Links Extreme is below par

Links Extreme
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Microsoft has its good and bad points. Both in the gaming world and throughout the rest of computing, the behemoth can’t help but have an impact — ask any federal judge if this is true. With that power comes responsibility, which in the case of Links Extreme, the company evidently chose to ignore.

Flat out, I can’t imagine what was going through the collective minds of those wacky Redmondians when they released this game. Built on the Links LS game engine, Links Extreme is an enigma. While Links LS and the latest Microsoft Golf are fine golf games, Links Extreme takes away everything that is enjoyable in those games and replaces them with pointless features and a too-hip attitude.

In the software’s manual is this little bit of explanation: "Links Extreme is …made up of 61% golf, 18% testosterone, 16% trinitroluene, 4% shrapnel and 1% a strange glowing object we found out in a field." Unfortunately, that glowing object wasn’t a purpose to putting out this game.

Indeed this game seems merely a poorly planned and executed attempt to capitalize on an existing product. I can only guess that Microsoft thought they could either attract fans of pixilated blood and gore or allow traditional computer golf fans to release some frustration. The game comes with a Demolition Driving Range, where you can hit exploding golf balls at a big neon cowboy sign, cows, armadillos, and other Texas-golf-chic for points.

Also included are two courses, Mojo Bay and Dimension X. Mojo Bay is a sort of swamp course from voodoo hell and Dimension X "takes you through a time/space rift into WWI France where golf is war." Hmmmm….yeah….whatever.

Those courses can be played using one of four modes of play. Stroke play is the traditional lowest score wins type of golf. Extreme Golf is "stroke play with an attitude" and again seemingly without a point. Poison allows you to either go for the lowest score or to try and kill all your opponents with different calibers of exploding golf balls.

Filling out the game is a mode called Deathmatch. In this mode, the goal is to try and survive more holes than anyone else. Extreme Golf was the closest thing to something approaching fun. In this mode you get to use what amounts to a buckets worth of trick balls, including such treasures as "Loopy Ball", "Rocket Ball", and "Super Bouncy-Ball." After 18 holes however, you’ll probably have had enough fun and speaking for myself, I really never felt moved to play it again. That’s about nine holes more than we wanted to play in any of the other new Links Extreme modes.

In my experience, golf games usually translate well to the computer. As in the real world, computer golf often requires you to pick your shot, have the ability to consistently hit the ball, and an intimate knowledge of your skills. Playing Links Extreme in any of its "extreme" modes adds new elements to that, but no real addition in terms of game play. Sure you can try to kill your opponent, but if that’s what you like, you’ll find more satisfaction in some other game. We found that especially in Deathmatch mode, Links Extreme resembled nothing more than a poorly updated version of some of those early PC tank games where you would sit and lob mortar after mortar at your enemy.

Golf is not a game of adrenaline, but at least it has a purpose. Links Extreme takes away that purpose, and doesn’t even give you any adrenaline in return. I’m all for games with a fair share of mindless mayhem, but I usually like to play games that offer something in the way of excitement.

The graphics in Links Extreme are not exactly state of the art, looking to be from some earlier version of Links LS, not the current Links LS 2000 edition. If you want cool looking courses and great computer golf, take Microsoft’s Golf 1999 for a spin, if you want to inflict some carnage, buy Half-Life or Kingpin. Links Extreme may have been a cool idea at some point, but obviously somewhere along the way something was lost.

To borrow from Microsoft’s own marketing, I mean instruction booklet, Links Extreme is 61% less than inspiring graphics, 18% dull game play, 16% an annoying over the top "extreme" attitude, 4% cool trick golf balls and 1% an idea that might have been cool at some point in the development process. All combined that gives it 100% of a single GiN Gem.

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