The golf genre has become one of the most competitive markets in computer gaming. Recently, different companies have been attacking different strategies with their golf products. EA, for example, is going with the big-name license in Tiger Woods. Hot Shots Golf for the PSX went for a more cartoon-ish approach. However, Access Software once again brings us the most in-depth and complete golf game on the market with their 1999 edition of Links LS.
Links '99 comes with a truck load of modes of play as well as a MOP editor. Hell, there's even a sound script editor. When talking about depth, Links LS is to golf what Madden is to football. It's really the best thing out there.
The only licensed name in the game is Arnold Palmer's, but players can create and edit all aspects of their own characters, like ability, shirt color, tee difficulty and even the number of frames-per-animation. While the game comes with only four courses, there's always the add-on. Plus, each course has its own multi-media tour, along with many goodies such as history, interesting events, Arnold Palmer's take on each hole and anything else you would expect to be covered in a PGA tournament. Basically, every hole on every course has more information than you'll know what to do with.
Like just about every other golf game out there, Links LS 1999 uses the standard 2 and 3 click swing as well as their own "PowerStroke" swing. If you have ever played any sort of golf game, you should be familiar with the 2 & 3 click swing - click once to start the meter, click again for power then click again for accuracy. On the other hand, Links' "PowerStroke" swing actually gives the player much better feel of a swing and, with a little practice, players can be much more consistent than the standard click swings allow. Basically, you move the mouse to the right for the back swing, then forward for the downswing and click at the point of impact, which, depending on the club, is usually right on the ball. While the mouse/club speed takes some getting used to, the PowerStroke swing gives the player much more feel for the swing as they can slice, hook, spin and hit behind or in front of the ball at will. Very slick and useful.
Links LS 1999's graphics are definitely eye catching. All in-game renderings are sweet. A number of cameras can be set up at any position on the course. From the realistic water reflection to the distant landscape to the 30-frame golfer animation, it seems that the only visual flaws in the entire game are the inevitable 2D trees and fans. But then again, you'll find this problem in almost all sports genres.
However, one major factor that cannot be overlooked is the absence of a real-time engine. This means no fly-bys, no ball-chasing cams and, most importantly, no real-time rotating of the camera on the green to get that perfect read. Every camera in the game can only be manipulated by changing its position and direction, then re-rendering the entire scene. This gets tedious at times.
While the lack of a real-time camera is a small minus, the game's interface is truly enjoyable. As mentioned before, a number of cameras can be put up during the game. These cameras are all little windows, moved, closed and resized like any object in Windows. If you don't mind the lack of real-time cameras or long loading times, you will certainty get a helluva kick out of Links.
Links '99 offers comprehensive Online play. In addition to the standard, IPX, modem and TCP/IP play, the game supports their own "LS Tour" server, which offers a number of tournaments, events etc., and is also supported by Mplayer.com.
The bottom line is that Links LS 1999 is hands down the most in-depth, complete golf game out there. As long as you can look past the lack of licenses (Arnold being the only recognizable name) and lack of a real-time "fly by" camera, it is definitely worth your money.