Top Spin 2 Review
Tennis games are few and far between on any console. The last good tennis game that I can remember playing was Smash Court Tennis: Pro Tournament Tennis 2, made by Namco back in 2004. Big sports companies such as EA seem to just shrug off the idea of a tennis game, maybe because the market is a smaller niche. However, there is something about Tennis games that always seems to grab the attention of console owners, especially those with friends. Nothing beats a doubles match with three of your best mates. You could let me off for more or less wetting my pants when I received Top Spin 2 (TS2) onto my doorstep (NOTE: Wetting my pants is a metaphor and never actually happened).
For those of you who are hardcore gamers, you’ll remember the original Top Spin back in 2005, and in some cases, TS2 is just a spruced up version of the XBOX game. However, that’s not a bad thing, as the original was quite a decent game — so to just tweak aspects that needed tweaking, and left those that didn’t is actually a very sound strategy by 2K Sports. I’ll bash through this review as if you’ve never even heard of Top Spin 2, just in case, so don’t worry!
Let’s start right at the top, the graphics. At the end of the day, the graphics are the first thing that hit you on any game, and contrary to what anyone says, deep down we all want a game to look like a TV show. Top Spin 2 looks great. Each and every court is detailed very nicely, with some stunning backdrops and attention to detail, specifically on the courts in France and Italy, which are made of Clay. The ball bounce and player slides on the clay court mark, and will stay there even after the point has been played. The majority of the fully licensed players on TS2 look very decent; examples such as Tim Henman and Roger Federer showing just how real to life these characters can look. However, players like Maria Sharapova (the blokes favourite) doesn’t quite look ad decent as maybe some of us wish she did — but we can’t complain as she’s sitting on the front of the box anyway.
As I just mentioned, everything in TS2 is fully licensed, which is really nice. Everything from the smallest minor tennis courts to the major and grand slam events in Australia, England, France and USA look spot on in terms of realism, which really adds to the fun of the game.
One thing that TS2 does have that might put a few people off is the steep learning curve. When you first pick up your pad, and have a go at an Exhibition match, you’ll find yourself smashing every single ball out of the court, or into the net. Admittedly, that’s actually very frustrating. When I first turned the game on, I was shouting “OMG this game is getting a score of 3!” However, as with any decent reviewer [Yeah Right! —Ed] I persevered and soon got to grips with it. You see, it’s all about the timing. Just as in real tennis, you can’t expect to smash a ball down the line if you’re stretching for it. You have to concentrate on getting your body position correct, being in the spot where you are going to hit it, before the ball is there, and then judging the correct amount of direction you need to hold.
It may sound complicated, but once you play a few matches you’ll soon pick up the rhythm. Focus is also a major factor in TS2, with the focus bar filling up as you hit a great winner, or defeat your opponent in a large rally. If you save a match point, you’ll start to focus more, the bar will go up, and you’re shots will be a lot more accurate. As well as that, you can then utilise the focus shots, simply by pressing the left trigger when you shoot. These shots give you that edge over your opponent, and can quickly change the direction of play from defensive to offensive.
You also get risk shots. By pressing the right trigger when you hit the ball, you’ll activate a small power bar. Press and hold the button until the bar reaches the top and let go to execute the shot. If you get it right, you’ll hit a great shot that will either win you the point, or at least get your opponent off balance — if you get it wrong, you’ll hit the ball out or into the net.
The main single player aspect of TS2 is the career mode. This mode sets you off with a custom made character of your own. The customisation is very in-depth and you can usually get the desired look you’re after. You then start at the bottom of the rankings (well, World Rank 200 anyway), and you can start training and playing in minor tournaments to build your rank and your attributes. When you train, there are training games in place for you to take part in, each focusing on a certain aspect of your game, such as serving or volleying. The training games range from simply serving the ball into a highlight square, to forehand shots into boxes to cause destruction. If you complete the task, then you’ll be rewarded with stars, which go on the attributes, making your player better.
The main problem with the single player career is that it’s quite simple to win the minor tournaments, even when you’re playing opponents that are nearly a hundred ranks higher than you. It then swings around, and you’ll find yourself competing against the worlds top players, but your player may not be built up enough in terms of training, meaning you’ll get royally spanked. It can get quite frustrating, but for some reason, you seem to find yourself coming back to it again and again, more determined to beat Roger Federer in the Australian open final — the game is stupidly addictive.
If you get tired of the single player, you can always play on Xbox Live. There isn’t a huge diversity in Xbox Live. You can either play a normal ‘player match’ allowing you to play as one of the 24 professional players, or you can play a ranked match, which is basically a match with your custom character from your career. The nice addition to multi-player, and something we haven’t seen very often so far, is the addition of 2 players being able to play on one console, online. This allows for you to play an online doubles match, with your mate on your team, against two other mates from the other side of the galaxy [World —Ed]
All-in-all, Top Spin 2 is a decent game. The addictive gameplay and nice visuals, along with the authenticity, outweigh the frustrating aspects of the computer AI.
If you like Tennis games, this is by far the best one released for a long time, on any console and is worth the forty quid spent on it.