Front Page Sports: Golf Preview

The Front Page Sports series takes to the fairway with some promising innovations in its bag

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As golf courses open for the first rounds of play in many parts of the country, Front Page Sports prepares to tee off against a growing field of competitors with its first golf sim.

Front Page Sports: Golf is nearing completion, with a final release scheduled for some time in May.The title was developed by Headgate, Inc., the company started by Vance Cook (the director and lead programmer for the legendary Links and Links 386 Pro), and it marks Headgate's first venture into and Cook's return to golf simulations.

With Links LS (Access) as the arguable champ in the genre and Jack Nicklaus 4 (Accolade) and PGA Tour '96 (EA Sports) being strong contenders, will FPS: Golf be able to at least find a niche? In the words of the all-knowing Magic 8-Ball, "Outlook Good."

The most prominent feature of FPS: Golf is the trademarked TrueSwing. For those who have already tried the similar mouse swing interface in Maxis' SimGolf, don't scoff at the TrueSwing just yet. It is much less clumsy and far more accurate than the Maxis attempt. And unlike SimGolf, FPS: Golf gives players a more traditional TriClick option. The TrueSwing provides a greater sense of accomplishment when good shot is hit than the proper timing of two or three mouse clicks does (probably because you actually move your whole arm with TrueSwing instead of just a single finger).

Forgoing a FMV golfer and possessing very little video footage whatsoever (except in the intro and a more promotional than instructional golf course tour), FPS: Golf has a variety of animations while you sit idle or when a computer-controlled golfer steps up for a shot. The 3-D rendered player will mimic your mouse movement as you swing, back up and line up his next shot or putt, and react appropriately after the shot is made.

Twelve different types of play - including stroke, match, skins, four-ball, greensome, bloodsome, scramble, shootout, Ryder Cup, and Stableford - can be played on The Prince Course in Kauai and the Pete Dye Golf Club in Bridgeport, West Virginia.Additionally, Coeur d'Alene comes as a free add-on course with the purchase of the game. You can compete against computer-controlled players as well as others over a LAN.

Besides the TrueSwing and the non-FMV golfer, what sets FPS: Golf apart from its competition is the lack of any professional golf endorsement and a more municipal course feel. Although the courses may not be municipal, the ambient sounds and comments give it more of that "regular guy" feel. Besides the ubiquitous bird chirping and water sounds, you'll also hear mowers and airplanes, as well as lawn sprinklers. And if you stand idle for too long you might here another golfer scream from a distance, "Hey buddy, we're losing daylight!" or "Hit the ball! I gotta be home for supper!"

Sound different? Outlook good.

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