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Whether you know how to play golf or not, PGA Tour 96 will produce a feeling for the actual game play. For golfers, I suspect the game will create a desire to go out and play the real thing, and for others to give the game a try.
There are five different modes in the game. Stroke play is a regular game of golf consisting of either the front 9, back 9, or all 18 holes of a particular course. Practice play allows you to play any hole on a golf course to improve yourself. In Tournament you'll play against fifty-six other PGA Tour professionals plus the one to four players in your party and compete for cash by playing either 18, 36 or 72 holes. If you're playing 72 holes, you'll have to make the cut by being one of the top 40 players after the first round. The Skins Game assigns a monetary value to each hole and you'll want to win as many as you can by playing either the front 9, back 9 or all 18 holes. The Shoot-Out is the last game playing mode where four players line up to play three holes. The player with the highest score is eliminated at the end of each hole. The first and second places receive a cash award.
In PGA Tour 96 for the PlayStation, two professional PGA courses are included. They are the SpyGlass Hill Golf Course located on the Monterey Peninsula in Pebble Beach, California, and the TPC at River Highlands located in Cromwell, Connecticut. Each course has an introductory full motion video explaining both the courses history and future. The quality of the video footage is not bad, but not the best I've seen on the PSX.
In the game, courses are completely rendered including hills, valleys, sand traps and water hazards, but again graphics could have been much better. The first thing that hit me when I saw the game was that the graphics were very pixelated. Most of the game has average quality graphics that you quickly become accustomed to as the game play takes your mind off them. As we all know, great graphics don't necessarily mean great game and in this case, we have a great game that needs better graphics. The worst part of the graphics are the trees. From a distance, the trees look fine, but as you get closer to them, they become large blocks of colors. Of course, if you're a good golfer, you shouldn't have to play in the trees too often.
During game play, the current hole and par will be indicated in the upper left corner of the screen. Along the left side will be an overhead view of the hole, and along the bottom will be the name of the current player, how much over or under par they are, distance to the pin, and the current ball lie. Along the right side of the screen will be the wind conditions (if selected), a view of your ball, and the current club. After each of your shots you'll be able to view a replay, try your shot again by taking a mulligan (if turned on), or accept your shot and move on.
The Golfers menu is where the players for the next game are chosen. You can choose to play as or against one of the 14 PGA Tour professionals whose swings were filmed on blue screen and have been digitized into the game. This has been very well done and the graphics are great. You may also choose an amateur player and enter in your own name and configure your character selecting between male or female.
The player's controls for the golf swing and putting include every aspect that you would find in a game of golf. You can control the strength with which you hit the ball, add a backspin, control the waggle, and even place a draw or fade on the ball. The swing meter is where you'll control all the aspects of your shot.
The first thing you should determine is what kind of club you want to use for your shot. It is best to select a club that gets you closest to your target. The reason for this is that if you overswing your shot you won't go too far beyond your target, plus you'll know approximately how hard you need to hit the ball if you have the distance option turned off. If distance is turned on, then the area where you should stop on your swing is marked with a yellow contact band. The overswing area is indicated in red and is useful when you are too far away from the pin. If you use it however, the blue bar will drop at a much faster rate meaning that you'll have to be quick to have proper contact with the ball.
With the waggle feature turned on, you'll have to avoid topping or undercutting the ball as well as determine the power of your swing. This is accomplished with a blue bar that rotates left and right within the bottom portion of the swing meter. In order to hit the ball straight on, you'll have to stop the bar right in the center where a yellow marker is shown. Afterwards you'll select the strength for hitting the ball and then have one more button push to determine if you have hooked, sliced, or hit the ball straight on by aiming for the same yellow marker as in the waggle feature.
The Targeting Arc System, accessed by pressing the left shift key, will show the flight path of the ball prior to taking your shot and is also used to draw and fade the ball.
Putting is done much the same way except you only need to concentrate on how hard you hit the ball and the direction. Pressing the left shift key allows you to place the pin as to where you want to aim the ball. This is useful if there's a slope and you need to aim to either left or right of the hole.
The music in the game is found only in the menu areas and consists of a piano and guitar melody. The rest of the game has sound effects and live commentaries for putting. Sound effects consist of birds chirping (especially when the ball flies into the trees), club swinging, and the sound of the ball going into the cup. The player will also yell "fore" when a bad shot has occurred. The crowd will cheer when you succeed in a great shot that brings you close to the cup and also be disappointed with you when you just miss a shot by saying ohhh and awww. While on the green, commentaries can be heard such as "This putt should be straight in" or "This long putt should slope to the right". The commentary is useful for aiming your putt, but if it get on your nerves you can always turn it off.
If you can only afford to buy one golf game for your PSX, you may want to wait a few more months. EA Sports is planning on releasing PGA Tour 97 in the fall of 1996 which promises two new golf courses, better graphics, improved artificial intelligence, and a course management simulation. Gremlin Interactive is also working on the release of actua GOLF schedualed for release by the end of August 1996 and the game sounds very promising. Both games will be available on the Sony PlayStation and the Sega Saturn platforms.
PGA TOUR 96 Online Player's Guide
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