Links 2003 Review (PC)
The Links series has been a fixture of the PC gaming world for about 12 years now. It started with “Links: The Challenge of Golf”. This game was for MS-DOS and included one course, Torrey Pines. I can remember playing the heck out of that game. Naming my golfer Fred Couples, and trying to tackle that course. This years version, Links 2003, has set out to try to take this series to another level. Does it make an eagle or do we find ourselves in the rough? Let’s take a look.
Gameplay has been deep ever since the series went to its “LS” designation in 1998. You can practice, play a single round, play different golf games, play online, and this year, career mode. Let’s start with career mode. You will have to apologize with my lack of experience on the career mode as I’m only to week 3 of my first year, but I do love the fact that you now have goals and stats are kept for your seasons. Basically, you have to first do well in “Q-School” to unlock other tournaments to play in. Each week, you have four different tournaments to choose from. You can see how many rounds are in the tournament, the purse, and what course it is played on. Money is awarded just like the PGA tour and a money list is displayed between each week.
The Golf games are the same as they have been in the last few editions of Links. You have your match play and your alternate shot. Wolf has always been a favorite of those who play online and is still one of my favorites. Online play is available in a direct connect form, Links Tour, and playing at the zone. Each is self explanatory and the same as in the previous versions. Now we go into the game.
The new addition to this game is the “real time swing” feature. Basically, a player moves his mouse back to execute the backswing and then forward to execute the swing and impact. The shot is based on how far you bring the club back, the speed at impact, and how straight your motion is. The feature is implemented nicely and you find yourself having to calm yourself down after a horrible shot, in order to execute the next one. Chipping and putting seem to be a little rough in finding that “correct” range, but overall it is a very nice system. The game also includes the older swing methods like ,classic, easy, and powerstroke (does anyone use this one?).
Six courses and four golf pros are included in this game. The six courses consist of five real courses located in four countries and a “fantasy” course located on the African coast. Each course is very challenging and features variable wind and conditions. Courses are also available to download on the internet and players can create a course using the powerful, yet hard to learn Arnold Palmer Course Designer. (I can not create a think with it, but if you learn it, you can build just about anything.) The player models are in 3D this year and each of them have their own reactions to various shots and conditions. I love hitting the heck out of my drive and seeing my golfer shield his eyes from the sun to watch it go. All the while, Sergio is talking about how great I hit it in the background. The 3D modeling was very nice of Microsoft to implement.
Remember those great postcards you get from your friends overseas? How beautiful they look. Well, that is Links 2003. The courses are very beautiful and make you wish that you weren’t in your house, playing in the dark, with 5 inches of snow on the ground. The backgrounds are static, which a lot of gamers do not like, but it really doesn’t take away from the game itself. Microsoft also used a GPS satellite to accurately portray the landscape of each hole on each course, so you know that hill in the fairway is just like that hill on the actual course. Each course has their own little culture “Reminders”, my favorite are the duck blinds at Alabama’s Cambrian Ridge. So, if you get frustrated, I guess there is always hunting on the course.
Audio is superb. Links uses all the speakers you have for your computer system and uses them to enable the user to feel like he is actually on the course. For example, I am putting and I can hear a waterfall out of my right speaker. My putt then zooms past the hole and I’m putting the other way now. Links recognize that and now the waterfall is coming out of my left speaker, very beautiful. Also, each golfer has vocal reactions to his shots and also to others playing in the group. It’s a nice touch to hit a great shot and listen to my competition get a little uneasy about their competition.
Overall this game is superb. The game has more than enough features for a golfer to keep interest in this game without ever playing on the internet. This game warrants the $40 purchase and is more than just an upgrade. The new Real-time Swing is implemented well and the course designer gives advanced gamers are reason to stick around with this title. This is a hall of fame game and a must have for the PC Sports Gamer.