year, Microsoft surprised golf nuts everywhere with its MS Golf 98, giving the game a
whole new look and feel. They added more swing types, more game styles, better graphics,
and a more realistic physics model, without taking away from the easy-to-use interface of
the previous versions. There were still a few problems, though. MS Golf 99 takes care of
many of these problems while polishing the good attributes of the 98 version.
Golf 99s clear, sharp graphics are beginning to rival those of the king of PC golf games, Links LS. The game runs smoothly in 1024x768 in true color, successfully incorporating stunning 3D backdrops behind a variety of nicely animated player models. The cart paths, bunkers, trees, fairways, and greens provide a realism never seen before in MS Golf. The only visual aspect I am not truly impressed with is the water. More than once the ponds had me concerned whether I was at Bay Harbor Golf Club or the LaBrea Tar Pits. Overall, though, the game has very nice visuals.
The game setup in Golf 99 is more than adequatefar more than adequate, actually. There are several golfer models to choose from, and a myriad of shirt colors for each model. Four swing types are available to choose from: 2-click, 3-click, natural swing (mouse-driven), and simulation, where the computer takes care of the actual swing mechanics. Players can customize their golfers club choices, club strengths, aggressiveness, and abilities. And after the golfers have been created, players can change green speeds, pin settings, and weather conditions before hitting the course.
The number of courses is much improved in Golf 99, nearly doubling that of Golf 98. Golf 99 ships with 117 nicely rendered holes of golf (six full courses and one 9-hole course). All courses from Golf 98 (Links at Casa de Campo, Teeth of the Dog, Bay Harbor, and the Preserve 9) are included, along with Donald Ross Memorial, Medalist Golf Club, and the Eagle Heights fantasy course.
As in Golf 98, there are five game styles: match, stroke, skins, scramble, and bingo bango bongo. Up to four players can play, through hotseat, modem, local network, or Internet Gaming Zone. Internet play is surprisingly smooth. Once in awhile there will be a warp-speed swing or a slightly missed animation, but these problems are minute and do not affect the outcome of the swings. The Zone frequently holds tournaments in which Golf 99 players can establish names for themselves among other golfers around the world. Ive caught myself staying up past my bedtime on several occasions, playing hole after hole.
Golf 99s ball physics are, for the most part, very realistic. Flight direction and angle change appropriately from club to club, and the ball reacts properly to surfaces such as sand, trees, cart paths, and rough. Driving and chipping are convincingly accurate, requiring adjustment for surface, wind, golfer strength, and club choice. Putting, however, can be very frustrating, as the slope grids are sometimes misleading. A good loft wedge shot is much easier than a putt on many sloped greens.
One thing the folks at Microsoft didnt change in Golf 99 was the interface. Fortunately, this didnt need changing. MS Golfs interface has, in my opinion, always been the best of the golf games. It allows for on-the-fly adjusting of almost every setting in the game. This means no exiting to a configuration menu to switch game or swing types, or things of that nature. I strongly agree with their if its not broken, dont fix it policy.
Overall, MS Golf 99 is a very enjoyable game. It has nice graphics, an excellent interface, good variety, and very comprehensive multiplayer capabilities. Despite its stiff competition from Links LS and Jack Nicklaus golf, it is well worth the money and should be considered when its time for a new golf game.