I have several other Microsoft games such as Zoo Tycoon, Flight Simulator, and Train Simulator and I have always been impressed with the quality, game play and graphics on each game.
Links 2003 is golf, pure and simple. It is Microsoft at its’ best and should be fun for most.
First, I am not a golfer. Played once and that convinced me that placing a small ball on top of a large one and trying to hit the small one — well, you get the drift.
I seldom watch it on TV unless Tiger Woods is in the hunt and I do enjoy watching the superb skills of the professionals at that level.
Installation was a breeze and the program checked to insure that my video card would support the program (it did) and then the CD did the rest. The only surprise was that I have to have the CD in the player to play the game even though it consumes 390MB in the installation.
The users manual is great! It clearly lays out just how to play the game and gives countless tips to improve your play. There are 18 topics ranging from installing the game to using the Arnold Palmer course designer.
This edition has some additions from the previous version in that there is a “real time swing”, a “green analyzer”, a “putting assistant” and “on-line tournament” capability.
The “real time swing” allows you to select the appropriate club and then pull your mouse back toward you to set up the backswing of the player. You push the mouse straight forward (not as easy as it sounds) and the result is the club hitting the ball.
An overhead view plus the superb graphics shows the result of the hit and then the program gives you the (bad) news of where the ball is and the distance to the pin. You can always take a “mulligan” (take the shot over) if you wind up in the water or some other less than desirable place.
The “green analyzer” allows you to examine your putt from all angles and gives you an idea of the best way to play it.
The “putting assistant” works on the “amateur” skill level and shows you the best line and backswing for the putt. Even using this feature does NOT guarantee a successful putt. I did hole some long ones but I sure did ring the cup a bunch of times!
You can go on-line and play others via the Internet but I strongly urge you to be on cable modem or DSL for that option.
When you first start the game you must configure your player as to either one of the preloaded pros or a “build-it-yourself”. You select sex, clothing, playing ability, name, etc. as well as sound, crowd, video, etc. You can even choose left or right handed orientation. You do have the option to edit the player characteristics later to increase skill level for example.
You can even select pin positions, have objects (TV towers, stands, etc) and other items to add realism to the play. Make it as difficult as you wish.
During play you can select the club you want to use or let the program (caddy?) advise you. The distance that the club, under ideal conditions, will drive the ball is indicated so if you do everything exactly right, you can flat move the ball.
The first graphic shows the second shot graphics with the direction indicator, the recommended club, the golfer and details on the approach you’re making. You can change the club if you wish.
The course graphics are superb and the views seem quite realistic as you move through one of the six courses furnished in the basic game CD. The sounds of the ball hitting the cup or bouncing in the rough seem realistic and the frustration level of the shot is amazing.
The swing is performed by using the mouse and you can’t delay at the top of the backswing or the impact of the club to the ball is greatly lessened. You must do the swing in a continuous motion but you do have a swing guide to help. Seriously, a delay at the top of the backswing will murder your stroke.
To help perform the proper swing requires practice and the game has a superb practice system. You can choose the particular hole to work on, the club to use, and repeat this over and over again until you get to the proficiency you are satisfied with. Then, after playing a round or two you can refine the swing and try and develop a good match between club and distance to the green.
As your skill levels increase the help provided decreases. At the top level you make all decisions based on limited information. You will select the clubs and determine the strength of the swing and the direction of aim. You get very few “mulligans” and “gimme’s” so you best be at your best with a steady hand and a good idea of what you’re doing.
The lower levels give a lot of help and there is an “aiming stake” system that lets you direct your shot placement assuming that you hit the ball accurately.
You can also do a great course layout by building the easiest or most difficult course you want with the included CD of course design. This will take you some time but, presuming you are a serious golfer, this might well be as much fun as playing the furnished courses. After all, making a course and then letting some friends try it can make for a fun evening.
This game is worth the $59.95 price tag and some judicious shopping can lower the cost. Even non-golfers will enjoy it and I suspect it can become addictive quite easily.