Winning championships boosts your ranking – you start at a lowly 100… out of 100 – but every challenge, wacky minigame or match rewards you with, for want of a better term, ‘experience points’ in groundstrokes, footwork, serving and volleying. As each bar fills to the top, you’ll unlock a new move in that field. It offers a nice sense of progression, you can eventually customise your own style of play, tailoring your character’s abilities to your liking.
With no Wimbledon (EA rival Grand Slam Tennis has nabbed the license for that) there’s no way to authentically recreate the epic Federer/Nadal final of last year, but, as with any tennis title, it’s still great fun clashing the heavyweights of the sport. Compared to Grand Slam’s highly stylised cartoon characters, the more realistic stars of Virtua Tennis can come off as slightly muddy and unattractive, but they feel more appropriate, and less annoyingly wacky, as a result.
That’s not to say Virtua Tennis is some grim, authentic sim akin to Bus Simulator 2008 (which, startlingly, really exists). It contains all the silly bonus modes and the reliably (and strangely comfortingly) unbearable soundtrack you’d expect from the series, but its extravagances are now bundled snugly within the deep and rewarding single-player. The AI is clever and unforgiving, with tactical maneuvers required to win even basic matches.
But the game’s biggest success is that even advanced moves are simple and intuitive for beginners. It’s not quite the control revolution the Wii promised for the sport – perhaps MotionPlus will see to that – but it’sa tie with Grand Slam Tennis asbest thing so far.
Jun 10, 2009