Being a tennis player and a fan of the sport, I have played and enjoyed every Top Spin title thus far, and I can guarantee Top Spin 4 will be mine in a few weeks time. This isn’t only because I’m a tennis buff; it’s also because after playing the demo, I’ve learned developer 2K Czech didn’t drastically overhaul the core gameplay mechanic; this plays very much like past entries. However, this isn’t to say the game doesn’t clearly boast a few upgrades and enhancements; the animations are more fluid and realistic, we get a peek at the more in-depth control system that includes quick repositioning and sample more options for serve-and-volley players. And while they have added what may be a helpful cue for newcomers, series followers will quickly find themselves in warm and familiar waters.
In the demo, you can only play a tiebreak exhibition with one of four players- Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Ana Ivanovic. Once you choose your player, you’ll head out to do battle on one of two iconic courts; either Arthur Ashe (at the US Open) or Roland Garros (French Open). This gives you a look at how the game will play out on hard and clay surfaces, and also lets you see how character differences may be more distinct than ever. I say “may” because as we’re only playing with accomplished professionals, it’s tough to miss and one can only guess at the challenges facing an unseasoned amateur. I’ve also heard the game will feature the most advanced and customizable character advancement system yet, and you catch a glimpse of that when checking out each player’s relevant stats. The animations are better than ever and on-court character behavior is spot-on.
Momentum physics also seem to play a bigger role, which I like, because it makes it easier to hit winners. It has always been too easy to track down just about anything with fast players but this time, you often have to guess where a shot from your opponent will go. This is much more realistic and forces you to be a student of the game. They’ve also tossed in a circular meter that grades the timing of your swing; it’ll tell you if you’re early or late, and helps you to nail down the flow of the gameplay. I found that I didn’t need it, though, and I actually hope I’ll have the option to turn it off in the full game. Advanced players who have long since grown accustomed to this style – i.e., holding down a button for a particular shot, and when to release – probably won’t bother with it much, and I also preferred the Advanced serve option.
Visually, I’m not sure it looks that much better than TS3, although I will say the detail has been amped up a bit. We also have the benefit of a new TV broadcast camera (although the camera view is the same as always when playing), and the stadiums and courts are definitely a little better looking. I still think they could’ve made Ivanovic look cuter but that level of cuteness must be hard to capture in virtual form. The game will also include many of the sport’s legends, the biggest roster ever, the best online mode ever, and the most in-depth career mode ever. That’s a lot of “evers,” so this should be a big step in the right direction. And yet, they didn’t go and eliminate a mechanic that has worked beautifully in the past; they’ve merely tweaked it to make it a bit more authentic and accessible at the same time. Even the serve and volley option seems decent now.
Therefore, although I’m not blown away, I’m pretty happy with what I see here. Top Spin 4 should be great for the fans.