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Game Over Online ~ Links 2001

GameOver Game Reviews - Links 2001 (c) Microsoft, Reviewed by - Jimmy Clydesdale

Game & Publisher Links 2001 (c) Microsoft
System Requirements Windows 9x, Pentium II-233, 32MB Ram, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 88%
Date Published Friday, November 10th, 2000 at 07:57 PM

Divider Left By: Jimmy Clydesdale Divider Right

Links 2001, featuring little Sergio Garcia, is "the most significant upgrade to the Links series in over a decade" according to Microsoft, and they're probably right. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the Links series IS only a decade old, considering Links: The Challenge of Golf made its debut in 1990, but that's fine print.

The Links series has always been the standard for computer-based golf simulations over the years. Arguably their best edition was that put out in 1997. Since that year, the Links series has been satisfied with simple, minor touch-ups to what many considered an already stellar golfing experience. They often recycled many of their features and options from year to year, none so more obvious than Links 2000, which was by far their worst effort in recent memory. It seemed to be little more than a patch from the previous season. This year though, Microsoft promised big changes in many gaming departments including ball physics, graphics, and an all-new course designer, and I'm happy to say they've delivered on all fronts.

By far the most significant improvement in Links 2001 is the entirely new rendering engine. Gone are the pixelated visuals that made it look like a cardboard cut-out golfer was playing a round of golf on a course void of any life whatsoever. The two entitles, the golfer and the course, have finally been meshed together to create a realistic golfing environment. New video-captured models give personality to each golfer and the level of detail has been brought much more into focus. The courses have also received quite the facelift. Gone are the jagged edges that glaringly displayed where the fairway stopped and the rough began. It's all rather seamless now, so much so that you might just think you're actually there playing the ninth hole at Westerfield. That is unless you're a sane individual.

With the all-new engine comes freshly tweaked ball physics, some of the best I've seen in a golf game. Golf balls carom off trees and bunkers more appropriately, they fly through the air exactly as they should, and the ball reacts to the slopes of the green as it should, without erratic and unrealistic results.

The stock courses include Princeville, Aviara, Mesa Roja, Westerfield, Chateau Whistler, and the ever-popular St. Andrews. As usual, you can tweak just about every conceivable setting before beginning a round, such as mulligans, gimmes, weather and green conditions, and pin difficulty, so that you never have the same game twice. There are 14 model golfers available at your disposal as well. Besides little Sergio Garcia, you can play with the likes of Annika Sorenstam, or the equally beautiful golfing legend Arnold Palmer. Each golfer is packaged with a full compliment of voice-overs that emphasize their personality on the course. That's right, gone is the "Aw, man!" guy, thankfully.

Links 2001 features the usual golfing modes. You can play a practice round, a regular round, or you can join the Tour and play in tournaments both on and offline. You can create and customize your own golfer, including the ability to import your own likeness as well as configure club and tee selection. Links 2001 does an admirable job keeping track of all sorts of helpful and interesting statistics throughout your rounds as well.

One of the few downsides of Links 2001 is the lack of attention that has been placed on the swing methods. Links 2001 continues to offer both the two and three-click swings, as well as their PowerStroke, but neither is as unique or effective as the TrueSwing that Sierra incorporated into their PGA Championship 2000 title. The PowerStroke allows you to simulate a swing by moving the mouse in a swing-like fashion, but it's not done in real-time along with the golfer on the screen. The result is a swing that is as generic as the three-click method. I would have liked to have seen a swing method similar to that found in PGA Championship 2000, as it's clearly the best method available out there.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in Links 2001 is the addition of the Arnold Palmer Course Designer. This isn't just an architecture tool that was added to give diehard fans the chance to create their own courses, this is THE kit that the development team themselves used to create the courses found within the game. In other words, this is one powerful pooch. An added bonus is the fact that this designing tool is relatively simple to use, featuring a checklist that helps coordinate your efforts. While it might take a little time to create your favourite, if not local, golf course, the effort is well rewarded when you finally get to play the course in Links 2001.

Links 2001 is arguably the epitome of golfing simulations once again. The all-new engine improves both the visuals and ball physics tremendously. While the course selection features slim pickings, the inclusion of the Arnold Palmer Course Designer is a welcome sight, and one that will undoubtedly excite the Links community as a whole. Besides the lack of an innovative and effective swing method, there's not much to complain about here. Like a good putter, beginners, veterans and professional golfers alike should add this gem to their collection.

[ 46/50 ] Gameplay
[ 09/10 ] Graphics
[ 08/10 ] Sound
[ 07/10 ] Control
[ 08/10 ] Multiplayer
[ 10/10 ] Bugs


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