Fox Sports Golf '99
It is about time that golf get proper play on the PSX. As I have said before, I don't play or watch golf but for some strange reason, I love playing golf video games. Up until recently, my options have been really limited. Thanks to Sony, I have been playing the awesome Hot Shots Golf. Now the people who bring you sports on your television are bringing the experience home to your PSX. The first of these games is Fox Sports Golf 99 which was developed by Gremlin Interactive, the team behind VR Golf 97. The question is did they fix the problems in VR Golf 97 or did they just repackage the same game and give it a new name? Read on and you shall see.
When it comes to options, Fox Sports Golf 99 is packed with 'em. Just about every game mode you can think of is available from skins, tournaments, match play and stroke play. If you need a little practice, you can head out to the driving range or putting green and brush up on your technique. Add six courses into the mix and a random hole generator and out pops the formula for a great golf game. Unfortunately, what sounds like it will be great does not always end up that way.
I liked VR Golf 97 to a certain extent. It had problems but it was still a pretty fun game to play. To be brutally honest, I hated Fox Sports Golf 99 the first time I played it. After each hole during that first game, I hated it more and more. After that first game, I took a half an hour away from the game just to regain my composure. When I came back and played again, I got the feeling down a little better and my feelings changed from hating it to not really liking it. There is a big difference in the hating and not really liking so I saw this as progress. I then played another five games in a row and I eventually ended up finding the game tolerable.
My biggest complaint about this game is the ball physics. The ball really does not act like any real ball or any ball in a golf game that I have ever seen. First, it rolls forever. I would hit the ball to the front of the green and watch it roll all the way across to the other side and end up in a trap. There were other times that I would hit the ball down the fairway and it would roll through the rough and halfway into the middle of the sand trap. Last time I checked, a golf ball pretty much stops right away when it hits the rough and it definitely stops as soon as it hits the sand. Not in this game. That is fine, I can live with that. I just had to learn to leave my shot way short on all approach shots so it would not roll off the green.
What I could never compensate for was the way the ball reacted when it hit the ground sometimes. You would think that on a short chip shot on the green, the ball would pretty much follow in the same direction that you hit it. Well, nine times out of ten, when the ball hit the ground, it would shoot off at some weird angle. There was no way to really adjust for this because it just seemed to randomly happen. Sure, there were times that you could see that the green was sloped so you knew it would happen but a lot of times, there was no apparent reason for it. This was really frustrating and really made it difficult to get good scores.
Another thing that I was really disappointed in was the putting grid. If you have ever played a golf game, you know that the putting grid is a grid that overlays the green so you can get a read on the breaks and the height of the hole relative to your current position. At least that is what the grid is supposed to be used for. In this game, you would be hard pressed to make any sense out of the faint lines that make up this grid. It was very rare that I was able to read the grid and compensate for the uneven green. Most of the time I would just putt directly at the hole and see what happened. It is really too bad because putting is such an important part of golf games and if it is done correctly, you will have nobody to blame for a missed shot other than yourself. I felt cheated every time the green had a bad break in it and I could not tell by the green. Why have a grid at all then?
Speaking of putting, be prepared to leave a lot of shots short. Putting is very unforgiving. Is this bad? Not really but you should be warned. I can't count the number of times that I hit the ball almost perfectly and left it three to six inches short. So of course I started trying to overhit a bit but that resulted in the ball kicking out all the time. The bottom line is that putting is not easy and making long putts is nearly impossible. I think that there is a good medium when it comes to putting in golf games and I think this game may be a little too sensitive but I guess it just makes it more satisfying when you do manage to sink one.
Is the game all bad? No, it does have its good moments. One of the good things about the game is that you have six different 18 hole courses you can play. This adds up to quite a few holes of golf. Also, the game allows you to create your own course by picking any hole from any course to make up your 18 hole course. That means that if you like to play the par 3 holes, you can go through all six courses and pick the par 3's to make up your own course. If you don't want to take the time to create your own course, you can play a random 18 which has the computer select 18 random holes from the six courses for you. This was a great idea and did keep things fresher than just playing the standard courses.
One other thing of note and I am not sure if this is good or bad. The commentators are very opinionated. If you make a good shot, they are not hesitant to prop you up. If you make a bad shot or have a bad hole, they will rip you to shreds. If you have a fragile ego, I suggest you stay far far away from this game. To be honest, they really cracked me up. I would make bad shots on purpose (umm, yeah, on purpose) just to hear what smart-ass thing they would say next. Like I said, some people may find it offensive but I though it was a riot.
Since this game has been available for quite some time over seas by the name of Actua Golf 2, the graphics seem very dated. I was hoping that Fox Sports Interactive would take the time to update the graphics a bit but it does not look like they have (if they did, I would hate to see Actua Golf). The players looked bland and the backgrounds were equally unimpressive. I already complained about the putting grid. On a positive note, this game had great in-game camera angles and hole fly-bys. After I hit my hole in one, I had a ton of different options and angles to watch it over and over again.
I really can't think of a single reason to purchase this over Hot Shots Golf. To say I was disappointed in the game would be an understatement. I really had high hopes but the way the ball reacted really made the game difficult to play. Most of my good shots were by products of luck, which sucks because I want to do good because I am good or do bad because I am bad. I really did like the random course generator but unfortunately I won't be using it much because the game is just to unpredictable. I think this game had all the makings of a good game but it should have been gone through a little better before being released in the states.
Download Fox Sports Golf '99
How many times have you heard this summer, "The heat outside is killing me! It’s so hot that I don’t even want to go play golf"? I know, I know, this is probably not a familiar quote in many households, but it seemed to have popped up once or twice in mine. Then I thought to myself, "Why go outside when I can play a couple of rounds in the comfort of my own home and not even break a sweat?" Now that is a great idea, if you have the right golf game for your computer. Fox Sports Golf '99 may just be that game for you.
Setup and Installation
Setup and installation was straightforward and very easy to do. That’s when the fun begins: the dreaded main menu. I thought it would be kind of cool to set my golfer up with my likeness and, of course, my choice of clothing. After all, it is supposed to be me out there on the green, right? Needless to say, I wrestled with the Golfer setup for about fifteen minutes, then accidentally zapped the golfer I had just made. I know it was probably user error on my part, but I did find that the main menu and the menus that follow it are not clear in their purpose and are confusing at times.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Golf '99 has a wide array of different matches you can choose from: practice, strokeplay, matchplay, skins, foursome, fourball, AMA tour and Pro tour. With this many options, it is hard to believe you could ever get tired of playing golf. You have to start in the AMA tour, then work your way up to the Pro tour; while it takes a while, it can be done.
Golf '99 has four different ways of controlling how you swing at the ball. You have the two-click method, the three-click method, the Fox Sports Swing, and the Fox Sports Laptop Swing. The different choices make it nice because it gives you the chance to customize the game to your personal preference. I found that the three-click method was too easy and the Fox Sports Swing was too difficult.
One nice thing about Fox Sports Golf '99 is that you have the opportunity to bring a caddie along for the ride. If he were my caddie in real life, I would have had to give this person a big tip back at the clubhouse. He seemed to be correct in his club choice and I believe he lined up every one of my putts for me. And believe me, if he hadn’t lined them up for me, I probably wouldn’t have made very many of them. Once you get on the green, it is a whole new game. I tried to play with a grid turned off, then with it turned on, and it didn’t seem to matter which way I went—I couldn’t get a putt to fall without my caddie friend. Maybe practice makes perfect.
I have to admit the graphics for this particular golf game are quite impressive at times. If you happen to have a 3Dfx card you will be pleasantly rewarded, as the courses are really gorgeous. I found that the fly-bys and the different camera angles were more fun to watch than actually playing the game. The greens looked nice, but you can’t read one to save your life.
As far as the animation for the golfers, it is like playing an old SEGA game. I was not impressed with the lack of effort put forth on the golfers. They were rough around the edges and didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the course. It would have been nice to be able to change their outfits a little more than just a select few colors and designs of clothing.
The power meter in the corner seemed to be thrown together at the last minute and detracted from the beauty of the course.
The sounds in Golf '99 are just what you would expect in a golf game. The club hitting the ball and the occasional bird flying over are nice. After the sixth hole, I turned the commentator off because I found him more annoying than entertaining. I guess that would be personal preference because I don’t like people yakking in the background while I am trying to hit a little ball with a club.
Pentium 120, Windows 95, 16 MB RAM, 87 MB hard drive space (219 MB recommended), 4X CD-ROM drive or faster, Windows 95 compatible graphics card (minimum resolution is 320x200 to 640x400), Windows 95 compatible sound card (optional), supports all 3D accelerator cards (3Dfx recommended)
Room For Improvement
It has become commonplace to add a course editor to most golf games. Fox Sports Golf '99 does not have one. The courses that come with the game are challenging enough to keep you occupied for a while, but it sure is nice to design your own course and then see if you can shoot par.
Golf '99 is a fair golf game that has its highs and lows. If you are looking for a game with great-looking courses and easy gameplay, you might like it. If you want to have a golf game with 3Dfx support, then you would definitely like it. If you are sitting at home waiting for the next installment of Links LS, then you also might like it.
The bottom line for Fox Sports Golf '99: they should have taken more time to enhance the game and call it Fox Sports Golf 2000. One more year of coding and they would have had a top-notch golf game worthy of a much higher score.