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Sega sent us an updated version of Virtua Tennis 3 for the 360, and the online features the company promised us have begun to take shape. Most importantly, we were able to play several online games, and we're happy to report that the action is fast - so fast it appears to be just as good as playing in person. In fact, there's one thing that's better...
Getting into an online game is as simple as you'd expect from Xbox Live, so it doesn't really bear much discussion: you just get in and go. We were a bit worried with the game's performance, but we have nothing negative to report: the players move quickly, and in our long volleys against players on Sega's end, we felt that any missed shots were the product of a lapse in skill, not network performance.
In fact, playing online is, as we mentioned, really nice for one reason - even after a court change, you're always on the half of the court close to the screen. If you hate being stuck up top, serving into the screen (who doesn't?) you'll never have to worry about it on Xbox Live.
We also played a doubles game featuring two players from Sega and one computer player. This went great, too, though the usual confusion (Who's watching the back? Should we keep to our side?) marred it. Obviously, you're not going to want to play with every joker on Xbox Live, because your records will inevitably suffer. Fortunately, you can play non-ranked matches... all the same, keep your eyes open.
There's not much else to report. VT.TV, which allows you to watch ongoing games, wasn't really available: we were the only ones playing on the beta server. But if the performance of the actual interactive tennis is this good, we aren't worried. You can even use your custom player from the World Tour Mode - find out more about that here - online. Better buff him or her up first if you want to compete against the pros, though.
All in all, Virtua Tennis 3 is coming along just like we'd expect. We love the arcadey offline play, and the online seems up to speed. If the World Tour is engrossing, Sega will be on track to deliver the sequel the series has needed since the last time we turned off the Dreamcast and stopped playing the original.