EA Sports PGA Tour Golf Challenge is a hole in one (after a few tries)
Sports games on Facebook are nothing new. Last year alone saw two sports games release from EA with FIFA Superstars and Madden NFL Superstars, but EA Sports PGA Tour Golf Challenge (we'll call it 'PGA Tour' for short) is a whole different type of sports game on the platform. It's far more literal than those before it, but plainly speaking, this is golf on Facebook. This is not some interpretation of the sport tailored to the social gaming audience--though, it is in the ways that matter. Nor is this game a lag-ridden, isometric Flash-based rendition of put-put. EA Sports PGA Tour Golf Challenge is the social extension of the company's PGA Tour franchise. And it cleans up good.
Find our detailed impressions after the break.
Instantly upon loading the game, you'll notice that PGA Tour is a full 3D game thanks to the Unity Engine, which EA also used to develop Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online. Expect plenty more developers to hop on the Unity band wagon, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. PGA Tour looks incredible, but that's far from what makes this game. Achieving 3D gaming on Facebook has allowed EA to make few gameplay compromises with PGA Tour--it plays almost exactly like the series does on consoles. Though, there is plenty of streamlining to best fit the game for its audience.
Players start the game in a tutorial that trains them how to aim their shots, swing and apply spin to the ball. Coming from someone who doesn't swing a golf club unless he is surrounded by goofy wooden obstacles and waterfalls, EA makes it all fairly easy to understand. But boy, can this game be frustrating, which is an expected response when you're trained to expect instant results after clicking things arbitrarily. PGA Tour is simple to understand, but requires a good amount of accuracy and skill to come out of holes under par.
The entire game is controlled simply through the mouse; click to aim shots, to swing and apply spin to the ball by clicking and dragging. The most difficult aspect of the game by far is aiming shots against wind patterns, which change in real time. You will more often than not overshoot the ball at first, compensating for wind that might not be as strong when the ball is hurling toward the hole. Some may say this somewhat random factor is unfair, but its realism cannot be denied. And while you have the option to change your driver, iron or putter of choice, the game automatically chooses the best option based on where your aiming.
In true social game fashion, your time spent playing daily will be limited by two factors. First, you will only be given so many shots daily to be used in the game's several play modes, which replenish over time. Think of your shots as Energy in games like FrontierVille. Second, PGA Tour takes a cue from EA's previous sports titles on Facebook with Training. This percentage will drop with each hole you complete in all gameplay modes and as it decreases so does your performance. Playing as close to 100 percent trained at all times is ideal, but impractical. That's why there are several training times that can be scheduled around your time away from the game. By the way, they can both be expedited through Golf Cash, the paid currency in PGA Tour.
Through both coins and Golf Cash, players can outfit their golfer with new outfits, but more importantly new clubs that all have a set duration of a certain number of shots. Obviously, this is designed to get you to repeatedly visit the Pro Shop where you can also find special golf balls that boost spin, aiming, power and more. Does the game give an advantage to those who pay? Of course, but how many social games are there that don't (and are popular)?
What matters to most social gamers is the gameplay considering only a percentage of players actually buy items. And you can expect quite a display from PGA Tour. While the game will grate on the nerves of many a social gamer, that's likely because we're simply not used to many games that require focus and skill aside from a few gems. Even if you're not a golf fan it's worth it to give PGA Tour a go just for a glimpse of what's to come on the platform: deeper games.
Click here to play EA Sports PGA Tour Golf Challenge on Facebook>
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