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Among the series of sports that entered in the world of computer and video games, golfing has become one of the most represented throughout the years, both on consoles and personal computers. But curiously, although they all had their distinctive features, the idea of the swing was identical in most cases. Reduced to a single reflex test, the swing was only a pale representation of what it is in the real sport, giving the false impression that golf is a sport within easy reach for all.
SimGolf from Maxis is the first game to feature a different approach for the swing, providing players with a more realistic feeling to hit the ball than any of its competitors. In addition to this exclusive option, SimGolf will also allow players to create their own golf course for infinite replay possibilities, and allow them to play with other golfers on a network or the Internet. However, these mouth-watering possibilities shouldn't lure the buyer. Even though SimGolf offers never-seen before features, its graphics and sounds are far from those included in Links LS from Access Software, which, as of today, remains the best golf game available.
Along the years, it nearly became a tradition for companies to have their golf game endorsed by some well-known golfers, such as Jack Nicklaus for Accolade, and Arnold Palmer for Access Software. In the same way, Maxis asked Robert Trent Jones, Jr. (RTJ) to be the interactive guide in SimGolf to give out advice to the player as he or she plays on the courses. The choice of RTJ was judicious, as he designed over 170 courses, including the two contained in SimGolf, Rancho La Quinta in the Santa Rosa Mountains, and The Prince Course in the Princeville Resort of Kauai, Hawaii. After all, who else other than somebody called "the Frank Lloyd Wright of golf course architects" could better help you to create the perfect golf course than RTJ himself? Small video clips will pop up on the screen on your request, should you want commentaries about specific parts of the course.
Before starting a course, it is highly recommended to give the practice mode a try. Not that SimGolf is that much different from other games you may have played before, but the swing may require little exercising before you can fully use its potential. Unlike most other golf games, the swing interface keeps all the shot characteristics intact, in that you must drive the mouse back and forth at the correct speed and aim, just as when you would hit the ball yourself. Once you have clicked over the club head in the swing indicator, you must pull back the mouse, then push it forward to hit the ball at the top of the indicator screen. The speed of your movement, as well as the path of your club, will determine the characteristics of your shot and how well you tee off. You can then check your lie in the Results Box to choose whether you want to continue, drop or re-hit the ball if it was in hazards or take a mulligan (if allowed). Notice that for nostalgic players who prefer the old way, a power bar will replace the MouseSwing, so that they won't be confused by the new swing approach.
SimGolf's graphics, while good, are not as brilliant as you could expect from a Maxis game. Although you can play up to a high resolution of 1024 by 768, the landscapes are not as beautiful as they look in Links LS, with ground that resembles more to synthetic lawn than real grass. In fact, only the trees, plants, and golfers have a realistic appearance in the game. The same critics go to the sound effects. Except for the annoying and repetitive tweets of what sounds like seagulls, and some noise accompanying your tee off, sounds are merely nonexistent in the game.
Regarding the game play itself, SimGolf plays for the most part like other golf games. Six windows can be displayed simultaneously on the screen with different views each to help you judge your shot. You can set up various options to control weather, add dynamic scenery, display a grid on the course, etc. With the movement control, you can walk the golfer wherever you want on the course, even on water or in the air, and see the terrain through the eyes of the golfer with zooming possibilities also offered.
The multi-player option is, after the swing and the course design, what makes SimGolf a good reason to buy it. Whether you use a LAN network or the Internet, you can play with up to three other players for a real challenge. But the Course Architect, is of course, the piece of resistance in SimGolf, and you might even wonder if the game was not built as a golf course designer program first. Indeed, over half of the manual is dedicated to that part of the game, and its complexity is at least equal to Sim City 2000. With hundreds of objects to choose from, you will be able to masterpiece the course of your dreams, placing tees, greens, sand traps, water hazards, trees, plants and rocks wherever you wish. But designing an entire 18-holes course can be time consuming, and many objects can also be set up randomly by the program, given various parameters of your choice. To make sure the whole thing looks perfect, you can visualize the course from various viewpoints, through the eyes of mobile cameras, and later switch from one to another to help you in the design of the course.
Written by Frederick Claude
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Internet play requires TCP/IP, Internet connection and modem; LAN play requires IPX/SPX or TCP/IP protocols and Windows 95 compatible network card.
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