HIGHLIGHTS OF HISTORY
- Each button on the controller corresponds to a type of shot – slice, normal, top-spin, lob
- Opponents include 25 professional and legendary tennis players
- Trainers can also upgrade certain skill sets for additional bonuses
(CNN) – “Top Spin 4” makes full use of realistic animations, combined with innovative controls, to provide the most realistic tennis simulation game to date.
It’s been three years since 2KSports released a tennis game in this series, and the company has decided to return to the drawing board for the last one. The developers clearly wanted to keep the things that made the “Top Spin” franchise great, while also tweaking some things to make it easier for new players to have fun.
The shots are selected using a pressure and hold system. Each button on the controller corresponds to a particular type of shot: slice, normal, top-spin, lob.
The power of the shot is determined by the length of time the button is held, and the effectiveness of the shot is determined by the release of the button and the moment of the swing. I spent some time in the training area, but the controls became second nature very quickly.
There are refinements that can be added to each shot, like making it an upside down shot or using a drop shot when you want to lure your opponent. But even if you never use them, you can still play a solid match.
Opponents include 25 professional and legendary tennis players. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and the Williams sisters are included along with Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi (the bald version). Unfortunately, John McEnroe and his world famous explosions were not included.
Each tennis player is true to their actual style of play; their movements and facial expressions are really realistic. Expect Novak Djokovic to be super aggressive and Michael Chang to run all over the pitch.
Game developers have doubled the number of animations of their previous titles to over 4,000, to provide as much realism as possible. Even the background noise you hear during virtual matches has been recorded from real matches, including specific cheers for specific players.
The real fun is making your own player and seeing how well you can do it. Players start by designing their player’s appearance and then hone their starting skills in several different categories.
Created players can draw on three different styles of tennis to suit their particular game. Serve and volley, offensive base play, and defensive base play can be improved as new levels of experience are achieved.
Think of it as a tennis role-playing game, with powers unlocked as levels rise.
Coaches can also improve certain skill sets. They also provide the player with various skill challenges (e.g. hitting 50 slice shots) to increase mastery of those skills.
Decisions on how to play, which coach to use and which skills to improve allow players to create a wide variety of tennis aces to take on the pros.
And it doesn’t matter which game mode you use. Skills can be developed whether you are playing against the computer or competing online against a human opponent.
Online the Top Spin World Tour lets you really see how well you can compete against players from all over the world. There are also weekly seasons to test your skills over a shorter period of time.
The men’s and women’s tournaments are separate, so don’t think that you can earn easy experience points by choosing the weaker sex (you can make your own decision).
There’s also the 2KOpen, which features matches against star players, faster matches, and random locations. The experience gained here also contributes to the overall growth of your player.
The entire game has been designed to be immersive, realistic, and authentic. “Top Spin 4” hits those three points with a powerful overhand smash.
The game is addictive and earning experience points makes me feel like my player is becoming a star. My only gripe is the artificial intelligence curve, as I won 44 games and 9 tournaments in a row before falling to my first loss.
While I love winning as much as the guy next door, even opponents like Federer and Andy Murray easily fell on me while I was building my player. However, once I got to level 18 (there is a maximum level at 20), Nadal crushed me in straight sets in the semi-finals at Roland Garros and played like he didn’t. in previous matches.
This lack of consistency was a bit frustrating but is easily overlooked. It made me work harder to perfect my shots and my timing.
Winning minor tournaments should be easy. Winning Slam tournaments should feel like I need to improve my game, and âTop Spin 4â the ace.
The game is deep and fulfilling for tennis fans while still being fun for an afternoon for beginner players. And the iconic shots – like between the legs while fleeing the net – are still as impressive as they are in real life.
“Top Spin 4” is rated E for everyone. It is available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii. The PlayStation Move controller is also supported for the PS3 version. A 3D display is also supported for monitors that can use this function. This review was done with a review copy for the PS3 and used the DualShock 3 controller.