PGA Tour Golf (Second Review)


Title           PGA Tour Golf (Second Review)
Publisher       Electronic Arts (1990)
Game Type       Sport
Players         1-4
HD Installable  Yes
Compatibility   All: use a low-res pointer and no mode promotion
Game data/utils Extra courses available (bundled with some rereleases)
Submission      Dennis Smith Profiled Reviewer

Review
PGA Golf is the classic Amiga golf game. Like most golf games, it takes the
basic formula used by Leaderboard and adds a few of its own features. To the
uninitiated, that means that you control a golfer around eighteen holes of
one of the golf courses, viewed in first-person perspective. Use the
crosshairs to line up your shot and then the standard three-click method to
first initiate your swing, then to pick the power of the shot as an indicator
bar grows in size, and the third click involves getting your timing right to
get a good clean contact with the ball. That third click is the most critical:
too early and you'll hook the ball, too late and you'll slice it, with
unpredictable effects. The key to playing well is mastering the timing of
the 'snap'. In addition to those features, PGA Golf introduces a wrist-snap
section to the power bar - you may play the ball with slightly more than
'100%' power if you wish, but must suffer the consequences if you're not
dead-on accurate.

While the fairways and surrounding rough are as flat as pancakes, as was
usual in golf games of the era, the greens are a bit special. Although they
appear to be flat, they're realistically contoured, and before you dig out
your putter, you can view a simple (vertically exaggerated) grid
representation of the green's topology. Due to the limitations of the
hardware (or, more fairly, the software, as later games proved), you have
to remember the curves of the green because the grid disappears as the main
playing view returns, but it's not difficult and you can line your shot up
on the grid screen. The only disadvantage with the system is that the grid
view does take some time to pop up. You can choose whether to view this lie
of the green automatically on arriving in its vicinity but disabling it
just means having to click for the menu every time you need it.

One feature of PGA Golf is so good, so important that you don't notice it at
all.  Until you play other golf games, that is - and there are enough of
them that have managed to avoid copying this feature that it makes you
wonder. On the screen, next to the bit of information that tells you what
club you have selected, there is a little note to say how far the club will
hit the ball at 100% power under perfect conditions, and this changes to
reflect the type of shot you're playing. You use the info so naturally when
lining up your shot that you hardly know it's there, until you play another
game, and it's not. It seems that every other golf game expects you to
learn these figures. They're printed in the manual, perhaps you'd like to
keep the manual propped open at all times while you play? It seems such a
tiny point, but I think heaps of praise are due to PGA Golf's programmers,
for being able to do the obvious when everyone else can't.

Graphically, the game is very simple, but it does make for quick screen
updates (except for those green maps). This allows a change of camera angle
mid-shot - hit the ball far enough and the view switches to a reverse angle
so you can watch the ball landing - it's almost like the television
coverage, and it's a feature you'll find you really miss if you ever play
a game that doesn't treat you to such a view (such as Nick Faldo's Golf or
Links, though the latter does allow reverse-view replays). In fact, should
you wish, you can watch a camera 'fly-by' at the start of each hole, to
give you an idea of the layout of the hole, along with a few words of
advice about tackling it. Sound effects are equally spartan but there's
hardly a lot of scope for sound here. Music is restricted to the
introductory sequences including the fly-by view, and is that annoying
stuff written to sound equally 'well' on old 80's PC sound cards as on
Amigas. In other words, noisy and uninspiring.

What makes the game stand out, though, is the tournament itself. You can
compete in practice rounds against friends and computer opponents, but the
game comes into its own in tournament mode, where you aim to go four rounds
with sixty PGA Tour Pros. Fortunately, there's no need to actually watch
the computer-controlled players making their ways around the course, but
you can follow your progress on the leaderboard, as you play well and
advance through their ranks - or perhaps sink down to the bottom, where you
risk not making the cut to the next round. At the end, you'll receive any
prize money that's due to you for your position on the leaderboard and you
can go at it again on another course. There are three courses with the
original game, and three more available on a data disk. (I also seem to
have acquired a mysterious seventh course from somewhere...) Statistics are
saved and you can aim to be the richest Pro on the Tour or get the best
average.

The tournament, in my opinion, makes the game the best Amiga golf game for
the single player (well, except for PGA European Tour), but it is let down
by being a little too easy. Once you've figured the timing for the 'snap',
you'll find little to trouble you in most of the courses. Completing rounds
seven or eight under par becomes commonplace (my best round was thirteen
under par - and with plenty of practice, you can probably do better than
that on a good day). Once you've played it out, you'll find it too easy to
walk all over the Pros and the game loses a lot of its appeal. Fortunately
I've found I can inject a bit more life into it by handicapping myself. A
few drinks while playing can hamper your timing just enough to make it
exciting again...

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