Smash Court Tennis 3 for the Xbox 360 is a port from that released on the PlayStation Portable (PSP). Not a direct port, but still a port nevertheless. So with that in mind, I wasn't expecting too much when I grabbed my
racket controller for a spot of tennis.
Upon loading the game you are met with a neat looking menu screen where you can select a various amount of gamemodes. You have the usual modes expected; Exhibition, Tutorial, Arcade and Pro Tour Mode. Being a fan of tennis the first thing I wanted to do was to see what players there were available to play, so I jumped straight into an exhibition game to find out. The roster isn't that bad considering the game doesn't hold many licenses, but it could be better. The pick of the bunch are the mens world No's 1 & 2, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer (at the time of writing this review), as well as many top women professionals including Amelie Mauresmo, the smoking hot fans favourite Maria Sharapova and Justine Henin.
After having some fun playing with different stars in the exhibition mode, I moved onto the dominant single player gamemode, the Pro Tour. Your aim as a tennis player is to start at the bottom of the rankings, win tournaments, and eventually become the number 1 player in the world. Firstly you will have to create your own player using a host of options. As there is no Andy Murray in the game I decided to make the best possible rendition of him. Once created you head into your trusty calendar which shows you all the tournaments throughout the season, in which you pick and choose which tournaments to play. You can't constantly play tournament week after week because your stamina will be too low, and some tournaments wont be available to play until you reach a specific rank. Each tournament you take part in gains you experience/ EXP points which you can use to build up your character's skills. The more tournaments you win, the more EXP points you get and the better your player will become. You can also choose to spend your EXP points on some special specific skills including a no touch ace or super drop shot.
It's not all about taking part in tournaments though. Instead you can take part in training sessions, which include hitting the ball into certain targets within a specific time. Because of the gameplay (which I'll go into soon) these training sessions become really boring, and frustrating. You also have to take part in charity matches which slots you into different scenarios. I found myself playing a 1 on 2 match which is practically impossible to win due to the quality of the AI, but it's a little change from playing constant tournaments.
If you feel that your skills are more suited to the doubles game, you can take part in doubles tournaments within the Pro mode. These include male, female and mixed doubles. To get your doubles partner you choose from a list of players, in which you must defeat, in order for them to accept you as a partner. However once beaten you can use that player for other doubles tournaments you wish to enter.
The graphics in SCT3 aren’t bad, but they could have done a lot better. Same goes for the audio in the game. There is no commentary, and the crowd are pretty stagnant but will however occasionally cause the ‘ooo’ sound when you hit a decent shot. The array of stadiums look good and the surfaces vary depending on the stadium. A noticeable feature about these courts is that the time of play affects the lighting on the court. Play as the sun is going down and you will have the shadow of the stands hovering over the court. A nice touch but they could have done so much more with it. Having it in real-time would have been really nice to see. One for the future maybe.
One nice feature they have included however is the inclusion of the challenge system. As in real tennis there will be times where you feel the Umpire has made a bad call. Well like in real tennis, you can challenge that call. Using a hawk-eye style camera the Umpires decision is either called correct or wrong, if wrong that point would be replayed. Like in real tennis, you only get a specific amount of challenges at your disposal, so you have to use them wisely.
Now for probably the most off putting feature about SCT3, the gameplay. It's such an important part to any game, and for me it's a let down. It's just so sluggish and the player movements are so slow. The way they react to your commands is annoying to. When you move your left stick in one direction, then if you decide to change to another direction the player feels the need to take a few extra steps before moving in the direction you want. What's even more annoying is how good/ frustrating the AI are. 9/10 times they use the serve and volley technique, which practically guarantees them that game. Because they are so good, it's practically impossible to hit a winner when they use that style of play. The only easy way to beat them is, when it's your serve, adopt the same technique. Seems to work every time, but because of that a lot of my games went to a tie-break.
If you get fed up with the serve and volley AI you can either a) stop playing the game completely b) play some Exhibition matches (which is quite fun when playing with an offline friend) or c) take your tennis skills online and play over LIVE. LIVE doesn't have anything special. It has the usual Ranked and Unranked matches, in which you can also play doubles matches. Again the negative about the doubles matches is that it has to be 2 people on the same console, and not you and a LIVE friend taking on 2 other people from around the world. That might be another one for the future bank.
Overall it doesn't take an Umpire or the hawk-eye system to figure out that SCT3 has its problems. With a frustrating serve and volley AI and a sluggish player reaction/ movement system I wouldn't be surprised if SCT3 doesn't make its way to your gaming collection. If you do need your tennis fix just rent the game first (you never know, you might like sluggish gameplay) or alternatively purchase Virtua Tennis 3 on the cheap.