When Accolade released Jack Nicklaus 5 in 1997 it happened without much prior notice and some surprise - afterall, it hadn't even been a year since Jack Nicklaus 4 had hit the shelves and announced Accolade's intentions to rejoin the world of viable golf computer simulations.
As welcome as JN4 was to some gamers, JN5 was a quantum leap ahead of its predecessor. Turning to polygonal 3D golfers using motion-capture technology, JN5 employs a technique resulting in exceptionally smooth and accurate golf swings. You have complete control over camera angles with TVCam - which allows unprecedented views from anywhere on the course of shots from aiming to replays. The graphics in JN5 are stunning.
From the 10 courses that come prepackaged with the game to the literally hundreds of courses downloadable from various sites on the internet, the visual translation of courses to the computer screen is simply breathtaking. There are dozens of top notch designers around the world that have been using the Nicklaus designer for years and many are true masters. This feature, the Jack Nicklaus 5 course design module, is by far and away one of the truly outstanding selling points of the game. With imagination, research and experience in using the designer, you can create any course from anywhere in the world - from your own local public golf venue to a world famous course such as Augusta National, or a fantasy or fictional course you dream up. With JN5 there is no need to wait 3 or 6 months and pay $20 and up for courses released as add-ons to a golf-sim package.
The actual play of the game isn't perfect although it's difficult sometimes to find fault because of the sheer beauty of the graphics. For example, one feature inexplicably left out by the designers is the inability to change course conditions to either wet or dry. You can, however, invoke fog, choose from five pin placements each round or select from five varying wind conditions. Commentary by Gary McCord does get repetitive (though funny) and annoying after prolonged use. Ball flight physics have been improved and challenge you with sidehill lies, buried bunker shots and uneven lies. The option to drop the ball has been improved (works well most of the time) and an unplayable lie feature has been added. Three swing modes are available and a choice of nearly a dozen possible playing modes enhances the game. One shortcoming is the shoddy development of a usable tournament mode (it uses a fully editable list of current golfers) that is unrealistic in its calculation of "field" scores and provides no mechanism for "missing the cut".
Creation of computer golfers to play against is simple and the game comes with several included or you can play over the internet. The design module alone is worth the price of admission. Unlike other major golf sims on the market, the charm of JN5 is the unlikelihood of consistently shooting unrealistic scores in the mid-to-upper 50's.
Graphics: The golf course renderings from experienced designers are gorgeous. The polygonal golfers are more for practicality than show but don't detract from the overall look and feel of the otherwise superb grraphic package.
Sound: Sounds like water, ball-striking, birds, thunder, etc. can be spectacular. With the ability to record your own sounds into any golf course design (from music to trains to cows) possibilities are unlimited. McCord's voice over is clear and pertinent but the main focus in the game are the ambient, background sounds.
Enjoyment: The minor flaws do not detract from the overall pleasure of teeing it up in JN5. Challenging, addictive, diverse, visually stunning courses, the sounds of golf surrounding you as you walk that first fairway - it's all here.
Replay Value: With literally no limit on the number of courses that can be developed (not to mention free downloads from internet related sites) replay value soars like a 300-yd drive down the middle of the fairway. Wind options, tee options and varying modes of play enhance this simulation whether you're playing new courses or the same ones over and over.
People who downloaded Jack Nicklaus 5 have also downloaded:
Links 2003, British Open Championship Golf, Links LS 2000, Jack Nicklaus Signature Edition, Hardball V Enhanced (a.k.a. Hardball 5 Enhanced), PGA Tour Pro, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004, America's Toughest 18
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