Tennis is one sport I know quite well. Therefore, whenever a new game comes out that attempts to capture the realism and authenticity of the sport, I’m intrigued. Thus far, Top Spin has been the undisputed winner, as Virtua Tennis has always been more arcade-y in nature. After playing the Grand Slam Tennis 2 demo, I’m sensing a blend of simulation and arcade elements, which makes this both accessible and entertaining.
The demo clearly highlights Wimbledon (the grass and all-white clothing is a dead giveaway), which is a good idea, because Top Spin never managed to secure the necessary licensing for one of the sport’s most important – and definitely the most historically prestigious – tournaments. You can choose to play as either Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal and participate in a quick best-of-3-game match. Before trying the match, you can hit the practice court to practice your swing.
The control feels a little loose but I got the hang of it. I like having the option of either the Total Racket control mechanic or the more straightforward face button scheme. However, as I’m so used to the latter, which involves holding the button that will denote flat, slice, or top spin and then releasing at a certain point, I had to use that. The Total Racket system works surprisingly well, though, and especially so for serves, once you get some practice under your belt.
You can also use the PlayStation Move, which seems about average. It doesn’t always read the motion exactly, so when you perform the motion for a slice, that doesn’t always work and he simply hits a regular flat shot. But it was still responsive and offers quite the workout, which is always a big plus. The downsides are as follows: first, the players are way too fast. In the three matches I played, no drop shot had any hope of falling for a winner. Regardless of my position on the court, I could always get to drop shots, and usually in enough time to crack an easy winner.
I’m not sure if the difficulty setting actually alters the player speed; I do know tougher settings make your opponent smarter, though. The other issue I have is cosmetic but it’s still irritating— the character animation for almost any swing appears to be the same. So Djokovic will even hit a backhand slice with two hands…which of course doesn’t happen. You never hit slice with two hands; even if your standard backhand is two-handed, one hand comes off for the slice. I mean, come on.
But I have to say, one of my absolute favorite things about this game is the commentary. I maintain that tennis has some of the best commentators in the sports world, and with guys like John McEnroe and Pat Cash offering their voices for in-match comments, you almost want to stop and listen. This is another feature that has always been sorely missing from the Top Spin franchise. Plus, Johnny Mac and a whole bunch of other legends (like Bjorn Borg, for example) will be featured in the game, which is awesome.
It’s not really intricate enough to be considered a spot-on simulator, but it should prove to be a lot of fun. And that’s enough, right?