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If it took a while for Access Software to come up with a sequel to Links 386, the reason is that the developers literally strived to create the perfect golf game. As everyone knows, perfection is difficult to reach, but what the developers have achieved with Links LS is so close that, just like they say in golf, you could give them a Gimmie!
Compared to its predecessor, Links LS hasn't much left in common with so many new features that have been added to the original game. The first noticeable difference is the size of the game. Links LS ships on no less than 3 CD-ROM's which come in a dual box packaging, one for the CD's and the other for the 96-pages manual. Of course, with so much data, don't expect the game to use only a few megabytes space on your hard disk. A minimum of 40 megabytes is required for the installation, and if you have enough space, you can go for the whole thing that will take up to 150 megabytes!
Once the files have been copied onto your hard disk, the installation program will let you choose between several video modes, and what modes! Links LS now exploits SVGA graphics with resolution ranging from 800 by 600 to 1600 by 1200 with up to 16.7 millions colors. In other words, Links LS clearly outdoes its competitors in graphics realism with a tremendous advance that will once again establish it as the most realistic golf simulation. However, this wonderful technological breakthrough has its unfortunate counterpart: the system requirements. Although they indicate that a 486 DX2-66 is enough to run the game, you will need a fast configuration (e.g. Pentium-100 with 16 Mb or more) to avoid intensive disk swapping and play the game comfortably.
|The Kapalua Resort|
To recreate the sensation of being on the course, what you see on the screen must be as close as possible to reality. Stunningly, this is what Access Software managed to do with their new terrain rendering system. In fact, if you were playing golf on one of the courses featured in Links LS, and at the same time looked at the view rendered by the game, you would be amazed by the resemblance. Trees, bushes, cart paths, sand traps and mounds are at the very same position as in the original course. Authentic textures were used for ground, grass and sand, and to make it even more lifelike, the program also manages dynamic shadows. But that's not all. Various weather conditions can be recreated with the aid of two parameters: wind and fog. While the wind will not change the view no matter how strong the wind strength you chose, this is not the case for fog. Depending how dense you set it up, the view can range from a wide open view to one surrounded by an impenetrable wall of mist making your aiming a true nightmare. What I didn't like about the fog is that it is only added once the view has been rendered, acting more like a filter. I would have preferred that the rendering process add the fog component while calculating the view, rather than applying the fog effect on a picture that an instant ago was showing a beautiful sunny day!
Links LS would not be complete if there were no sounds to accompany the player to the green. From birds in the forest to boats along the shore, the range of sounds is impressive and its quality is remarkable. An editor will let you edit hundreds of different sounds played throughout the game, and using the sound script, you will be able to link a particular sound to a specific event. However, some players will regret that there is no music during the game. Although it is known that golf requires concentration and silence, the possibility to add digital music or MIDI music would have been a plus.
If Links LS is pleasant to look at and fun to play, it is also very accurate. Again, the ball dynamics model has been reworked to provide players with the most precise ball flight system. Watching your ball fly through the sky, then bounce and roll on the fairway has never been so real before in a golf game. And to allow you to watch your shot from different angles, you can add a camera window anywhere on the main view. There are five possible views you can watch during the game: Green, Side, Top, Profile and Custom. In the Green view, the camera is placed at about 50 feet off of the ground beyond the green. The Side and Top view will be located respectively between the tee and the pin, and above the golfer. The Custom view can be placed anywhere on the hole, facing the pin or the ball. Finally, the Profile view is a graphic showing elevation and distances between the ball and the pin. The camera window is re-sizeable, offers zooming possibilities and is used for chat when playing a modem/network game.
Among the many new features of Links LS, you will find a retractable control panel at the bottom of the screen. This panel will let you access a large variety of options during game play such as camera configurations, shot setup, score cards, help, flybys, and much more. Other information tools on the screen will help you to realize the best shot, like for example the slope and wind indicators. The game play in itself didn't change much. After choosing your club (or letting the caddie select one for you), you move the pointer over the screen or the camera view and aim your shot. Then the final step is to use the Swing gauge to adjust your shot which will depend not only on your reflexes (eg: click and hold until the indicator reaches a certain mark, then release the button and press it again when it reaches another mark), but also on external conditions through wind direction and speed, snap on the ball, etc. This will cause no two shots to be the same given identical power and direction of the ball.
There are two new add-ons in Links LS that don't have any effect on the game play itself, nor on the graphics realism. These are the Resort Series and the Tour Player Series. Each package of the Resort Series will include two or three new courses, a video tour, and a Virtual Tour of the clubhouse. This Virtual Tour, based on the 3D engine previously used in Access' adventure game, Under a Killing Moon, allows the player to walk in the clubhouse and look at pictures and objects retracing memorable events and history of the club. The video tour will detail the facilities and show some highlights of the course with commentaries, giving an idea of what players can expect if one day, they have the chance to play on these prestigious locations.
The Tour Player Series features famous golf players that entered in the legend because of their exceptional talent, hence justifying the name of the game, LS being used for "Legends in Sports". In a Tour Player package, besides a new set of player animations, you will receive another course (typically the home course of the player featured in the package), a video tour of the course like in the Resort Series plus interviews of the player, and a Virtual Tour of the player's office. A computer version of the player will be also featured in each Tour Player package, that will make your computer opponent play with the style of the real golfer.
And to top all this, the owners of ancient Links courses will be happy to hear that Links LS features the 17 SVGA courses converted to the new format. Notice however that only if you own the original disks, you will be able to unlock the corresponding converted courses.
Written by Frederick Claude
Click here for screen shots.
IBM-PC compatible computer with a 486DX2-66 Mhz CPU or higher (Pentium highly
Min 12Mb memory (16Mb with Windows 95),
Dos 6.0 or Windows 95,
Hard drive required with at least 35Mb free,
Double speed CD-ROM drive or faster,
Local bus video card with 1Mb capable of 800x600 resolution in 32,000 colors (VESA compliant),
Microsoft compatible mouse.
8-bit sound card (Most popular sound cards supported).
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