Yes, PGA Tour Golf is better than Leaderboard. Find that hard to believe? Let me convince you. I'll get the worse point out of the way first Rob Hubbard, once considered the Jan Hammer of computer game music, has supplied the soundtrack for the game. It consists of a grating series of fanfares. This from the man who composed some of the best ever computer music. Fortunately you can turn it off, leaving just the tranquil sound effects.
With that merely a distant ringing in your ears, you can get down to business. Up to four people can take part. Any of these four can be computer controlled, so even if you're on your own, you still get an opponent to play against. Although you won't see them, you're actually competing with 59 professional players, with your position on the leaderboard adjusted accordingly after each hole. As you approach the first hole, and every subsequent hole, you're given a fly-by view of the green, before the camera moves back along the fairway to the tee. A selection of pros give brief bits of advice on each hole, suggesting the best route to the cup. As with most features not essential to playing a shot, this can be cut out altogether to save time.
A few different control methods have been tried in the past, but when it comes to actually hitting the ball, Leaderboard's two-part power and accuracy bar is a firm favourite. It works well, and PGA Tour uses an almost identical system. One click sends the power bar rising, a second sets the power of the shot, and a third click decides whether you hook or slice the shot, or play it dead straight. If you need an extra long shot, you can let the bar move into the overswing sector. This gives you extra power in the shot, but magnifies any slight imperfections. A shot that might have veered slightly to one side with normal power, may now end up way off course, embedded in the rough.
One of the best new features is the switch in camera angles half way through a long shot. As you drive the ball up the fairway, it shoots off into the distance. The view then switches to one from a camera positioned approximately where the ball will land. Facing in the opposite direction now, the ball speeds into shot, giving you a very clear view of where it ends up.
When it comes to putting, you'll need to consult the contoured diagram of the green. Separate from the main "window on the world", this view of the green is overlaid with a grid, showing up all of its little hills and undulations. Although it's a bit awkward, you can rotate the view to get a good idea of where to aim your shot. Back on the real green, you get an aerial close-up view of the hole in the corner of the screen, as you make your putt and hold your breath. Your own 'Oooh!'s are echoed by the computer as your ball circumnavigates the hole and pops out. Even so, you'll be congratulated with a healthy round of applause when you do get it down, no matter how many shots it takes you. Birdies and eagles are met with a suitably ecstatic reaction from the invisible crowds.
Some of PGA's new features may not sound revolutionary, but they each make the game that bit more compulsive. Especially good shots are replayed automatically, with the ball's flight-path plotted as it goes. Any shots not deemed impressive by the computer can still be replayed at the player's request. Unlike most other golf games, the wind in PGA is constantly changing direction and speed, even as you line up your shot, which adds a touch more realism.
Player names and records are automatically saved to disk. Thanks to this, you can load up your player from disk before each game, attempt to better your driving accuracy, or try to knock a couple of shots off your best 18 holes. This means you need to leave the program disk write-enabled, so watch out for viruses.
PGA Tour Golf has just about everything Leaderboard has, and more. It's not a game that's going to knock you out with stunning graphic tricks, and because of its easy-going nature, you probably won't realise it's won you over until you look at your watch and see you've been playing it all afternoon. The multi-player option and the computer controlled players make it suitable for both social and solo occasions. With its four 18 hole courses, it's got a long life ahead of it. Even if you wouldn't know a sand wedge from a cricket bat, it makes no difference in PGA Golf Tour. If you're still unconvinced, track down an independent dealer and get yourself a play test. You'll be hooked in no time.
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