Microsoft has rightly realised that there’s a limit to how many near-identical golf games the market will support, particularly as existing ones are more than good enough. So the company has given its long-running Links franchise a bit of a face-lift. The result is Links Extreme, which has to be one of the strangest and most lively golf games ever to appear on the PC.
The oddness starts when you first load the game, but it really hits home when you start playing one of the courses included with the game. First, there’s Dimension X, set in what appears to be a WW1 battlefield, with ‘planes crashing around you, explosions in the background and the Maltese Cross used to denote where the other players’ balls are. Quite apart from avoiding the usual battlefield obstacles, you’re given the chance to play with a variety of special balls such as grenades and howitzers. In other words, you don’t have to win the game by clearing a round under par – instead you can annihilate the competition. Although the special balls are tricky to use properly, when you get it right you can blow your opponents right out of the game.
The second course, Mojo Bay, has a different twist. It has Zombies carrying golf caddies, is played at night under a full moon, and the special balls include floaters, ghosts, loopies and rockets. These are often not much use to you, since there’s no predicting where the ball will eventually land. But where they come in really handy is when you play a prank on an opposing player, swapping their ball for something a little more entertaining. This comes in especially useful during Internet play, bringing a whole new dimension to the game of golf.
If that’s not enough, there’s also a demolition range. This is like a shooting gallery, but with golf balls instead of a rifle. There’s a limit on the time and number of balls at your disposal, and you must hit as many targets (cars, people, flamingoes, statues, cows, etc.) as possible, with more points awarded for more inventive play. Throughout the game, you can adjust the ubiquitous club swing (i.e. mouse click) mechanism. There’s a single-click mode to suit children and a more challenging reaction tester for people who reckon their fingers are fast enough.