When Hot Shots Tennis turned up no one really gave it a second serve… until orgasmic Monica Seles-esque screams emanating from our gaming cage convinced us otherwise.
Rather than copying Virtua Tennis 3’s game mechanic of priming your shots before clouting the ball as soon as possible, Hot Shots Tennis relies on delicate timing. An intuitive set of icons above your players’ heads provides you with instant feedback as to whether you’re hitting too early, too late or more cleanly than Rafael Nadal.
Single play is a rich experience, since the game forces you to master a range of players and tactics. For instance, if you favor serve and volley but your approach play is sloppy, you’ll be picked off by stellar baseliners. Similarly, let a decent volleyer anywhere near the net and you’ll be picked off like a crusty scab. Then there are the specialist servers: deceptive little bastards who can bend the ball like a boomerang and will fill your swear jar in no time. Learning to adapt your tactics, walloping all-comers and moving up the rankings is incredibly satisfying.
There’s not a particularly rich roster of shots - hard return, slice and lob is your lot - but when you’re “in the zone” this is great fun. Evocative of those SNES classics Super Tennis and Smash Court Tennis, which were sadistically tricky until the blood, sweat, tears and elbow grease proved that you picked up the nuances; Hot Shots Tennis is the unsung hero of tennis games. Virtua Tennis 3 and Top Spin 2 look out, there’s a new champ in town…