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Links LS 99 (PC) Hands-on Preview

Publisher: Access Software

Background Info

Do you know how many copies of LS98 have been sold since its release in the summer of 1997? Do you know how many members are a part of Access' Online Tour extravaganza? If your math is not sharp you might want to pass these questions up. The numbers are in the thousands, the tens of thousands.

So it is no wonder that LS99 is going to be one of the most anticipated PC golf simulator titles ever to hit the market. Remember Windows 95? Remember the rush, the flurry, the anxious anticipation? Well, welcome LS99.

Access does not intend to disappoint. LS99, in its beta form, is better than than 90% of the games out there.

There will be no 3dfx support for LS99. But somehow I doubt that once everyone looks at LS99 this fact will make much of a difference. With 3D tournament objects and a beatifully rendered St. Andrew's ( the deep bunkers are beautifully done and threatening--avoid), Entrada, and Bay Hill, 3dfx graphic card makers may want to consider developing some new cards just for LS99. Redraws are quick and painless. Don't expect to be reading a chapter of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers as you wait. But for the viewer's pleasure, you'll see a wonderful little spinning LS99 globe as you anticipate your next shot. Get the picture? Access. The globe. World domination.

Access prides itself on an easy and simple interface. LS99's interface is simple and easy to follow. Don't look for menu after menu after menu until you find yourself lost in a maze. At the game screen all the information, from the lie to the wind to the distance to the hole is easily seen. The menus are accessed by simply pointing the mouse to the bottom of the screen and then selecting a menu from within a menu. And alas, accesssing the scorecard will give you the conditions for the round you're playing, something I'm sure many LS98 users are happy to hear.

With tens of thousands of LS98 users something has to be right with Access' gameplay. And something is more than right with LS99's gameplay. Sand play has been dramatically changed and is now much more realistic and difficult. There's the "explosion" shot and the "pick" shot. Use the "explosion" when in a greenside bunker; use the "pick" when in a fairway bunker. But beware: landing in a bunker should at all costs be avoided. You say you'd like to chip from the bunker? You may want to reconsider that proposition.

Not only have ball physics and ball flight been improved, but Access now has the Power Stroke. I predict that the real Linksters who have always demanded that LS get tougher-- these cyber golfers will gravitate to this method and stay rooted to its complex difficulties until mastery. Some may die before they reach this moment.

The audio in LS99 is good, very good. The sounds are crisper and more life-like. The inclusion of the voice chat system now enables fellow competitors to actually talk to each other as they play. Rattle all you want (but you can't rattle as your enemy shoots)-- though speak loudly as the voice chat system, at least on machine, comes out low and is sometimes difficult to hear. Detractors, meet the Power Stroke! After two weeks of testing the LS99 beta and hours of interesting fun and more hours of fiddling with the Power Stroke, I still have yet to break par on any course when using the PS. This fine and amazing addition to LS99 is worth the admission of greatness. At Championship mode the PS is so like real golf that you will be wondering just exactly where you are. You will be frustrated by bad shots and delighted by the good. You will be leaning left and leaning right as you release the mouse button, to follow your ball to its, well, final resting point. I have seen other types of mouse swing methods and Access', somehow, has gotten it fantastically right. Distance is controlled by mouse force forward (club head speed) and line to the ball. Use a ruler if you like: there is so much involved in the mouse swing that a ruler will do you absolutely no good. The golden rule is: practice and patience.

It is very possible that the release of LS99, scheduled for late October, will cause a government shutdown. It will overshadow in its numbers rushing to the store even the best and most famous of Michael Jordan Nike shoes. It might even cause real golf courses around the world to lower green fees in order to get players off the computer screen and onto the course.

In short, cyber golfers will not be in the least disappointed once October rolls around. Access has improved on an already great game and has made it better. Sure, there will be some who are disappointed. But those few are those who may be looking for arcade golf rather than REAL golf.

But don't despair, you arcaders--Links EXtreme could be the product for you!

By: Chris C.

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