EA Sports Golf Challenge Initial Impressions

Posted January 12th, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Yesterday marked the launch of EA Sports PGA Tour Golf Challenge on Facebook. Another in the line of free-to-play but microtransaction based games, Golf Challenge delivers advancement in the form of real-time 3D gameplay. Early issues have resulted in frustration but getting beyond that the game has its share of impressive elements that go beyond what would be expected of a typical Facebook game.

The first hurdle with Golf Challenge is actually getting it to start. I spent most of the evening checking back in to see if the game would load and had no success. It was actually on a second computer that I finally got it to load after a few attempts there. It still won’t get past the progress bar on my primary computer.

The relief of having gotten in was crushed when the game essentially froze at the first attempt of a shot. The cursor wouldn’t allow for anything to be clicked on, and I had to exit out of the game. Once back in it has run smoothly since and hopefully that holds up. However if it isn’t going to load at all on my other computer I doubt I’ll be putting much time into it. No other Facebook games have issues loading including those others from EA.

Looking past those stumbling blocks though what Golf Challenge offers is similar in structure to Facebook games including FIFA and Madden Superstars. There is an item that regenerates allowing for more playing time, in this case it is “shots”. There are advancements to be had by earning coins to spend or by shelling out real money (here called “Golf Cash”). There are a couple different areas to play with a “Daily Challenge” and “Course Play” and plans for a “PGA Tour Season”. Playing will affect the “Training” stamina which must be replenished.

The big difference comes with there being actual gameplay. I’ve come away quite impressed by the look of the game. The graphics are nice, the fly-overs of the courses look great, and there are even moving clouds in the background. The gameplay is rather simple though as expected. You can aim and then click the button to shoot but there is the ability to influence the ball while it is in the air. Putting though can be more difficult, and I found aiming there to be especially tough because the movement is jerky and in some cases I simply couldn’t get it to line up like I wanted. There is even a “Save and Quit” option which allows for things to be picked back up at the same point later on. I also like think the music and sound effects fit nicely.

The “Pro Shop” is where all the purchases can be made to improve your golfer. New clubs with different attributes, balls, apparel, and shot packs can be had for coins or “Golf Cash”. This, along with the “Seasons” is probably where they’re hoping to hook people in. There isn’t the card collecting aspect as found with those other sports, but equipment that brings with it interesting boosts could be seen as just as valuable and tempting. I’m surprised that the golfer can’t be customized though and you’re stuck with the one generic guy that the game starts you off with.

EA Sports PGA Tour Golf Challenge is a much more casual game than the browser-based Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online. It is too early to say whether Golf Challenge will catch on but it is working from a formula that has proven successful. If the technical issues can get ironed out it certainly has at least some appeal due having brought actual gameplay to the experience.