leads to a complete overhaul of the background bios or a drastic expansion of available narratives in future titles.

2. Golf Without Limits?

Fully customize your clubs and bag. Players now have a completely mixed bag of goodies, and are not restricted by club types. Want three drivers in the bag? Go for it. Fully customize your club head, shaft and grip.

I’ve already applauded EA SPORTS for their history of allowing the gamer to customize their golf gaming experience, but in this case I’ll be curious to see how the equipment selection process “in the bag” is handled in EA SPORTS Rory McIlroy PGA TOUR.  In the past, real-life rule limitations regarding the number and types of clubs permitted in a single golfer’s bag was a limitation in the game as well.  As restrictive as this may have been for golf aficionados, for novices and people seeking a more straightforward experience, it definitely kept some limits in place to guide selection.  If the equipment selection screen offers pre-sets for less experienced players, this would achieve the result of catering to all gamers.  If not, it may prove too much freedom for the entry-level player.

Rory McIlroy PGA TOUR -- Tour Pro Menu

3. Career Legacy

Highlights accomplishments throughout the mode, ranging from simply finishing tournaments to setting records and signing with sponsors.

Admittedly more speculation here, but this is another scenario where the text provided in the feature description doesn’t lend itself well to clear understanding.  Are the Career Highlights in the Tour Pro Hub just a static list of achievements that are updated with variable numbers with every tournament finished or sponsorship earned?  Or is this a more fully-featured historical tracker which will also serve as the staging place of all saved video highlights (assuming that highlights can be saved as in past titles)?  Having a multimedia landing spot for the triumphs of a created golfer’s career–especially if it could be socially shared in-game–would be a major strength for the title, while simple text assures that this screen would see little traffic.

EA SPORTS Rory McIlroy PGA TOUR will be released on Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One on Tuesday, July 14th, 2015.  Let me know what you think about the game’s Tour Pro Mode in the comments below!

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