A good walk spoiled

Greg Norman's Ultimate Golf logo

WHEN I first saw this program, I thought thank god for that, it's not another of those dreary Jack Nicklaus games. Then again, after Jack anything would be a relief. Harold Mickelthwaites Guide to Getting on the Green Before Twilight even begins to sound interesting.
When you actually get Greg Norman's Ultimate Golf (my doesn't that sound much more exciting) you even find the energy to take the disc out of the box. And speaking of the box, Gremlin has even pasted the words, Shark Attack on the side. For a minute I thought that this was another version of Jaws. Very confusing I must say.

Anyway, on with the game and the first problem, the copy protection. Identify the hole from those shown in the manual it says. Easy, except the pictures in the manual have been taken in black and white and the shades of green are indistinguishable. Whichever idiot at Gremlin thought this one up should be shot.

To the clubhouse then, and a decision to make over the number of partners. I could make a smutty remark here, but they'd only cut it out so I won't bother (Right on, Good Taste Dept).

One to four players, human or computer controlled. Before you progress further remember to switch the caddy function off. The caddy can take up to three minutes to pick a club that you'll be offered if you disable the feature anyway. And you don't get a caddy looking like Nick Faldo's anyway, so you're not missing anything.

Out to the first hole and the scenery undulates into the distance. This better than the flat plains of Leaderboard, but then the graphics are quite crude and look like they were developed with the PC and spectrum in mind.
You are automatically lined up to hit a hole, which is a shame if the hole is a dog leg with trees. Altering position involves going to a drop down menu and calling up a map display. That works, but is not how I'd like to alter my stance and position.

On the map screen you can also zoom into the course, though as it will do you no good whatsoever, you'd simply be experiencing another of Ultimate Golf's useless features.

So you whack the ball using power and hook/slice on a very Leaderboard style meter - which is why it is the feature of the game which works most satisfactorily - and the ball sails into the distance, not growing perceptible smaller until it vanishes.
If you hear a sound effect you can guess that it's in a bunker, hit a tree or in the water. If not you have no way of telling where the ball has gone until you get up there.

Wind is a feature to monitor constantly, but rather irritatingly the anemometer is on yet another screen, as is the type of lie the ball has. When approaching nasty looking holes (behind a tree and over water), the poor computer players don't half dither. I mean I am one of the worst golfers in the country, but at least I know where I'd like the ball to go.
Which reminds me, the score cards have the provision for solitary players to try and reduce their handicap. When the computer asked for my handicap I typed in "my arms".

Where was I? Oh yes, assuming you get to to the green, which is by no means certain given the vagaries of computer arbitration, and the dismal putting section comes up.
The green is virtually always flat, except for the one occasion when you need to sink a put to win. Then you find yourself on the side of a hill. The only thing you have to worry about is strength of a shot, and what the weather conditions are. Even so, it is possible to completely misjudge a shot because the computer is feeling mean.

When you give a three foot put 10 per cent power (a 55 feet putter x 10 per cent = 5.5 feet supposedly) don't be surprised when you don't even make contact with the ball. The putting is a total joke, and someone at Gremlin has completely screwed it up.

Before you know it, if you're playing with three computer players, you'll have finished a round and be ready for the 19th hole, only to find it's now 3 a.m.

Ultimate Golf isn't bad, but it has serious flaws and certainly isn't worth buying if you're going to play on your own. Get a few friends round though, get them sufficiently inebriated, and you'll find it a reasonable change from Leaderboard.
Oh, and Ed (whoever it is this week), if anyone writes in to explain shark attack please send them a copy of the Beano from me.


Greg Norman's Ultimate Golf logo

GREMLIN £24.95 * Mouse, joystick and keyboard

Detractors of the game claim that golf is not so much a sport as an insult to lawns. So if you are the kind of person who, adding injury to insult, can turn the local pocket of greenery into something resembling The Somme, playing from home could well be the perfect solution. Gremlin have come suddenly to the fore with what is claimed to be "The most accurate Golf simulation" to date. With the help of the (still) World Number One-ranked Greg Norman and a posse of Sheffield programmers the firm have conjured up what is set to be the most intriguing golf simulation since the wholly magnificent Leader Board.

For the first time you are required not simply to make a few mathematical calculations, aim and fire but to master and utilise the variety of tricks which make the likes of Norman such a marvel. Gremlin have provided the player with a myriad of useful options designed to aid the wee ball's progress from tee to hole. Fortunately for those of us who like a challenge this can have the opposite effect. For one you can change the angle of spin to a finite degree. This can result in a shot which will turn your pitching pals green with envy or can make you look like a complete bark. There is the chance to give your ball detailed top and spin which can make the dimpled object of frustration stop dead as soon as it hits the ground. This brand of jiggery-pokery could take you months to perfect.

Ensuring accuracy of stroke is no breeze either. The Gremlins have designed an extremely fast swingometer which will surely test your nerve. If you do not hit your button at the crucial moment the result will be somewhere betweem the lacklustre and the diabolical.

There are rakes of playing options. You can take a stroll around one of two courses on your own or with some opposition and you can play Fourball, Foursome, Greenball or Skins. At every turn pretty windows offer extra options to give you a clear picture of variables such as weather, wind, speed and turf.

Each individual club head is pictured in one window so you make the best choice. The usual map is also to hand, but you have the option to view the hole from any part of the course. And there are many fiendish obstacles as well as putting greens which will make your blood boil.

Gremlin have taken a small eternity to get this game out, but it has turned out to be an absolute corker.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

The landscape has been drawn in a squarial style which, while not always appropriate, manages to give you a good picture of the terrain. On the whole the affair is pretty and bright although sometimes a tad fuzzy. The worst aspect of this game is the sound which you would do well to dispense with. Clearly golf is not a noisy affair, but audio simulations of balls dropping into holes or magnificent one wood swings are, on this occasion, awful.

LASTING INTEREST

For one player or four there is plenty to do and the more you get the swing of it the more you will enjoy this game. It is excellent fun. Gremlin have provided only two courses but we are promised extra fairways, lawns and greens in the near future.

JUDGEMENT

Despite the number of options available this is not an excessively fancy game. It is accurate, intelligent and challenging and will prove to be one of the most popular sports sims of the year.


Greg Norman's Ultimate Golf logo Zero Hero

Dunc: Amiga review Jack's called the Golden Bear. Guess what Greg's called - the clue's in the title. That's right - he's a bleedin' Shark. Why? Oh well, never mind.

The front end offers pretty much what you get in Jack Nicklaus - but there's no Skin Game option. If you want to play that way you'll have to use a bit of paper and a pencil. The computer opponents can be tailor made by you - you choose their skills and can even save them into a database. Oh, and there's a weather option which gives random playing conditions, from sunny to rainy (nice one). No hassle getting into the courses either (there are two, with an option to load forthcoming data disks).

Er, wow. Vector lines showing uppies and downies as well as the different shades of green to show the terrain type. The pull down boxes then. There's one to select your club - it also gives you a picture of the type of grass your ball is resting in. There's another that allows you to tweak everything, from putting backspin on the ball to doing curvy banana shots. There's an information box that gives you wind speed, distance to pin and all that sort of stuff, a map box that gives you a full screen overhead map and a play box that, once you're ready to take your shot, puts the power meter and a picture of Greg on-screen.

From the map screen, by the way, you can do all sorts of incredibly useful things, such as actually 'walk' around the course, looking at the hole (and anything else) from different angles.

The graphics are far more stylished than those in Jack Nicklaus - the trees being reminiscent of the type you might find in a seventies Letraset catalogue. They're rather 'groovy'. There's a great feeling of depth in the game (thanks to the vectors) and it's all very slick. However, I didn't really like the feel of the putting sections very much - the hole sort of feels much closer than it actually is. Apart from that I'd describe the game as exceptional.

Stop


THE POWER METERS
JACK'S POWER METER
(1) Click the mouse to make the bar rise (going into the red gives a mega whack).
(2) Click again to make it drop.
(3) Click again (exactly at the place where it rose from) to make a full powered straight shot (deviation to either side of the vertical results in varying degrees of hook or slice).
GREG'S POWER METER
(1) Click the mouse to make the bar rise (going right to the top gives a mega whack).
(2) Click again and it'll start to drop.
(3) This needle will now tick from side to side (like a high speed metronome). You've got about one second to click the mouse while it's pointing directly upwards. Deviation to the right will hook and to the left will slice, like Jack's to varying degrees.

Greg Norman's Ultimate Golf logo

Gremlin, C64 £9.99 cassette, £14.99 disk; Amiga £24.99

'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 nineteenth, but cannot be bothered to walk round the first eighteen!

Up to four human or computer players can participate, in Strokepay 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 are only allowed 14), it is out onto either of two in-built courses (or others from planned course disks). From the first tee you are 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 are playing with a caddy he will automatically select the appropriate club. He will also aim the shot, shown on the swing screen. Here, as well as fine-tuning the shot direction, you can select the amount of top or backspin, and sidespin (hook or slice).

When you are 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.


Phil King 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.
Stuart Wynne Aargh! Golf games. Usually I am 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 has selected the Matchplay option so it does not matter how many shots are used, just who finishes a hole first. What a cheat! Still, there is no denying the masses of options in this latest golf game. Fanatics could take ages fine-tuning 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.