The gaming industry has seen designs of extreme versions of football, baseball, and basketball games in the late 20th century. No doubt, the effort is to create entertaining titles in an attempt to attract not only sports enthusiasts but non-sports fans as well. And, now, with the release of Links Extreme, even golf gets an extreme makeover. With most golf games differing only slightly in the basics such as courses provided or types of swings, Access Software tries to put a new spin on an old game.
Unfortunately, other than the graphics and the catch phrases, the game really isn't that much different than the Links LS version after which it's modeled. The Demolition Driving Range is perhaps the most unique aspect, in that it allows you to aim at specific targets such as an old married couple or hot air balloons. Several options are available in this mode that make it worthwhile (e.g., racing against the clock or accumulating points) as a nice diversion when the course play becomes repetitive, which happens very quickly.
For years, the complaints against the Links LS series ran the gamut from "too hard" due to realism (not much fun) to "far too easy" by the "expert" players who tweak the controls and manipulate the game into not-uncommon, unrealistic and ridiculously steady rounds in the mid to upper 50s. It's due in part to this very perception of how easy it is to score low in Links LS play that Access Software developed an "extreme" version to be more like Midway sports games: fast paced, furious, off the wall and not so easy.
It's a silly version designed in the same "challenging" way as their Devil's Island fantasy course, which was specifically targeted at those who feel gameplay is too easy. And, in some respects, the designers went a bit overboard here as they did there. However, the "off the wall" part is accomplished quite successfully. For example, the use of the green as a safe haven in Deathmatch, which is match play gone wild, is a wonderful idea. Also, the exploding balls that can be used throughout the game, especially in Poison mode, are very creative.
Unfortunately, mastering the swing is a major problem in Links Extreme and becomes so frustrating that any appreciation for game creativity is quickly lost. The alternative is to use either the "Kwik" or "Amateur" swings, which are so ludicrously easy they eliminate any sort of challenge. Putting is a joke, as the greens are too hard to read and distance is simply based on luck. And, while you can choose between different stroke types (2- or 3-click method or power stroke), making a perfect shot takes far too much concentration to be enjoyable.
Oddly enough, while the graphics are excellent, something that's expected from the line of Links games, they aren't at all extreme. For example, the image of the solider playing golf may be interesting, but one would expect much more in the way of graphics in an "extreme" game. Instead, the developers remain too true to the formula of past games.
The biggest downfall is the limitation of only two courses, Mojo Bay, the 18-hole main course set in the Caribbean, and an unconventional 9-hole course in a World War I setting. The latter course, Dimension X, is so well done, it's a shame it isn't the 18-hole course instead. The multiple modes are nice, but gameplay gets old quickly after playing the same tracks repeatedly.
Realistic versus extreme settings aside, the one mode of play that doesn't hold much interest is Extreme Ball, which is basically normal stroke play with a large selection of different balls to use on the course. Examples include the water skipper ball, which bounces over any water hazard onto the dry surface, as well as the pin seeker ball, which goes straight to the hole. The limitation is the need for a perfect swing to land the ball as close to the direction line as possible -- something easier said than done. The ball types make the hole so incredibly easy it's not fun or are simply pointless and add nothing to gameplay.
Links Extreme is a mix of a good idea with poor execution, although some golf purists will be put off by the effort in the same way a true horror film fan might detest humor mixed in their movie.
Graphics: Good realistic graphics are a staple of Links golf games. The only aspect needing improvement in Links Extreme is the golf ball, which is just a small white speck.
Sound: The sound in the Demolition Driving Range, the explosions and other effects, are good, as are the surrounding sound effects on the course.
Enjoyment: Enjoyment takes a back seat to graphics and tedious swing requirements. Optional easy swing types leech any challenge from the game.
Replay Value: The different modes are nice, but having only 27 holes hurts the replay value.
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