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Game Reviews
Links Extreme
by Access Software/Microsoft


This has got to be one of the strangest games I've ever played. Links Extreme takes the award-winning Links LS golf engine and combines it with some silly, yet out of place gameplay. Imagine if you will - a golf game peppered with exploding golf balls, magic golf balls, and playing on a WWI battlefield or eerie Caribbean swamp. This will give you a pretty good idea of what Links Extreme is all about.

Graphically, the game is Links LS with some effects added in. Some are good, others aren't. The Links engine has some nice background animation of balloons, planes, etc. to give the game some atmosphere. Links Extreme adds explosions (you heard me), wildly flying WWI biplanes, roaming zombies, and other assorted silliness to the game. The problem is that this isn't what the engine was intended to be used for, and the limitations of the animation show. The explosions look too pasted-in and while gently floating balloons looked fine in the sky, zipping and diving biplanes look too out of place the sky.

Strangely enough, with the Links engine powering it, the golf part of the game is pretty good. Links Extreme features two fantasy courses, Dimension X and Mojo Bay. Like any other fantasy course, they have their good points and bad points. Some of the layouts are straightforward and others feature obstacles that would be a nightmare on a real golf course. While the game does feature a straight golf mode, it isn't advised. Trying to shoot a "normal" game on one of these is an exercise in frustration.

Of course, normal golf isn't what this game is all about. Let's start with the demolition range. Links Extreme features a driving range that allows you to target shoot and take out your frustrations with exploding golf balls. Points are allocated to targets that you are to aim for and destroy with your mini-arsenal. Static targets include cows, other golfers, yard markers, and a giant billboard cowboy. Moving targets feature armadillos, ball retrievers, and hot air balloons. Each target is worth a certain number of points depending on difficulty, distance, and timing. You have a certain number of balls, and extras may be won by hitting bonus targets. The round may have a time limit or not. This is a shooting gallery, plain and simple. It's extremely silly and somewhat satisfying, but tends to get old rather quickly.

On the courses you have a number of options for gameplay. Regular golf is enabled and recommended for you to get the feel of the course, but not necessary and quite frustrating. Poison golf leaves the winner of each hole the "poison" for the next hole - compete for lowest score or eliminate opponents with golf ball grenades. Deathmatch golf (yes, deathmatch) puts you on a WWI battlefield and pits you against other players using exploding golf balls. Since the game is fully multiplayer-ready and Internet-enabled, this one can be a bit of fun. Extreme golf is stroke play featuring a host of power-laden golf balls. Some are intended to give you an unfair advantage, others are there to place in your opponents' bags as a prank. A left-turn ball, worm burner (which actually makes scorch marks on the ground), and one that performs loop-the-loops are good examples of pranks. For your own power-player arsenal, there is the rocket ball that can go 400 yards on a good hit, a ghost ball that passes through solid objects, a pin-seeking ball that goes towards the pin no matter what direction it is hit, a slam-dunk ball that goes into the air and down into the cup on a successful putt, and many others. As you can see, hitting with skill is only a small part of this game.

As you can probably tell, this game mixes a couple of genres that probably would have been better left apart. Sure it silly and comical, but in a golf game? There is nothing wrong with the game technically, I just can't figure out who the target audience is supposed to be. Golf sim fans might want to play around with it for a little while, but will probably just go back to the regular courses after a little tinkering. Arcade game fans might enjoy the gameplay, but will probably be frustrated by the Links LS engine which might be too cumbersome for that type of play. Sure, the amateur swings are implemented, but it still isn't shooting gallery material. All in all, Links Extreme is a mix of genres that would probably have been better served left separate.

Graphics
Sounds
Gameplay
Interface
Overall Impression

Bottom Line: All the power of the Links engine with the gameplay of an arcade shooting gallery. If that sounds good to you, you'll probably enjoy this game. Very silly and somewhat entertaining, the game mixes genres that probably shouldn't have been mixed.

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