Microsoft Golf 1998
Microsoft has a new developer to carry on its line of golf simulations. Friendly Software Corporation has replaced Access Software, creators of the best selling Links series, as the new driving force behind Microsoft Golf 1998 Edition. The good news is, we will now be treated to a completely refreshing golf sim. The bad news is, Access makes arguably the best golf game around and they won’t be making a version for Microsoft any longer.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
The ways you can customize this game is by far its best distinction. Some of the features you have control over include the ability to play the front nine, back nine, all eighteen holes, or just select one or more to practice. There are nine pin placement difficulty settings and a random pin placement setting. For the outside environment, there are four sky settings (sunny to cloudy), five wind settings (calm to very strong), five ground setting (very dry to very wet), and a fog setting (on or off). The different games to choose from include the usual Stroke play, Match, Skins, Scramble, and Bingo Bango Bongo. MS Golf 98 gives you the ability to configure your golfer to match your real golfing habits and abilities. Ball height and spin can be adjusted, as can your typical distances for each club you carry. If you have a good short game but are lacking when it comes to drives, MS Golf 98 allows you to set strengths and weaknesses for 10 different aspects of golf. MS Golf 98 includes four courses to choose from, which is not so good because you will not be able to import any of your old Microsoft Golf or Links courses into this game. The courses you must be content with include Bay Harbor and The Preserve 9 on Lake Michigan and The Links at Casa de Campo and Teeth of the Dog in the Dominican Republic. With all of the above customization features and settings, it’s a shame there isn’t a fun golf game to go with it. The ball physics are unrealistic. The ball bounces like a pinball and the cup appears to be about 12" wide in relation to the ball! It does not have the look and feel I would expect from a golf sim.
There are four swing methods to choose from but I couldn’t get comfortable with any except for the sim swing mode. This mode leaves the swinging motion to the computer and lets you take care of the club choices and aiming. The swing motion seems to be very difficult to master. Even on the easy difficulty settings, pressing the mouse button a microsecond too soon or too late meant a hook or slice far from your intended target. In the Links products, barely missing the mark only spelled disaster on the harder difficulty settings.
I would give the graphics an above average grade. The visuals are as pretty as a postcard, but they appear to lack a feeling of depth needed in a golf game. Missing are any movements other than the ball. No waving flags, flying birds, or physical reactions from your golfer. There are 10 golfer models to choose from and all kinds of shirt colors. Before each hole there is a helicopter flyby of the hole with commentary on the best strategy to play it.
Nothing special here. Birds chirping and the sound of water running highlight the environmental audio features. The voice of your caddie informs you of your dismal situation and he will give you tips on what to watch out for and which way your ball will break on the green. It didn’t take long until I was tired of the old chap telling me how pitiful I was. Thankfully, I was able to turn off the caddie remarks to boost my self-esteem!
Pentium 90, Windows 95 or NT 4.0 with Service Pack 3 operating system, 16 MB RAM for Windows 95; 24 MB RAM for Windows NT, 55 MB available hard disk space, 4X or faster CD-ROM drive, 2 MB local bus SVGA video display, mouse, 16 bit sound
For multiplayer games a 28.8 or higher baud modem for internet or modem-to-modem play and Internet access is required for internet play on Microsoft’s Internet Gaming Zone.
With all the setup and customization settings available, I expected a bit more when it came to a manual. Ten pages of instruction are all you will get in the flimsy CD case manual. There is some online help, but even that is sparse.
MS Golf 98 breaks some new ground when it comes to player customization and has fairly decent graphics; unfortunately, it falls far short of the green when it comes to gameplay, physics and the ability to import your old courses. Most importantly, it is not nearly as fun as other golf games such as the Links LS series. With the less-than-adequate gameplay and documentation, you may find yourself wondering what it was you paid for. This is one golf title to avoid.