International Open Golf Championship logo AGA

If your swing needs working on, or if your putting is not quite perfect, get some realistic game practice in with Ocean's new sport sim.

Clubbed to death in a Pringle sweater on the fifth in the Nevada desert. A man was today arrested for using a one iron on the green. He did it, he said: "Because the pool of blood caused by my hacking off the head of my skins opponent with a pitching wedge made the lie unplayable with a standard Ping putter". Oh yes indeed, golf can bring the worst out in a human being. The worst excuse for drinking, the worst reason for taking a good walk.

So how have Ocean and the Really Interesting Software Company, oh and Pringle - the people who are sponsoring this game and who used to make the slacks and sweaters worn by Southend Utd fans in 1986 - emulated this sport?

Not badly really. If you are one of those Amiga gamers that comes into the 'I demand realism from my sports sims' camp, the kind of person who worships the ability to check brake linings on driving games, the kind of person who sees choosing player sponsorship as more important than goals in footy games, then you are going to be reasonably impressed by International Open Championship Golf (IOGC).

And there is another plus for gamers who are just into games - IOGC not only wins prizes for having one of the longest names ever (beating PGA Tour Golf by a good head) it also does what many people thought was the undo-able, it adds something to the genre. That is right, many of us pundits had been crying out for some software house somewhere to get rid of the bar for power and snap that was taken to its zenith by PGA Tour. We demanded something new, some more realistic way of playing Amiga golf. And someone listened.

Slow mover
We will leave what this exciting new thing is for a while and talk instead about the fact that this game is obviously a PC port, and quite obviously needs a powerful PC to run it. The reason for this assumption is that running on a standard A1200, everything seems to run at the speed of Jack Nicklaus sprinting for the Sunday papers while submerged in a bucket of honey and custard.

All the 3D effects, the million camera angles, the choice of skins, fourplay, strokeplay or matchplay, the fly-by, the fact that a putt of two yards or less will be sunk for you, all these options are undermined by the sloth of the whole thing.

Now this does not mean that IOGC is not the ideal mid-point between Links and PGA, because it is. While it lacks PGA's speed and simplicity of gameplay, it does include the myriad options and good-looks of Links. it just means that the screen can g4et too cluttered and the ball does travel too slowly.

And now the moment you have been waiting for... the big difference in gameplay is in the way you actually hit the ball. Where other golf games make use of the bar with one click of the mouse for power, and one click of the mouse for the 'snap' (whereabout you hit the ball, either in the middle, to the left or to the right), IOGC uses an elegant system comprising four levels of power (full, three-quarter, half, and quarter) for each club. You simply click on these.

Then you actually get to see the ball and choose where on it you are going to hit. This is achieved much in the same way as many Amiga darts games by using a defining targeting point with a built-in wobble. You get to see a small image of the ball (and its lie) with a small point that floats around, you then have to position the point in the ball and click the mouse when you are happy. This system really does knock spots of the older method by involving you in a far more realistic approach to your play - every shot has to be different and this means that your concentration has to be at optimum all around the course.

The downsides
The two versions we received for the review, one worked fine with the graphics coming up a dream, one A1200 (another A1200 lost the left-hand screen but that was probably the machine's fault) but the other set of four disks showed horribly corrupted sky and background graphics. Advice here is to try the game before you leave the shop with it (if you are buying mail order, make sure they will accept faulty goods on return).

Another downer is the inability to choose your own clubs! You are stuck with a basic set of woods, irons, wedges and putters, and this collection does not include the trusty old one iron! A nightmare for most serious, late night, bourbon drinking Amiga golfers.

The upsides
But to finish on the upside you can choose three levels of skill, although it is only on Master that things really get interesting with the wing coming into play. All in all, IOGC is far from classic but nearer to very good than you might expect. Also, the Pringle sponsorship really makes a difference. I really must go and purchase an expensive (but very high quality) sweater right now!

Die Golf-Krise

International Open Golf Championship logo AGA

Da freut man sich über einen neuen Golfball als Treibgut der immer stärker aufbrandenden Softwarewelle für den 1200er, und dann stellt sich der Fund als mißglückte Umsetzung eines eh schon mäßigen PC-Spielchen heraus.

Maximal vier Digi-Golfer kommen hier in den zweifelhaften Genuß von fünf Turniermodi (inklusive zweier Teamwettbewerbe) und drei grafisch wie spielerisch unterschiedlichen Plätzen mit jeweils bis zu 72 Löchern. Dazu gibt es drei Schwierigkeitsgrade, eine Übersichtskarte, einen kompletten Schlägersatz und zwölf Schlagvarianten in vier Stärken.

Die Anlage ist aus der üblichen 3D-Perspektive zu sehen, das Bällchen wird per Maus und Fadenkreuz "abgeschossen" und anschließend wie im Fernsehen von einer Kamera bis zum Aufschlagpunkt verfolgt.

Klingt gut, ist aber schlecht, denn genau diese Kamerafahrt stellt trotz der diversen Blickwinkel und Zoom-, Dreh- oder Umblendeffekte auch die entscheidende Verschlechterung gegenüber dem PC-Original dar. Die Landschaft ist zwar ganz hübsch gezeichnet und die Animation des Golfers hat sich sogar verbessert - aber das ruckelige Gezuckel des Balls und die insgesamt betäubend langsame Grafik sind schlichtweg eine Katastrophe! Zudem fehlen auch nach der Konvertierung für jeden ernsthaften Golfer lebenswichtige Optionen wie die Feineinstellung von Schlagstärke und Spielerposition.

Ansonsten kriegt man eine durchschnittliche Titelmusik und anderthalb Soundeffekte geboten, bloß nach dem Spielspaß fahndet man vergeblich.

Was auf der Packung großspurig als interaktive Software angekündigt wird, die die Möglichkeiten des 1200er voll ausreizt, entpuppt sich damit bei näherem Hinsehen als ebenso unsportliche wie überflüssige Veranstaltung. Kein Wunder, daß eine 500er-Version vorläufig nicht geplant ist... (mic)

International Open Golf Championship logo AGA

Golf is a gentleman's sport. So how Paul Presley got into it is a complete mystery.

Well I don't know what it is but it sure ain't golf. Believe me, I know. I play golf and this isn't it. This is some kind of bizarre cross between Operation Wolf and the polygon generator in Dpaint with golfing paraphernalia tossed in. I don't really want to go into gross detail about the elements of International Open Golf as it's already depressed me beyond belief and I wouldn't wish the same fate upon you. Briefly though, have a look at the following example.

I'm 50 yards away from the green. The ideal club is a Sand Wedge. Unfortunately due to the strange control method of only being able to take full power, half power, three-quarter power or one-quarter power shots (with nothing in between), the only way I can actually take a 50 yard shot is to change to a Number 2 iron and take a quarter shot. About as realistic as England's chances of qualifying for the World Cup (wrong sport I know, but I feel strongly about both).

The trouble with golf games is that there is only one way that you can do it successfully - it's the three-click shot or nothing I'm afraid. One mouse click to start the backswing (starting the shot), one to start the downswing (i.e. select power) and one to hit the ball. Anything else just doesn't really work. You have to let a player decide precisely how much power he or she wants to use and exactly how much hook or slice (draw or fade if you're reading this in America) is needed or it just isn't golf.

The only way you can really change the game and make things better is to make sure the presentation and options are better than everyone else's. Unfortunately for Ocean, even if they had used the three-click method, the rest of the game would have let them down severely.

For example, a line in the manual describes the camera panning thus: 'When the ball stops (the camera) smoothly rotates to the new viewing position. This is the slowest option'. I don't know what dictionaries are being used in Manchester, but unless 'smoothly' is defined as 'with extreme jerkiness, having large gaps between frame updates' then I would suggest they send them back to the bookshop. At least the last bit was right. It is slow. This is the case throughout. The graphics, while quite nicely defined, are just extremely jerky and enough to put even Nick Faldo off the game for life.

You do get to take part in various types of golf though, from skins to foursomes (an exciting little game involving two teams and just one ball per partnership) and the menus are all easy to use and pretty comprehensive. That's small comfort though when placed next to the rest of the game.

International Open Golf is simply a failed attempt to do something different with the golfing concept. All credit to Ocean for trying but let's face it, it was a doomed effort from the start. There's only one way you stand a chance of bettering PGA Tour Golf and that's to call your game MicroProse Golf (and I'll bet that's angered a few of you PGA purists out there).