If you don't own Links LS 1997 Edition, the decision to buy Links LS 1998 Edition is a no-brainer: This is the finest golf simulation on the market, and should be considered the cornerstone of any golf fan's software library. But what if you're one of the tens of thousands of PC duffers who do own Links LS 1997 Edition? Buy it anyway. The 1998 Edition has enough new features to easily justify spending the thirty or thirty-five dollars.
There will doubtless be 1997 Edition owners who will complain that at least some of the 1998 Edition's enhancements should have been offered as a patch, but when you look at the breadth and depth of the changes that argument loses its validity. This is a major upgrade to the best golf engine on the market - adding features that give the game more replay value than it has ever had before.
Probably the biggest of the game's many enhancements is Access' decision to make the 1998 Edition a native Windows 95 (or NT) application. Gone is the 1997 Edition's annoying video test, along with nearly all compatibility problems involving video and sound cards. DirectPlay drivers mean that you can host a game on the Internet (with up to seven opponents) without having to use Kali. To help players find each other, Access will host a matching service on GolfWeb's Links LS web site. And the 1998 Edition will be supported on both Mplayer's Free Zone and Mplayer Plus: the Free Zone. The first will be for casual games, while the Mplayer Plus area will feature tournaments, prizes, and rankings.
Remember the long redraw times of the 1997 Edition on lower-end machines? That too is a thing of the past, thanks to what Access calls "look ahead rendering," which calculates your ball's final resting position and begins to load the correct scenery into memory as the ball is in flight. I'd estimate screen redraws are four or five times faster, and if you knock down a few details, the improvement is even more noticeable. New graphic flourishes include airborne objects such as balloons, jets, and blimps; incredibly realistic water reflections and clouds; new textures and colors; and waving flags on the green (which you can actually see from the tee on some shorter par-3 holes).