If you've ever stood out on the Par 3 4th Tee on a cool Saturday morning in July, waiting for the foursome in front of you to hole out, the crisp air invigorating you, then you've probably never been completely happy with golfing computer games before. Either the graphics are so poor that you hardly feel like you're there at all, or the playability is so lame that you feel like you're not really involved in the game. Or maybe it's the opposite: you're too involved with the minute details to have any fun.
Greg Norman Ultimate Challenge Golf is different. I'll even go so far as to say it's the first golfing game I've ever laid eyes on that really made me feel like I was playing golf. Unlike earlier simulations such as Microsoft Golf or the Jack Nicklaus series, or even Links, all of the playability components are really here in this game.
First of all, the graphics are incredible. Stunning, even. If you have the machine to play in true color, with full rendering of graphics, shadows, shrubs, and the whole works, the visuals will knock your socks off. This is the first golf game I've ever played where I actually felt part of the game, instead of just sitting in my chair laughing at the polygon graphics they called trees, or the goofy green stuff called grass.
The game controls, including the wide variety of player and game options available, easily outclass every golf game I've ever seen. You can pick everything from your sex or your various playing skills and strengths to your style of play. You can choose clubs and player attributes, including various balances of different abilities. You can even select your playing conditions, such as weather and wind type, direction, and velocity. And the weather really is weather. Not just cloudy or sunny, but varying degrees of rainy or overcast, too. Do you want soft fairways, firm greens, or variable conditions? And what about the pin and tee positions?
If all of these options aren't enough for you, then you can also tinker with the pairings. You can play with groups of your own design, or you can play alone, or you can play with Greg Norman. You can even play AS Greg Norman.
For actual playing situations, you also have the option of playing in simulation ("sim") mode or arcade mode. In Sim Mode, you do your aiming and swing selection, but the actual shot is simulated from your selections. In Arcade Mode, you actually control the physical shot. This combines the best of both worlds, which is a feature most golf games do not provide. In other games, you are usually provided with only one or the other as a playing method.
If you've got the time to burn playing a "real" round of golf, this is truly the best golfing game I've ever seen or played. Greg Norman Ultimate Challenge Golf, while incredibly realistic in both playability and stunning visual reproduction, nevertheless remains most memorable in one other realistic detail -- each hole takes just as long to play as it would on a real Saturday afternoon in July. But at least you'll feel part of the game...
Jack Nicklaus did it. Wayne Gretzky did it. Michael Jordan did it. Even Tony LaRussa did it. When a sports celebrity reaches the apex of his or her sport, the next arena is the world of computer games. Unfortunately, as most sports celebrities know all too well, success on the links, ice or diamond doesn't necessarily translate to success on the PC screen.
Greg Norman, aka The Great White Shark, fares better than most, putting his name on an above-average golf game and promoting the Florida golf course he designed at the same time. Only Norman's signature course is included with the game, but it's quite enjoyable, and good-looking to boot (if you have enough memory - see below).
Ultimate Championship Golf plays a lot like other golf games, with one major exception: you can adjust some 44 player characteristics before teeing off, from how you hit over water to how you hit out of a divot hole. You can also determine which type of player you want to be - streaky or steady, accurate or long, etc. Unfortunately, when you play in the arcade mode, timing clicks of the mouse to actually execute the shot, none of these characteristics comes into play. If you screw up the timing, you'll take a mulligan regardless. It's only when you play in simulation mode, where you simply aim the shot and the computer hits it, that your settings have an impact. It's ironic (but oddly necessary) that your selected control characteristics are significant factors only when you have little to no control over the actual shot. The game's other unusual feature is its rich, photo-realistic graphics engine.
People who downloaded Greg Norman Ultimate Challenge Golf have also downloaded:
Golf Pro 2000 Downunder, British Open Championship Golf, Jack Nicklaus 5, Links 2003, Microsoft Golf 3.0, Microsoft Golf 1998 Edition, PGA Tour Pro, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07
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