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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004

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by Microsoft

Ups: Super graphics, deep and intuitive gameplay, all the features you want, loads of fun.
Downs: No free drinks between holes.
System Reqs: P150 32MB RAM, 120MB Hard Drive, 4X CD-ROM, Video Card with 1MB RAM capable of displaying 800x600 in 32K colors, 8bit sound.
When Rick asked me if I wished to review the latest Links LS golf game from Microsoft, I wasn’t quite sure if I understood the question. A golf game? The last time I actually played golf, going outside and wielding clubs like Fijian warrior, I accidentally put a ball into somebody else’s cart and had to run away from a guy in red polyester pants shaking a five iron. The recent death of Payne Stewart--a more well dressed man has never existed-- convinced me to put aside my aversion to simulated sports and dig into what turned out to be a fantastic game.

I can remember when Microsoft put out its first in the series of Links golf games. They hit on a winning formula then and haven’t deviated from it. Gameplay is elementary and intuitive. You have three swing choices (one that has been around for so long as to now earn the appellation Classic), that differ only in the number of mouse clicks necessary to make the magic happen (except for the "Power Swing," which depends on the speed and distance you move your mouse. They had to get the body moving somehow). Club selection, camera rotation, and the score card are available in a convenient menu system at the bottom of the screen. Want to change the club selected by the computer, put a little fade on it, or give it a punch rather than chipping? Can do. Microsoft has outdone itself, creating a game complex enough for the hardcore and easy enough for anyone interested in casual play.

But it’s a golf game. I knew I’d be playing golf and so kept my eyes open for anything out of the usual, anything that might tickle my fancy. Once again, Links 2K delivered. First, while having excellent landscapes and the choice of several courses, the golfer graphics really impressed me. You can choose from a series of male/female golfers or stick yourself in the persona of Arnold Palmer or Fuzzy Zoeller. (Bring on Payne. I want to be immortalized in knickers.) Make a good shot and your golfer does a little dance. Put the ball in the rough, they look abashed. Coupled with these nifty animations is an intriguing series of ambient sounds. Stick a large crowd around the course, and the intensity of their applause is directly proportional to the skill of your shot. They also boo and cringe when you screw up. Unfortunately they don’t dodge when you put a ball into their midst. Planes fly over and if you are in tournament play you can hear cheers when a player on another hole does well.

I assumed the heart of the Links 2K would be multiplayer action, but Microsoft has included a large variety of single’s events. You can play in a scramble, virtual tournament, a skins game, stroke play, etc. There are so many methods of play that I was never bored. Arnold Palmer beat the socks of me and took all my money in cash rounds, but I was never bored.

There is literally nothing bad about this game. It doesn’t even crash or take up too much space on your machine. Links 2K is a game that has a short learning curve but requires time and experience to become skilled. It has enough variety to ensure long hours of game play. The only thing I could locate as a minus was that you are unable to bludgeon your opponents with your putter after you beat them.  

Links LS 2000 is a great sports simulation. If you're an  avid golfer who has a long winter ahead, get this game. Even if the actual game of golf horrifies you, but you want an entertaining way to spend afternoons, get this game. Or, if the last time you played golf the beer-a-hole rule was in effect, and you ended up streaking the seventh hole, got into a wrestling match with the flag on eleven and have subsequently been blacklisted from every course in a three-state area, this could be your last chance to smell the grass and wear canary-yellow plaid. All in the privacy of your own home.

Get this game.

--Matt Blackburn