It would seem a fool's errand to enter a field as crowded with stiff competition as golf simulation. But if anyone can face up to the challenge, it's . Not only do they have a proven ability with graphics rendering and real-world physics, but the team is also headed by the man who pretty much invented the computer golf simulation. Rex Bradford not only programmed Mean 18 - the first computer golf game - but also created the sadly UNpatented "power bar," which has been used in every subsequent game.
Add in the exclusive license to re-create the most revered golf course in the world, another exclusive license with the oldest and most prestigious golf tournament in the world, and the announcing talent of ABC's Jim McKay, and you have a pretty good recipe for success. But does British Open Championship Golf make the most of this recipe? For the most part, yes it does.
As golf sims begin to blend together, BOCG strives to carve out a style uniquely its own and largely succeeds. First off is the look, one of the most important parts of any golf sim. BOCG's graphics, which are scaleable up to 1024 x 768, stretch out to the horizon, with elegantly rendered terrain and detailed objects. Since the game models links courses - which tend to be open and flat - the effect is important in capturing the feel of the location. Instead of golfing through a tunnel of trees, you're aiming for the St. Andrews clubhouse. There's a kind of hazing effect, almost like watercoloring, that also adds to the unique look, and helps evoke the misty, gray weather of the British links.
Another visual element that radically sets BOCG off from the pack is the presence of crowds. Golf sims have always been very solitary experiences, and British Open changes that. Onlookers gather to watch and react to shots. They're not very animated, but they do make the proper "oo" and "ah" noises for good and bad shots. A satellite view and another viewing window of your choice can be open at all times. Viewing angles are handled well, with custom camera placement and instant reverse angles. Control is a mixed bag. Aiming is efficient, but the yardage information for your aiming spot often disappears before you can read it. You can aim in any open window, and swinging is done with the familiar three-stage power bar. The best element of the control interface is the shot designer. In most golf games, you have the option of changing club height or angle and foot placement, but it's hard to tell just how this affects a shot. In BOCG's shot designer, several pre-designed shots are included to show you the basics. As you change things like foot placement, you see just how the shot will play. You can then save effective shots for use later. This is probably the best custom shot builder in any game to date.
Shots themselves respond very realistically and the physics modeling is one of the strongest yet. Unfortunately, there is an apparent glitch in the swing interface that causes the power bar to run at varying speeds mid-swing, resulting in an occasional hitch in the flow of the swing that can greatly reduce accuracy. The putting swing meter is novel, being a flat meter instead of a circle, but putting introduces a new set of problems. Greens are very hard to read, and the grid is quite badly implemented. The result? Too many unnecessarily bad putts. This is a shame considering the overall excellence of the design, and it will hopefully be fixed.
Play and scoring options include stroke, match best ball, tournament, practice, and single hole. Tournament play is where BOCG floors all the competition. You can begin at several points in the British Open, against a leaderboard filled with the greats of the game. As you go through the rounds of a tournie, you watch your position change on the leaderboard, the crowd around you waxes and wanes, and the competitors grind you into the dust. The commentary is terrific, with few repetitions and much interesting, relevant, and accurate patter. From the camera towers to the VIP tents, this IS the British Open experience, and it's a competitive golf experience second to none.
The most important element of BOCG is the courses. Only two ship with it - and Royal Troon - but these are two of the greatest courses in the world, and you'll only play them here (at least until someone makes versions). These are links courses: Devilishly difficult to play but not the lush, manicured, ersatz-Augusta courses we expect in the US. British Open captures them beautifully, with every bunker and hill modeled to perfection. Detailed strategy videos begins each game, giving some history and insight into the course. Your onscreen caddy (another first) also has a course book with him that you can access from any shot, with advice on the best way to play a hole.
British Open Championship Golf is a unique entry into the world of golf sims that is sadly brought down by a few flaws. The last and maybe greatest of these flaws is the absence of multiplayer capabilities, though Looking Glass is working on this now. If the swing worked a little more consistently and putting was handled better, this could have been recommended without hesitation. As it is, it's still a good game with much to offer.