Search For Posters!
  Join the SGN staff!
Help Wanted
Release Dates


About Us

The Sports

Partner Links
Auto Insurance Quote
Irvine Moving Companies
LA Moving Companies
Brand Name Shoes

[an error occurred while processing the directive]

Links 2001 (PC) Review

Publisher: Microsoft

Background Info

They've dropped the “LS” from the title. They've added two young guns from the PGA and LPGA Tours (Sergio Garcia and Annika Sorrenstam respectively) to play along with the legendary Arnold Palmer. They've added 3D video support and, perhaps, most importantly, they've finally added a course designer.

This is the biggest, most anticipated release of the Links series in many years. Links had been showing its age in recent releases. Will Links 2001 bring back the prominence of years past? Will it regain what may have been taken away by the likes of PGA 2000, Jack Nicklaus 6: Golden Bear Challenge or the Tiger Woods series?

It had recently gotten pretty crowded at the top of the golf sim mountain with the previously mentioned titles. Is Links 2001 good enough to break away again and get a leg up on the competition?

See for yourself!

Presentation/Graphics : 91
The first thing you'll notice about the graphics in Links 2001 (L2K1) is that there is now support for 3D video cards. This has proven to be a bit of a mixed blessing. If you can get the game to work in 3D mode you'll be treated to some of the best visuals in golf sim history. But, that “if” is a big if. There have been numerous reports of people having trouble with getting their video cards to run the game in 3D mode. I was unable to get my Diamond Viper V770 Ultra card to work properly in 3D. However, as luck would have it, I recently was able to upgrade both my motherboard and video card (to an Elsa Gladiac) and now I am running L2K1 at 1280 x 1024 in 32 bit color and I must say, the difference between running the game in 3D and software is quite remarkable.

As a side note, I gave my Viper V770 Ultra card to a friend and he installed the latest reference drivers from Nvidia and he had no problems at all getting Links 2001 to run in 3D mode.

I would have to say that it is absolutely imperative that you download and install the very latest drivers for your video card to expect it to work in 3D mode with L2K1. There is a list in the “Readme” file of issues with no less than 20 different video cards. Read this carefully and you'll perhaps save yourself some headaches. Many people have reported problems with the 3dfx line of video cards. But, from what I've heard, installing the very latest drivers for your particular video card has fixed most of these issues.

Another thing you'll notice with the graphics in L2K1 is the addition of bunker lips. This little addition goes a long way to adding a sense of “depth” to the bunkers. It's a nice effect and one that has been seen on courses created for PGA 2000. I wish L2K1 had carried this idea a little further and incorporated this little feature to different depths of grass for fairway and rough. I've seen this effect done in PGA2K and the effect around tee boxes and fairways is terrific. Perhaps we'll see this effect in the custom courses that get released with the Arnold Palmer Course Designer (APCD).

The objects in L2K1 have been given a facelift as well. Trees look more real than ever and, in 3D mode, don't look nearly as “pixelated” up close as in previous versions of Links. We're talking real photo-realistic quality here.

Other little touches include things like birds flying in the distance or butterflies. Fallings leaves were advertised as well but, I've yet to see any of those so far.

The golfers themselves are a huge improvement over previous versions of the series. They're bigger and much more detailed than in years past. But, I do have one or two complaints.

First, I was hoping that this version of Links would finally add true 3D polygonal golfers. The advantages of this, I think, would be that it would have been easier to include a “real-time” swing meter and also it would have allowed for the ability to place cameras anywhere on the course without having to worry about how the golfer's perspective would look, which is a concern with the current 2D golfers. Both the Nicklaus series and PGA 2000 have made good use of polygonal golfers recently and I think Links may have benefited from them as well.

Secondly, and this is a small thing, you can no longer choose your golfer's shirt color. Sergio, for instance, is wearing black and that is what he'll always wear. Boring!

One more complaint about the graphics, aside from the golfers themselves no other objects on the course cast a shadow. It doesn't detract a whole lot from the graphics (I didn't even notice it till someone mentioned it to me) but their absence is curious. Links objects have been casting shadows for the last several years. Why they would leave them out now is a mystery. Must have been a “deadline” issue.

On the plus side, they have finally added what appears to be a real 3D hole to putt into. It's nice to see the ball fall into an actual cup as opposed to disappearing into a black “spot” on the green. A minor issue but sometimes it's the little things that add a lot to the sensation of realism in a sim.

Frankly, if it weren't for how much better Links 2001 looks in 3D mode, the graphics would take a rather large hit. In fact, if you don't have a 3D card (is there really anyone that doesn't own one by now?) then you could easily argue that the graphics, in software mode, are not as good as they've been in years past (aside from the improved golfers).

Nonetheless, I feel comfortable giving a score of “91” for the graphics due to the strength of how good it looks in 3D mode alone and I hope that all golf sims make use of accelerated graphics in the future.

Presentation/Audio : 80
For the first time in years I can say that I am a bit disappointed with the sounds in Links. This stems from several things.

First of all, the sounds seem, at times, to be delayed or even missing. Stroke a 280 yard drive down the middle of the fairway and it might not even elicit a response from the gallery. Or maybe you won't hear the cheers till the screen re-draws and you're standing over the ball ready to hit your next shot.

Sometimes you won't hear the applause for a beautifully stroked lag putt from 50 feet till you're standing over the follow up putt from 10 inches away.

The speech from the golfers is quite repetitious as well. If you're playing as Sergio you'll hear him repeat often: “C'mon, Sergio. You can do better than that” (or something to that effect) over and over again.

In this edition of Links, the audio is more about what's been taken away than it is about what's been added. What has always been a strong point in the series has actually gotten a little worse.

And, I hate to say it, but I miss David Feherty telling me my last shot had: “neither the furtherence nor the towardenence”.

On the plus side, however, Links still allows the user to create their own sound scripts and, in fact, you can convert the sound scripts from older versions of Links for use with Links 2001.

Interface/Options : 88
The menu has probably received the most drastic change from previous versions of Links. Thankfully, most of the interface changes are for the better. The look of the menus and buttons is bigger and bolder. The only downside to this is that there seems to be fewer menu options per screen necessitating in the player having a few more screens to navigate through.

Links 2001 has added the ability to move the swing meter to a spot on the screen that's more to the player's liking. If you want to move it to the upper right corner of the screen you can. Also, the swing meter has received a new look. Rather than being round, the new swing meter has a more oval shape to it. But it behaves virtually exactly the same as the swing meters of the past.

The aiming stick is another device that's received a little enhancement. While using the aiming stick for chipping and putting you'll notice a little white arrow sticking out from the bottom of the stick. The arrow shows the direction of the slope of the ground as you move it across the green. This is a big help for reading areas of the green that are not covered by the grid. If the grid falls short of the pin by 10-20 feet or so you can run the aiming stick over that area and get a good feel for how much slope there is and in which direction it runs. This is a welcome addition.

If you have a three button mouse, or one with a wheel that can act as a third button, you can call up a club selection and shot-type menu with just a click of the button. You can then make club selections sort of “on-the-fly” and not have to navigate to a menu to make your changes. I find this feature to be very handy and it's a welcome change.

Where Links 2001 takes a big knock in the Options department is the lack of a Course Converter for your older Links courses. That's right, the course converter did not ship with the product. This has been known for some time so it didn't come as a surprise. Nonetheless, you may find that playing the included courses gets old in short order.

I do have it on high authority that a Course Converter will be available as a free download in the near future and that the converter will be compatible with all Links courses. Better late (and free) than never, I suppose.

As far as the gameplay interface goes, little has changed over previous versions of the game. There are still three options by which you can spank your ball around the course. There is Easy Swing, 2- or 3-Click or Powerstroke.

One nice option that some folks will likely make use of is the ability to assign custom maximum yardages to your club distances. For instance, if you hit your 9-iron about 125 yards in real life, you can set that as the maximum distance for your 9-iron. The only negative to this option is that you can not set your clubs to go further than they do by default. In other words, if you happen to be a bit of a long hitter, you can't set your 9-iron to travel 150 yards or some Tiger Woods-type distances. Still, it's a nice little feature to have and allows the player's on screen persona to more closely mirror their real-life club distances.

We finally have some new courses to kick around on with Links 2001. Aside from the classic Old Course at St. Andrews, we have five completely new courses to play. These include Aviara (Carlsbad, California), Chateau Whistler (Canada), Princeville (Kauai, Hawaii), Mesa Roja (a fantasy desert design) and Westfield (Virginia).

The Mesa Roja course is a waste except to act as a showcase to how powerful the included Arnold Palmer Course Designer is as it displays rock archways and overhangs. It does a good job in this respect, but is an otherwise uninspired course. Chateau Whistler is a beautifully done course set in the Canadian Rockies with numerous elevation changes and thick pine forests. Aviara is an Arnold Palmer design featuring beautifully done water placement and rockwork. Westfield is a nice inland course featuring acres and acres of oak trees and even a Civil War burial mound off the 13th fairway. Princeville is well known for being one of the very best courses on the Hawaiian Islands. Then, of course, there is yet another version of the classic Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland, the birthplace of golf.

These courses are all you'll have till the much-anticipated Course Converter is released. Hopefully that will be very soon.

As mentioned earlier, you cannot change the player's shirt color. This could potentially lead to some confusion during play if more than one player is using the same golfer animation for a round of golf. To help with this Links 2001 has added the ability to import a picture of the player and display it next to the player's name. Cool!

Last, but not least, Links has finally provided the southpaws out there left-handed versions of their golfers!

Most of what has been changed in the Interface/Options section of Links 2001 has been positive, but I'm going to give it a hit for not including the Course Converter.

Gameplay : 92
What can I say about the gameplay? Well, simply put, if you've liked Links in the past you'll continue to like it. On the other hand, if you've never cared for Links gameplay in the past there is not much here to win you over. There are no 3D polygonal golfers moving in real-time to a mouse swing, for one thing.

Still, I think the Links series has always provided a terrific simulation of a round of golf. There is infinite freedom to control the flight of the ball through adjustments in ball position, swing-plane and club-face angle. This allows the player to hit just about any shot that a golfer could hit in real life. Play the ball back in your stance to hit the ball lower, move it forward for a little extra height to clear a tree. Alter your swing plane to swing a little out-to-in for that gentle fade or swing in-to-out a few degrees to hit that nice little draw for a few extra yards of roll. For the most part, if you can do it out on a real course, you can do it in Links.

One of the improvements to the physics of Links 2001 is the absence of what I would call “ridiculous” backspin on the longer irons. You won't be sticking your 3-iron close to the flag and watching it “check-up” and come to a quick stop as in recent versions of the series. Now, the longer irons will land and release in more realistic and predictable fashion.

All the Modes of Play are back as in previous versions of the Links series and you'll not be left wanting for different game-types to play. My personal favorite is Stableford.

You can create a computer golfer to play with characteristics that you determine. The computer AI plays a relatively solid round of golf but does make some rather curious decisions after hitting a ball into a hazard. For example, too often I found the computer golfer opting to simply re-hit from a poor lie after putting a shot into a stream when dropping nearer to the pin and out of the rough was clearly the wiser choice.

Something new to the gameplay in Links 2001 is the addition of synchronous play. Now you and your opponents can play online together without having to take turns for each other to hit. This speeds up play substantially and is a welcome addition. You can watch your opponent's shots on an overhead camera as they navigate their way along the hole. Personally, as long as I have the time, I prefer to take turns.

One thing I was hoping would make its way into Links 2001 was the addition of a “snap cam” to show a reverse angle view of your shot in the main viewing window. There are, of course, reverse landing cams you can set but these cameras are preset to a specific spot on the fairway or green and, frankly, it's a bit of a crap-shoot as to whether you'll even see your ball in this camera or not. Right now, Links is the only major golf sim to not have this type of camera angle and it does leave a hole. It's easy to be spoiled by this view in the other sims. Perhaps, in the future, Links will incorporate this camera view.

The included Arnold Palmer Course Designer (APCD) is a long overdue addition to the Links series. The complexity of the designer precludes giving any real in-depth analysis for this review. Save to say, it is a very powerful (though perhaps not very user-friendly) tool for creating virtually any course you could imagine.

Replay Value : 90
The replay value of Links 2001 will be greatly enhanced by the addition of the APCD. In the coming months I'm sure we'll start to see some terrific user-made courses for the links series. I know for a fact that Scott Chesney (who designed several terrific versions of Augusta National for the Jack Nicklaus series of games) has begun a collaborative effort with Brian Silvernail and Ken McHale (two more famous Jack Nicklaus and PGA Championship Golf designers) to produce the first-ever version of Augusta National for the Links series. This could very well end up being the most downloaded course in golf sim history!

Between the APCD, and the soon-to-be-available Course Converter, I think the replay value of Links 2001 is probably higher than at any time in the history of the series. You'll just have to exercise a little patience for the Course Converter to become available and for the custom user-made courses to find their way to sites for downloading. With the complexity of the designer I would imagine that we will not quite see a flurry of custom courses right out of the gate, however. It took about 3-6 months after the release of PGA Championship Golf 2000 before the quality courses started to show up for download. I'm sure it will take about the same amount of time for similar quality courses to show up for Links 2001.

Overall : 90
So, has Links 2001 reclaimed the golf sim throne for the Links series? Perhaps not. At least not completely. It may not be the best golf sim on the market but if not, it's a pretty close second. Personally, I still prefer the 3D polygonal golfers and real-time mouse swing of PGA Championship Golf 2000. But Links has, finally, gone the extra mile with this release and done more than just tweak an aging game. The 3D accelerated graphics are a big boost in my eyes and the addition of the APCD is going to give this sim the legs it's been lacking in recent years.

If you've been a fan of the Links series you'll want this game, buy this game and like this game. If you've never really been a fan of the Links series, or if you haven't tried it in awhile, it may just be time to give Links 2001 another look with a fresh perspective and an open mind. You will, no doubt, like what you see.

By: Leeman 11/28/00
Comments on the review?

© 1998-2006 Sports Gaming Network. Entire legal statement. Feedback

Other Links:
[Free Credit Report  |   Car Insurance Quotes  |   Designer Shoes  |   Outdoor Equipment

MVP Baseball 2003
Street Hoops
Mad Catz Xbox Hardware

Inside Pitch 2003
MLB Slugfest 20-04
Tennis Masters Series



[an error occurred while processing the directive]