After the United States’ recent Ryder Cup thrashing you would have thought American enthusiasm for golf would have cooled. Not so. When Links 2003 was released in the US at exactly the same time as the Jack Ryder Trophy was being relinquished by the US, thousands of gamers rushed out, bought a copy, and logged on to the multiplayer server in an effort to drown their sorrows. And so, right now Links 2003 is a popular pastime. There are so many types of competition including ladder play, email tournaments, virtual tours and more, that even the most untalented yanker stands a chance of winning something.
Feel The Force
What also helps is that for the first time ever in a Links game, there's a real-time swing option. For those of you unfamiliar with this, it basically means you can move your mouse down and then up to mimic the motion of a real club swinging through the ball. This option alone gives PGA 2000 fans something to ponder, as effectively it was the reason why PGA 2000 was better than Links in the first place. In fact, when it comes to the multiplayer game. Links 2003 is now probably the more complete experience. The only drawback is that you can’t see your opponents in 'fast play' mode, which is a little disconcerting as it highlights the fact that you really don't have any friends.
The Perfect Blend
Like Links 2001, the Arnold Palmer course designer is part of the package. Already there are more than 500 courses at - which is good news as, if you’re anything like us, you’ll quickly tire of the five standard courses. Links 2003 also offers the lone golfer a superb career mode taking you through the amateur, semi-pro and pro rankings until eventually you make the coveted invitational tournaments. It’s also worth mentioning that the skill setting caters for everyone from Links experts to novices - and just to make sure there’s a tutorial covering everything from whacking off to putting.
Other improvements include new pro golfer models, fairway blending and higher resolution graphics giving the course a much more realistic feel. Links 2003 also offers variable weather that changes as you play - which hasn’t been done before. The ball physics are also greatly improved, although on the negative side, the camera views and the crowd noise could do with some sprucing up. Watch out too for render times on low-spec machines; you can sit around for anything up to 30 seconds waiting for a scene to be drawn.
That said, there's no doubting the quality here. Come in PGA 2000 your time is up - Links 2003 is the new king. All that remains now is for Tiger to come up with a reply, though if the Belfry is anything to go by, we could be waiting a long time.
Download Links 2003
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
In the past couple of years, console golf games have taken encouraging strides in competing with their PC cousins. The latest version of Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf for the PS2 for example, closes the gap considerably with beautiful graphics and realistic game play. But with the recent release of Microsoft's Links 2003, bragging rights may once again belong to PC owners.
Last year's Links Championship Golf was more of an expansion pack than a full-fledged upgrade to Links 2001. But this year, it's a whole new ball game. Among other things, the newest version of the best-selling golf simulator comes packed with six brand new championship courses, a 'Dynamic Camera,'? improved putting, double the resolution graphics ' including new 3D characters, a new 3D green analyzer, and of course, a 3D course architecture tool that enables you to create the course of your dreams. In addition, Links 2003 allows you to create customizable players in which to challenge a stable of pro golfers including cover boy Sergio Garcia. There's even a new Practice Mode, which allows you to practice your driving (it's about time!). And if you're new to the Links series, there's an excellent interactive tutorial that covers everything from ball drops and putting to wedge shots and power drives. Several different swing mechanisms are available, including a new real-time mouse swing. Rounding out the features is a revamped online Tour Mode that allows you to compete against players from around the globe and a new solo Career Mode that's spread over three different 12-week seasons. All this is capped off with the best damn ball physics ever' case closed!
The graphics in this year's version are jaw dropping to say the least. Photo realistic courses will grace your monitor like never before ' even you Links old-timers will be impressed. Somewhat disappointing are the static environments that lack moving clouds and flying birds, but you'll be too busy negotiating that next crucial shot to really notice anyway. The sound effects are equally impressive, from the realistic roars of the gallery to the customizable player commentary.
If you have even a passing interest in golf games and your computer has the horsepower (I wrote this review after playin' the game on my new Pentium 4, 2.4 GHZ. And despite Microsoft's hardware recommendations, I imagine owners of anything less than a Pentium 3 need not apply), you owe it to yourself to buy this game and buy it now! And if your computer doesn't cut it, you won't find a better reason to upgrade than Links 2003.