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Posted by on Jan 11, 2017 in Technology |

Strategy: For Links Rookies

Merely playing and winning isn’t enough for the video sports game enthusiasts I know. They want to dominate as soon as they pull the game out of the box.While golf is a game known for its quiet geniality, it’s a lot easier to be genial when playing Links 2004 on Xbox Live if you’ve just thoroughly whipped your rivals.

If you’ve played Links extensively (on the PC or Xbox) or you don’t intend to play the game on Xbox Live, then you should read no further.  This article is for people who have no more than a casual knowledge of Links 2004, or video golf in general, AND want to play the game at a high level on Xbox Live.

I’m going to lay out a path that will put you in a position to compete on Xbox Live quickly.  I’m not promising an easy trail to greatness. There will be moments when you will struggle, but if you follow my suggestions and apply yourself (pronounced practice), you will be crushing drives and draining putts with the best of them in short order.

OK, newbies: Pay attention!

We’ll start with the game’s opening menu. You’ll notice there are seven choices, including three modes of game play: Single Round, Career, and Challenges.

Single Round games can be played by one to four human players. You can use a player you create. or one based on a star of professional golf (like Sergio Garcia, Annika Sorenstam, and Mike Weir). Career mode allows you to create a player profile and then build up your player’s skills as you advance through the game. This profile is one you will use when competing on Xbox Live. The Challenges test your skills in specialized areas and give you the means of earning additional money that can be used to increase your skill points.

You are free to wander around the game on your own and forge your own route to success. But if you are the least bit impatient and want to be competitive NOW, here are my top four suggestions for quickly getting a handle on Links 2004:

–  Start off with one of the highly-skilled player profiles that shipped with the game and play several rounds of Stroke Play in Single Game mode.

This will give you a feel for how the game can be played when the player profile has an abundance of skill points. You should play the game at the Beginner level, where you will have all of the swing aids the game allows (the most helpful of these is the line on the swing meter that tells you how hard to swing the club).

–  Make liberal use of the Mulligans while learning the game.

Mulligans are do-overs which allow you to avoid the consequences of poorly hit shots. Advanced players never use them, but they are helpful for beginners because they will keep you from getting frustrated and losing interest in the game. I believe in using Mulligans liberally when starting out, or if you are practicing certain new techniques.

–  Experiment with the different player levels (Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced), then select one to perfect in Career mode.

I suggest trying all three levels to see which one suits your temperament and goals. Then pick one profile and stick with it. Why? Because when you play on Xbox Live, you have to play with a user-created profile. If you create and train a Beginner player profile, you will have to start from scratch when you move to an Intermediate or Advanced player profile. None of the attribute points earned as a Beginner carry over to the higher levels. I tried all three and made a Goldilocks choice – Intermediate (Beginner became too easy after I played for awhile, and Advanced, which doesn’t let you use the Swing Meter at all, was too hard for me).

–  Make sure you know how it feels to hit the ball straight.

When you become more familiar with the game, you will want to hit shots that move left-to-right or right-to-left when appropriate (to go around an obstacle or fight the wind). When you are starting out, you will hit shots that draw (move to the left) and fade (sail to the right) unintentionally. To hit the ball straight, you must move the left thumbstick in a straight line. If your motion is offline, your shot will go offline. A lot of times I watch the movement of my thumb, not the screen, to ensure I’m not making a swing that sends the ball off my target. You need to develop a feel for the straight shot before you can perfect the advanced swings that produce spin.

The things I’ve suggested are based on my own experiences, which may not apply to you.  It’s your call whether to use them or not.  But if you don’t, you just may spend as much time hitting from the trees and the sandpits as I did when I was a beginner!

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Posted by on Jan 11, 2017 in Technology |

Strategy: Game, Set, Match

Tennis is a harsh mistress. It’s an easy game to play – what could be easier than whacking a ball back and forth? – but a very difficult game to play well. Oh sure, it may look simple when Pete Sampras bashes a 130-mph serve and then glides to the net to put away the volley, but just try doing it the next time you’re on the court. The reason he’s got the hot girlfriend and the million-dollar endorsements is because he can make it look easy when it’s actually really, really hard. The same goes for Top Spin it’s an easy game to pick up, and you’ll be playing pretty well inside of five minutes, but there are tricks and techniques you’ll need to learn before you can take it to the next level. Well, never fear. I’m here just like Santa Claus, with my bag full of tennis-y goodness.

Fancy Footwork

If you ever took tennis lessons, your instructor probably kept yelling, “Move your feet!” He was trying to make sure that your court positioning was good, and the same principle holds true for Top Spin: a player who’s out of position is likely to lose the match. After you’ve hit a shot, don’t just sit there and admire it – get back to the center of the court, and get ready for the next shot! The moment you spot your opponent out of position, though, that’s the time to make your move: Step forward to take the ball as early as possible, and then hit it at a sharp angle to a point on the court that the other player will have trouble reaching. Even if he or she gets there, the return will probably be weak, and you’ll be in complete control. As long as your footwork and positioning are better than your opponent’s, you’ll have the upper hand in the match.

Use the Force, Luke!

There’s nothing like a big, booming serve to dominate your opponents. There’s also nothing like a really low first-serve percentage to allow your opponent to dominate you. Sure, go ahead and rip off a power serve when you’re in the zone and feeling the juices flowing, but don’t forget that there are other ways to hold serve. When serving to the deuce court, try spinning a slice serve out wide to carry your opponent completely out of the court. Then, when the return comes back, step up and hit your next shot at a sharp angle cross-court, and enjoy the view as your opponent dashes desperately across the court in a hopeless attempt to reach the ball. Always remember: When you’re serving, placement is more important than power. If you want to take your games to the next level, stop thinking like a muscle-bound moron and start using the full array of serve types that are at your disposal.

Variety Is the Spice of Life

It doesn’t matter whether you’re playing against another human being or a CPU-controlled player: The same shot isn’t going to work forever. If you keep going for the kill in the same way over and over again, sooner or later your opponent will figure out how to beat you. So mix it up; throw in a few slices along with those topspin groundstrokes, and just when it seems like you might stay forever behind the baseline, throw in a little serve-and-volley action. Keep your opponent guessing – if he doesn’t know what you’re going to do, he’s already halfway to defeat, and that’s just where you want him to be.

Care for Some Grass?

Not every court out there plays like the cracked, garbage-strewn “phenomenon” at your apartment complex. From the lowliest neighborhood hard top to the manicured grass of Wimbledon, each court has its own nuances that you’ll be forced to deal with. Be aware of the different surfaces you’ll be dancing on, and adjust your power and aim appropriately. On a hard surface, you can expect shots to bounce relatively high. Grass, on the other hand, is the fastest surface around – serves and shots stay low, which makes a power game extremely valuable. Be prepared to move, do your best to be where the ball is going, and try to end the point quickly with a volley or precise power shot.

Clay and carpet courts react somewhat like your garden variety hard surface, except they are a bit spongier. Shots won’t rebound as high, and ball speed will decrease upon impact. Traction is diminished on a clay court, which explains why your player is sliding around so much. Concentrate on accurate and precise shots, move quickly toward a central location for the return, and focus on making fewer errors than the other guy.

Follow these tips, add some strategy to your technique, and soon you’ll be mopping the court with your Top Spin opponents. And when you’ve got the endorsements and the sexy significant other, don’t forget that I was the one who set you on the path.

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