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Review by: Shawn Quigley
“What other people may find in poetry or art museums, I find in the flight of a good drive… ” –Arnold Palmer
It was 39 years ago that Arnold Palmer played his first PGA championship, won his first Masters, and became the leading money winner on the tour for that year. Thirty-nine years later, Arnold Palmer is Access Software’s first “Legend in Sports,” their latest installment to the Links series. Continuing their line of the dominating golf series, “Links,” Access software has upped the ante one more time. Links LS comes after a long wait by loyal links fans. The game boasts a new interface, an updated terrain-rendering engine, a new ball flight model, and many other features sorely missed in previous versions. The game ships with three new courses, Latrobe C. C. (Arnold’s home course), Kapalua Plantation, and Kapalua Village (both of which are in Hawaii). Also included in the game is Arnold Palmer, the first of the new LS Tour Player Series.
The first trick to playing the game is to get it installed correctly on your system. Although the game will run under Win95, there are many restrictions to get it running smoothly. It seems that most people have chosen to run LS under DOS! Access has promised a native Win95 version to be released later this year. In the meantime they have put on their web site a pretty extensive technical support page that deals with all the different environments that LS could be installed on.
After getting the game up and running you are awakened by the awe inspiring graphics. The detail is just unbelievable and this has always been the Links series stronghold. If you have a powerful enough machine, with a 4MB graphics card, you are able to run at ultra high resolutions. These resolutions show every detail, down to each individual leaf on the trees! The slopes and hills are easily definable, thanks to the realistic shadowing effects. While hitting out of the sand, you will see sand fly up, your tee will spin into the air after driving the ball, and divots fly into the distance on approach shots. Finally, you can change resolutions and many other settings from within the interface. Other enhancements include the ability to play different games such as Stroke, Match, Best Ball, and Skins. There is just something about being able to take Skins from a legend like Arnold, only that you wake up realizing that you were only playing Links LS.
The sound system has also been enhanced. Sounds now come from a panoramic perspective, so as you play close to the ocean, you will hear waves crashing along the beach. Ambient sounds come every once in while, such as helicopters in the distance while playing one of the Plantation courses. There also is new commentary from the players as well.
All the player animations have been motion captured to give a more realistic look to playing the game. When playing against Arnold, he looks and swings like Arnold. You have the option to install different frame rates for these players, with the higher frame rates taking up more hard drive space. The ideal recommended hard drive space to play the game is a whopping 200MB.
The interface to gameplay has received a major face lift as well. The toolbar now snaps out of view so as not to obstruct the view during play. You have access to just about everything from this toolbar. You can change clubs, change your stance, change your angle to the pin, view a flyby, set multiple camera views, and check the wind among other things. The ability to change camera angle as well as place multiple windows on the screen is one of the major enhancements in the LS version. You can virtually view your shot from anywhere on the course.
Trying to combat against the outrageous scores that people were racking up in the previous version of Links, Access has made a few changes. There now are different green speeds and hardness, varying levels of wind, varying levels of fog, and different pin placements each time you play the game. They have also included an authentication system to allow you to record a game and trade that game with another player using the same setting that you had used. Most of this has seemed to increase the difficulty in playing the game, but if you work at it long enough, it too can be mastered like the others.
Access recently released a patch that allows you to use the IPX protocol to connect to other players and internet play is possible by using Kali95 – an IPX compatible Internet service. Access did not put native Internet play into the base package, something that is sorely missing. By using Kali95 you can hook up with other players and play using the IPX protocol that Kali allows. Players have created Links LS tours around the internet that let you play in tour styled formats against other players. The only problem with these tours is that the scores are unrealistic. You frequently see scores of 50+ under par! Most of the tours have different levels of play, such as championship and Pro levels.
Another feature that has been added to LS is the Virtual engine found in the Access titles such as the Pandora Detective. This virtual engine lets you take a stroll through Arnold office / workshop. You also can take video tours of the courses that come with the games. This adds a nice touch to the game, but obviously there is no real re-playability in these tours.
Access has also upgraded all their previously done courses and offers them in packs of five, a great deal. There are noticeable differences between these re-done courses and the original Links Pro versions. They are worth a look!
Now if only they could get the rights to do the home of the Masters, Augusta National!
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