How do you make one of the best and most popular golf sims of all time better than ever? Apparently the good people at Access Software decided to answer that very question. Links has been with us in many forms over the years, and has become the de facto standard by which all golf sims are judged. With the previous version, Links LS, still less than a year old, it's tough to imagine that an overhaul was required this soon. As usual, Access has done a remarkable job. The solid physics model is still in place, with all of the advancements that the LS version came with, as well as some new things both big and small. The biggest thing you will notice is that the game is now a native Windows application. No more clunky DOS problems, or rebooting into the venerable old operating system. Taking advantage of the Windows interface, you can now open as many view windows as you like, memory permitting. The windows are resizeable, and allow you to judge your shots more accurately, as well as aim within them. Minor advancements indlude flags waving in the breeze, more animations, and blimps, planes, and balloons passing by overhead. Links LS 98 also includes some truly spectacular fog and haze effects. Now you can not only play a round of golf, you can now feel as though you are playing IN THE MORNING. The courses themselves are as beautiful as they were in the previous version of Links LS, nothing at all has been lost in the upgrade. The three courses included with the previous version are all there, and also the extra course that was available upon registration. All four courses, Kapalua Bay, Kapalua Plantaion, Kapalua Village, and Latrobe Country Club are included with the 1998 version, and another course, Pelican Hill, is now optional at registration. Everything else about the 1998 version is consistent with the 1997 version, sounds are good, graphics still prepared for the display modes of the future. The golf model itself has not changed noticeably, it is still solid and reliable. The interface has a slight stutter to it that was not present before, almost certainly due to the fact that the game is now Windows native. Nothing that detracts from gameplay, fortunately. All the other extras from the 1997 edition are still in place, including flybys and the Latrobe VR tour. I did find one bug in the game that I believe bears mentioning. In at least one course included with the game, Kapalua Plantation, if you go into practice mode and select a number of holes, upon completion of the holes the game does not exit the course and bring you back to the menu. Instead, it goes to a 'nineteenth' hole that does not exist on the course. Your overhead view is that of the entire course, and the distance to the pin becomes a negative number, making it impossible to play out. Choosing 'next hole' moves you onto a non-existent 'twentieth' hole, and so on, until you opt to 'exit game'. This certainly does not affect your gameplay in any way, nor does it harm anything, but I felt it necessary to mention it nonetheless. This does not occur in regular play, only in practice mode on certain courses included with the game, older courses did not result in this error. Multiplayer is part of the package as before, including Internet play. For those of you that have purchased the 1997 edition, Access is making an upgrade available at a reduced price. It's worth upgrading for the Windows interface alone, the additional extras just add to the package, and do it nicely. Another winner from Access.
Bottom Line: Still the same great game, now Windows native. Lots of little touches make this a worthwhile addition to any golf fan's collection.