Tennis isn’t for everyone, the outdoors, the natural light, the moving... that may well be one of the reasons why sports games have become so popular.
Tennis also is receiving several titles now, with the Top Spin series being one of the most acclaimed. In the past, Top Spin has been seen as far more of a sim title than SEGA’s Virtua Tennis series, and the second title in the series was plagued by far too much depth, which made the game hard to play and unintuitive. Pretty much all the things you don’t need in a fast paced game of tennis where thinking fast wins at the end of the day. With this in mind, how does Top Spin 3 stack up?
As I myself partake in a fair amount of real world tennis I was somewhat excited about Top Spin 3 from 2K Sports. My first experience with it, as will be yours, is the slick interface with some very cool music from Jamiroquai and Franz Ferdinand, amongst others. Definitely the sort of music to amp you up for an intense match of tennis.
The first thing that caught my attention was the player creation. Now this is where you will be able to create whoever you see fit, including yourself. You have an enormous range of variables from height, weight, to build and eye brow shape. You can morph the face almost however you want, using small pin-points on the face that you can pull and move. This really gives you an exceptional amount of control over how the player will look, and this player will then be able to accompany you throughout the career as well as in online ranked matches. You will also be able to hit the mall and buy your player new gears from officially branded stores as you earn points in the career mode.
This player creation really allows you to personalise the game, and as you progress through the career you will gather experience points (XP) which can be used to advance your player's skills to remain competitive as you move from Beginner to Junior and Pro challenges. The areas are forehand, backhand, service, return, volley, power, speed and stamina. These won’t all be able to be maxed out completely, requiring you at some point to think about specialising your player (as in the real world, players have their special skills be it serving or power shots).
In the Junior and Pro modes you will be taking part in real tennis seasons with events around the world in each month for you to choose from. There are a large range of tournaments to play in, and you also have a large number of people to play against. Included in the opposition are big name players such as Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova, Tommy Haas and virtually any other current big name tennis player you can think of. You also have a few classic players to compete against who are Bjorn Borg, Boris Becker and Monica Seles. This is apparently a first, and it also allows you to admire Bjorn Borgs fantastic hair.
Now included with the career mode, is a tournament mode which allows you to compete in one of the many real life tournaments from around the world, at all the real life locations. These locations all seem to be accurately depicted and each match will start with the game panning around the venue, although rather stutteringly as the game loads the match. You also have an exhibition mode which allows you to simply jump into a singles or a doubles match, either on your own or with up to four friends. So you have a range of modes, but I guess you want to know how it plays.
Top Spin 3 is most definitely not a game you will pick up and be able to play from the get go. It still has a significant amount of depth and there are no meters and such cluttering up the screen. This means you will have to watch your player and use good old fashioned timing if you want to be winning. However this takes a lot of practice, and my first hour with the game was significantly frustrating as I laboured through the learning phase of the game.
The controls are much like you would expect, with the A, B, X and Y face buttons controlling the hits, however it complicates itself here with the length of the hold determining the strength, and directing the shot with the left stick. Hold the left stick too long and your shot will fly out of bounds. Then you can add in the left and the right triggers. The left trigger makes you pull off a risk shot, with a high chance of it going out of bounds, but also the possibility it'll be a winning shot. The possibility however is very slim, as only just the right combination of length of button press and left stick direction will pull a shot like this off, and you will most likely not be using them very much, if at all. The right trigger is a power shot, hold this and you will significantly add strength to the shot. The same applies however, hold the shot button too long with the right trigger and your shot again will be out of bounds. Hold both the right trigger and the left trigger together and, well, good luck to you.