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PGA European Tour (N64) Review

Publisher: Infogrames

Background Info

The definition of golf, as stated in the Webster's Dictionary is, "an outdoor game, played on a large course with a small, hard rubber ball, and a set of clubs with wooden or metal heads, the object being to drive the ball into a series of variously located four-inch holes (usually nine or eighteen) with the fewest possible strokes."

The definition is deep and accurate yet lacks life and excitement. The same can be said about PGA European Tour. The game boasts a surplus of features, but in the end PGA European Tour is just another dull golf game.

Presentation/Graphics : 80
Surprisingly the graphics are one of the best things in the game. The courses, when compared to other N64 golf games, are beautiful. The hoards of trees, the long beautiful fairways, and even the dreadful sand traps are all comforts to the eyes. Weather can also be factored in. When it rains you can see the raindrops. When the weather is sunny you see the sun and when it is cloudy you see the clouds. Unlike on some N64 games there is a distinct difference. The players are also presented well, but do not stand out. Sixty-four of the top European Tour players are on the game, but you'd never be able to tell who they were unless you were given their names. The player models are all the same. You can change what color shirt or pants they have on, but in the end the players look like clones of each other. The courses and certain weather effects are what make this game visually effective.

Presentation/Audio : 35
As promising as the graphics were in this game, the audio was as unpromising. The play by play in this game is atrocious. I've played plenty of sports games where the announcers were bad, but none of those announcers can hold a candle to Peter Allis. Touted on the back of the cover as the famous BBC announcer, it's not really what Allis says, it's when he says it and how often. This plagues many sports games, but none are as terrible as this one. I doubt Allis says more than twenty phrases. Not only are the phrases overused, but also are said at the wrong time! Compliments on a great hole after a quadruple-bogey were not uncommon. The sound of the golf swing and the golf ball hitting the ground were both strains on the ears. Everything sounds like you are in the middle of a cave. The echo effect is definitely present. The best thing about the audio in the game is that almost every aspect of it can be turned to a complete silence.

Interface/Options : 95
The interface and the game options are easily the best thing in the game. PGA European Tour has as many game options as you'll see on any golf game on any platform. The interface is easy to pick up and provided no difficulty to me. When you get to the main menu you are given the option to quick match, play a non-tour golf game, start a new tour, or continue a previous tour. As you might suspect, the quick match is the fastest way to start a game. A few clicks on the control pad and you are on the course. A non-tour golf game gives you the choice of playing one of the four authentic European golf courses. On the non-tour golf option you can play three different types of golf. You can play strokeplay, which is normal golf. You can play matchplay where a point is given to the lowest score of each hole, or you can play skins. This is where a player who has the lowest score at a hole doesn't get a point, but euros (European form of currency). Holes one through six the winner gets 100 euros. Holes seven through twelve the winner is given a whopping 200 euros and the winners of the last six holes are given 300 euros. In the event of a tie, the euros are accumulated until a single player wins a hole.

The game's best feature lies within the "start a new tour" option. From there you either create a player or use one of the sixty-four available European players and try to become the number one player on the European PGA Tour. This process is a long and difficult one. You are not started on the European Tour right away either. You have to earn the right through four difficult steps. You start your journey as an amateur on the challenge tour. After playing four rounds of golf at four different courses you have to place in the Top 9. If you do that, you then get to start the challenge tour as a pro and go to Qualifying School. If you place in the top eight of qualifying school you can finally advance to the European PGA Tour. However, when you get to the Tour, it doesn't mean you'll stay there. If you don't rank in the top 32 after the season is over you go back to Qualifying School. You can be knocked down at any time so being on the top of your game is a must. Making it on the tour is the most difficult thing to do in the game.

If you are struggling with your golf game you are also given the option to practice certain shots from different areas. You can practice a certain hole on any of the four courses. You can also hit the driving range, putting green, or practice your chipping. Practice helps throughout the game. It's a nice way to get used to the controls, but it's also a good way to improve your skills to move to the next level on your journey to the top of the PGA European Tour.

Gameplay : 70
The gameplay is easy to pick up. There are four different types of swings. There are the basic two- and three-click swings. The two-click swing is easily described as clicking once to determine power, holding that click until you release once more at the bottom of the swing to determine if you hit the ball straight, or with a fade or slice. The three-click swing is the same as the two-click, but you click at the top of the swing and do not hold the click. There are two other types of swings. The X-swing and the Y-swing. For the X-Swing you don't click and hold a button, but rather use the control pad right to left for your back swing and follow-through. The Y-swing also utilizes the control pad, but instead of using right and left, you use up and down.

The rest of the gameplay is also extremely simple. You are given a directional line that not only shows your trajectory, but your distance. When the directional line is yellow that means your shot won't hit any trees or bushes. When the directional line is red, there is some hazard in your way. If you think using the directional line is too easy, you can move up to a more difficult way of hitting the ball. You are not given the directional line and have to factor in all the possible hazards for your shot.

After choosing what trajectory and distance you want, you next have the choice of what club you want to use and what type of shot you want to shoot (like a backspin lob, a bump-and-run shot, or a punch). On some short iron shots, a backspin lob shot is needed in many cases. Also, before shooting your shot you may want to look at what club the CPU has selected for you. Sometimes the CPU is blatantly wrong and either chooses a club that will have too much yardage or not enough.

The ball physics drag down the gameplay score. The ball just doesn't roll right when it hits the ground. For example, when it is raining the grass should tend to become soft and balls will not as roll as far. This isn't the case in this game. You could be on the 18th green and rain could be pouring down for the entire round and a ball off the tee would just take off rolling down the fairway. On par threes the terrible ball physics is even more evident. If you don't hit the ball short and into the rough or lay up by a massive amount of feet, you will end out of bounds. I remember many times trying to lay up, only see my ball jump off the green as if it were the parking lot and venture into the out of bounds. This is very frustrating and makes the game almost impossible to play at times.

Replay Value : 65
Getting to the European Tour and achieving number one status is a lot of fun. After you reach that pinnacle the game really loses all its fun. The different types of strokeplay that you can choose add to the replay value as you can play with friends, but this game loses any luster it has after you get to the number one ranking on the PGA European Tour.

Overall : 70
This game achieved what it set out to be, a golf simulation. What it didn't achieve was anything else. The game is just boring sometimes and has a couple of ball physics and audio problems that prevent it from being one of the elite golf N64 games on the market.

By: Tim Martin 7/12/00
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