Links: The Challenge of Golf. (computer game) (evaluation)
by Richard O. Mann
Golf is a passion. To indulge in their favorite pastime, golfers endure rain, cold, even snow (using colored balls). You just can't keep avid golfers away from their game. When you can't play the real thing, a few rounds on the PC can calm the fever. Computer golf games are wildly popular; nearly every major game developer has one.
Access Software has taken computer golf a giant step forward with Links, a VGA-only, three-dimensional visual extravaganza that's the most fun and most realistic golf PrOgram I've tried.
Step onto the South Course at California's Torrey Pines, set atop Picturesque cliffs along the Pacific Ocean. At the first tee, your digitized golfer stands at the ready as you look over the fairway. The screens are digitized photos of Torrey Pines, showing contours, trees, golf cart paths, cliffs, ocean, background skyline, the clubhouse, and everything else you see on the actual course.
As you admire the view, you may be surprised to hear birds singing--even through your plain-vanilla internal PC speaker. If you've played Access's earlier golf game (World Class Leader Board, also a standout game), you know about RealSound, Access Software's seemingly magical system that produces realistic sound without an add-on sound board. As you play your round, be ready for your companions to pipe up with such comments as "That'll play," "Nice par," or "I seem to have hit the tree, Jim."
You tee off using your mouse (there are keyboard alternatives, but a mouse is best). With fluid motion and true-to-life sound, the golfer hits the ball. The ball's flight is smooth and beautiful (unless you've hooked or sliced it), with its shadow following along the ground. The ball lands on the turf, bounces, and rolls in a way that's appropriate to the terrain.
As the ball rolls dead, a control panel pops up, offering instant replays of the shot, either from the tee or a reverse angle (a TV-like view that shows the ball coming toward you). You can see exactly what happens to your ball, including such interesting possibilities as seeing your ball roll down a long, steep hill to the cliff tops.
The control panel shows the distance of the shot, including the amount of ground roll, and offers two choices: Continue to the next shot Qr take a Mulligan. If you want to break par consistently (if unfairly), hit the Mulligan button after every bad shot. It discards the stroke and lets you replay it.
Links is unequalled in its visual artistry. But its mouse-based system of control over the swing and aim of each shot makes the play just as pleasant. You can enjoy the game without ever fussing with the finer points of golf. Or, by clicking on the setup button, you can fine-tune the stance, ball placement, angle of the club face, and plane of the swing. Using these controls, you can design and execute an exquisite golf shot, one that quickly rises to clear a close tree and fades to the right to follow the curve of the fairway, for example.
Chip shots are a big part of the game. Links handles chip shots realistically by showing you the contours of the green so that you can place your shot just right. Club selection works properly, too. A 5-iron hit softly will run up the green, while a wedge shot landing in the same spot dies almost immediately. Chipping at the practice green with its challenging undulations is particularly addictive. I've hit a hundred consecutive balls from the same spot, trying for just the right combination of loft and strength to sink a 65-foot chip shot, including a curving downhill roll to the cup. I sank five of them.
There's a host of other features that add to the realism of this outstanding game. If you can't quite make out the slope of a green, for instance, you can overlay grid lines on it, making the contours clear.
One word of caution: All this video wizardry requires a powerful PC and takes up over two megabytes of hard disk.
>From the spectacular 3-D course to the excellent play-control system, Links is a golfer's dream, a chance to play what feels like real golf without ever having to leave home.
IBM PC and compatibles, 640K RAM,
MCGA or VGA graphics adapter, hard
drive; mouse strongly recommended;
supports extended and exparkled memory
and most sound cards-$59.95
4910 W. Amella Earhart Dr.
Salt Lake City, UT 84116 (800) 800-4880