Greg Norman's Ultimate Golf
Copyright/Publisher: Gremlin Graphics Ltd, Programmed By:
Simon Blakes, Graphics By: Bernie & Greg, Music By: Ben Daglish,
Release Year: 1989, Genre: Golf, Number Of Players: 1 to 4

'The Great White Shark' (Norman's obligatory silly golfing nickname) has only recently been knocked off his number one spot by Nick Faldo - maybe he should practise a bit more on his own golfing sim!

Ultimate Golf is also ideal for those armchair sports fans whose favourite hole is the noneteenth, but can't be bothered to walk round the first eighteen!

Up to four human or computer players can participate, in Strokeplay or Matchplay, with the option of playing Singles, Fourball, Foursome, or Greensome (the last three being various types of four-player, two-against-two games).

The skill level of each computer player is determined by setting five factors: Experience, Stance, Grip, Swing, and Fitness. These can also be altered for human players to set handicap levels. Up to fifty created players can be stored in a database.

After leaving three of your 17 clubs behind (you're only allowed 14) it's out onto either of two in-built courses (or others from planned course disks). From the first tee you're greeted by a 3-D view, a grid of squares raised and sunk at different angles to form hills and bunkers.

Additional hazards are posed by trees and water pools. As the flag is often hidden, a map allows you to view the whole hole - you can even walk to any spot and get a 3-D view from that position.

An info box indicates the distance to the pin, along with weather conditions and wind speed/direction. If you're playing with a caddy he'll automatically select the appropriate club. He'll also aim the shot, shown on the swing screen. Here, as well as finetuning the shot direction, you can select the amount of top or backspin, and sidespin (hook or slice).

When you're ready to play the shot, a power meter appears. A power bar rises, stopped by pressing fire. Then, before another falling bar reaches the bottom, you must press fire to stop a swaying direction needle in the middle for a straight shot, or on the marker indicating the amount of sidespin selected on the swing screen. Putting is achieved by aiming an on-screen cursor and selecting power.

STU
Aargh! Golf games. Usually I'm doing really well, then make a 20 shot cock-up on the last hole to lose. Then when Phil takes 30 shots on a hole he tells me he's selected the Matchplay option so it doesn't matter how many shots are used, just who finishes a hole first.

What a cheat! Still, there's no denying in this latest golf game. Fanatics could take ages finetuning their shots, while dummies like me can just cross their fingers and hold down fire as long as possible. This makes it well worth a look: the sheer sophistication elevates it above any other golf game I can think of and is especially impressive on the C64.

PHIL
The ultimate golf sim? Not quite. It does boast quite a few novel features such as the two-against-two player options, the helpful map, and an elaborate method of playing shots which allows you to put all sorts of spin on the ball.

I also appreciated the way that you can set computer players' five ability ratings and your own handicap. However, the real problem lies with the 3-D display. Although it looks very good (apart from a few brown 'bare' patches on the C64), the view is stupidly redrawn every time you select any of the option screens - even for the little info box.

This is especially annoying on the C64 as the landscape takes a few seconds to build up. Ironically the delay is a deterrent to using the game's sophisticated options. The much speedier Amiga game is less frustrating but, apart from a not very useful map zoom option, has no extra features.


INTRO SCREEN

PRESENTATION 78%
Plenty of options, neat screen layout, short multiload for each hole.
GRAPHICS 76%
The 3-D grid landscape works fairly well.
SOUND 45%
Mediocre title tune, minimal FX.
HOOKABILITY 79%
Easy to pick up, marred only by unnecessary redrawing of landscape.
LASTABILITY 70%
Only two courses, but varying skill/handicap levels and game types.
OVERALL 75%
A sophisticated, playable golf sim.


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