To say that there is a significant amount of content here would be something of an understatement. Dozens of hours can be burned on the Career Mode before hopping online, but the World Tour is robust enough that you could ignore the offline Career since you earn XP in any mode. If anything could put a damper on all this content, it's the game's presentation. Though solid, there's still a sense of detachment from what's happening on screen. The menus are minimalist, peppered with frequent, moderately lengthy load times and auto-save prompts, and the on-court action is almost clinically devoid of flash.
Thankfully, things that break from the norm are absolutely fantastic looking. A massive rally finally ending with a won point turns the on-screen player into a grinning, exhausted ball of glee, and clinching a game, set and match with a hard-fought point sees that player drop the racquet and throw their hands up into the air. Other great details include court surfaces like clay producing plenty of slides to reach far-off shots and little footprints and slippery trails in the light dusting on the court.
If the presentation is stark, the actual animations themselves are absolutely superlative. The tweening between motion-captured actions is absolutely perfect, seamlessly letting a player a full gallop transition into a celebratory fist-pump with nary a hitch. Despite a dazzling number of possible combinations of momentum, speed, distance to a shot and the type of shot, the game seems to flawlessly deliver something that looks absolutely life-like, and it really is impressive - not to mention commendable - though this is something tennis games have done well for quite a while now. Even still, it's no less impressive, and Top Spin 4 does it very, very well.
Less so are the game's more optional components - namely 3D support (available on the PS3 and 360) and the ability to use the PlayStation Move on the PS3. For the former, there's surprising lack of consideration for depth; HUD elements float above everything else, creating a jarring look when players scoot around the court, though we'll admit that it does help make judging the distance of the ball a bit easier. For 360 owners bemoaning the lack of Kinect support, as is being done with Virtua Tennis 4, fret not.
The Move implementation is, at best, a minor novelty that doesn't take into account things like racquet angle and has players hold and swing the controller in funky arcs while still using a normal DualShock or Navigation Controller to move the player and aim shots. Even a one-off mode that really took into account all the data the Move is able to deliver would be great, as things like Sports Champions' table tennis game show the controller can be incredibly accurate.
Still, the options are there should one want to show off their extra tech, though anyone that must do without will hardly be hurting. Instead, the core game itself is the draw, and thanks to a control scheme that delivers enough information to keep every shot interesting while never reneging on the promise of easy-to-play/tough-to-master, Top Spin 4 emerges as an absolutely killer tennis sim and one worthy of being considered one of the deepest and most rewarding seen thus far.
Apr 7, 2011