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Microsoft Golf 2001 (PC) Review

Publisher: Microsoft

Background Info

I got the box in the mail. I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. On the cover it said: Microsoft Golf 2001 Edition. It promised new, improved ball physics. Seven courses. Internet play. Sounds good, right? But this was essentially a Links LS product (minus the LS) wasn't it?

It didn't take me long to figure out exactly what this was. It was Links LS 2000 Lite. Tastes good (not great) and certainly less filling. Lite? Yes. The box was “light” because the game does not come with a manual. The game is “light” because a plethora of features that most Links players have grown accustomed to, are simply missing.

Is it worth a look? Depends. If you're a golf sim enthusiast, and you weren't a finalist on “Survivor,” you've probably played something better than this in the last 6-12 months.

Presentation/Graphics : 80
Graphically, there is not a lot new here. The resolutions have been boosted up to support 1600 x 1200 and that helped the game look a bit better than Links LS 2000 (LS2K). But, aside from that, I was hard pressed to find something that looked significantly better than what was present in LS2K.

The player models were the same though they did add a male junior golfer (Amateur Alan) to the mix. The pint-size cyber hack, I suppose, will come in handy for the occasional father-son match.

The graphics are not bad. The resolutions have improved, but is that really enough for a game that's being released many months after Links LS 2000 and just a month or two before the release of the new – and highly anticipated – Links 2001? No, quite frankly, it's not.

Objects still look relatively good and I think the Links series (and now this MS Golf series built on the Links engine) still has the best looking water in the genre. But, again, there is so little new here. The player animations look the same. They still look somewhat pasted onto the course. Some of them are a bit grainier than they should be (and the old guy looks like he's had his nose cropped off). And, not that I expected this to be fixed in this dated game engine, but the blurry ground textures are still present.

This is not to say the graphics are bad. They're not. They are simply dated. These are essentially the same graphics as those found in LS2K or LS99 or LS98 or...well, you get the idea.

If you're looking for clear and sharp graphics you won't find them here. Jack Nicklaus 6: Golden Bear Challenge still looks terrific a full eighteen months or so after release. The Links engine is really showing its age and though the game looks a little better at the new, higher resolutions, I'm afraid it's not enough.

Presentation/Audio : 70
Here is where the game takes a hit, and a serious one at that. The Tournament sound script that was so perfectly done in the LS2K version of the game is gone. Vanished. Kaput. Why? Because there is no Tournament play in MS Golf 2001 Edition. What's that you say? You heard me right. No Tournament play, hence, no Tournament sounds. This, to me, is a glaring omission. Also gone is the ability to create your own sound scripts. This was one of the better options in the game. But, when you're making a “Lite” version of a game you have to cut corners someplace, I guess.

The ambient sounds are still there, and they're still as nicely done as they've been in previous versions of this product (Jim still hits the occasional tree). But the audio in this version of the game is all about what's missing (Tournament sounds and David Feherty), not what's been added.

Interface/Options : 75
The interface of MS Golf 2001 Edition is neat and clean. It's easy to find your way around. The menu in the game screen hides away neatly and comes up when you move your cursor to the bottom of the screen. The online help is adequate though I prefer a printed manual. Of course, manuals cost money and we are talking about an economy version of a Links product here.

Contrary to what I've read elsewhere you are able to customize your shot setup and changing your swing-plane, clubface angle and ball position all have a predictable result on the ball flight. So even though this game is clearly aimed at the more casual fan it allows some room for the casual fan to increase their enjoyment and immersion in the game by encouraging a little experimentation with shot making.

Where MS Golf 2001 Edition falters the most is in the area of available options. The biggest omission, for me at least, is the lack of off-line Tournament play. I always thought that off-line Tournament play was one of the highlights of this series for the last few years. Also gone, along with the lack of Tournament play, are the Tournament sound script files. No more oohing and aahing over great shots or raucous applause from adjacent holes. This is a feature that really helped to immerse the player into the golfing experience.

Another missing item is the ability of the user to create their own custom sound files. I've played around with this feature in the past and I've always enjoyed it.

The 30+ different Modes of Play have been whittled down to but ten choices. Five of them, however, are new. Happy Golfer requires that you play with just six clubs. Playing By the Book will earn you points for every fairway you hit, every green in regulation and for getting down in two putts or less. But, beware, if you three-putt you give up all the points you earned on the hole and if you do worse than a three-putt you lose all the points you've earned in the entire round! Ouch.

The Main Menu has a button for “Lessons.” This will help explain how the game works to the newbie to the series. It works well but is non-interactive and, though adequate, is not as handy as having a printed manual.

Internet play is available, of course, and you shouldn't have too much trouble finding a game at You can also play direct through TCP/IP or modem to modem.

Gameplay : 80
If you liked the gameplay in LS'97, '98, '99 or any of the MS Golf versions of the game, there's no reason for you not to like the gameplay in MS Golf 2000 Edition, with one exception. If you enjoyed the off-line Tournament play aspects of the game as much as I did you'll find its omission practically a sin.

There are seven courses included with MS Golf 2001 Edition, a fairly generous offering. That is, until you realize that not a single one of these courses are new. You get two Hawaiian courses; Mauna Kea and Kapalua Plantation, three desert style courses; Bighorn, Entrada and the executive-style course Three Canyons. You also get Bountiful and Sea Island. A solid collection of courses, to be sure, but, again, nothing new.

The game includes all the old swing types to choose from. Easy Swing is back for those of you that are hand-eye coordination challenged. With Easy Swing you only need to concern yourself with the power meter to set the length of your shot. You don't have to worry about hitting the 6 o'clock snap mark on the meter for accuracy. Easy Swing will provide a simple one-click perfect shot, neither hooking nor slicing. A cyber hacker's dream but not the kind of challenge a golf sim junkie like myself craves. But it should be noted that MS Golf 2001 Edition is not intended for the hard-core golf sim junkie like myself. This game is really intended for the more casual sim golfer. As a Microsoft PR person explained to me: “Microsoft Golf 2001 is designed with the new PC golfer in mind, with easy-to-use features and a one-click Easy Swing interface.” If that description does not fit you, then you will have no interest in MS Golf 2001 Edition.

There is also the traditional two-click and three-click swing meters and Powerstroke returns as well, although, now that I've gotten used to playing the terrific real-time Tru-Swing 3 mouse-swing of Sierra's PGA 2000, Powerstroke just feels plain awkward by comparison.

Replay Value : 70
Your mileage with MS Golf 2001 Edition will certainly vary depending on who you are and what you want or expect from a golf sim. If you are new to the golf sim genre, you may get your money's worth out of MS Golf 2001 Edition. With seven courses, and for a mere $19.95, it's a solid sim. But, therein lies the rub. If you find yourself really enjoying golf on the PC with MS Golf 2001 Edition you may very well find yourself wanting more than what this game has to offer in a relatively short period of time.

Overall : 75
If you're not new to golf on the PC, if you've played and enjoyed games like Jack Nicklaus 6: Golden Bear Challenge, Links LS 2000 or the excellent PGA Championship Golf 2000, then MS Golf 2000 Edition is not going to be of any interest to you at all. Period. Especially with the imminent release of what will be a far more robust package in Links 2001 that will include, for the first time in Links' history, a full land-plot course designer.

Unfortunately, MS Golf 2001 Edition is marked more by what is missing from previous versions of the game than it is by anything new that has been added.

But, if you're truly a casual PC golf fan who likes to play a round or two on a relatively attractive game that features terrific ball physics and a few fun modes of play and you're not the least bit interested in designing your own courses, then this might be just what you've been looking for, especially for a mere twenty bucks.

By: Leeman 10/9/00
Comments on the review?

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