One of the most annoying things about playing Wii Sports with a group of friends is that sooner or later, one of them will realise that they don’t actually have to do a bowling motion to make the bowler bowl. As soon as they realise that a flick of their wrist is enough to get things in motion, they’ll sit on their backside with a beer in one hand, flicking the remote to fire up the animation on-screen, and the whole party starts to lose its momentum. With the advent of PlayStation Move, you’d have hoped that the scenario wouldn’t rear its head again, given that the fidelity is there to be able to offer solid one-to-one movement.
Someone forgot to tell the developers of Racket Sports, who have produced a gesture-based tennis game that could probably be pulled off by a MotionPlus-less Wii system, with the only thing you’d lose being a little bit of sharpness in the visuals. And for the record, I’m using the spelling of the word “racquet” that the publisher (or developer, I don’t really care) has used, since they’ve clearly left their dictionary at home in the rush to get this product to market in time for the Move launch. If that was the only spelling mistake (OK, it isn’t necessarily a mistake, but still…) to be found in the game, I wouldn’t mind so much. Unfortunately, it isn’t, and I’d be “suprized” if there weren’t more to be found as you progress through the game.
Lexicographical issues aside, Racket Sports is essentially a high-definition version of Wii Sports Tennis, with slight variations on the theme. In the package, you get your basic tennis, as well as badminton, table tennis, beach tennis and squash, all of which suffer from the same problems. The main problems are fourfold. First off, you aren’t directly controlling your racquet with the Move controller. You’re performing gestures to tell the console to play a canned animation that looks something like what you were doing. This leads to the second problem, which is that it is incredibly difficult to control the power and direction of any shot – far more so than in Wii Sports Tennis, in fact – since the game seems to just randomly aim the ball wherever it feels and as quickly as it wants to. It also leads into the third problem, which is that because you can’t really control the power and direction of a shot, you can’t really play tactically. Again, that brings us nicely to the next problem, which is that tactics wouldn’t matter anyway, since either in single or multiplayer, the automatically-positioned players are rarely so far from the ball that they can’t make a shot, meaning that each rally takes approximately four thousand years.
“But…” – I hear you cry – “…surely if someone hits the ball out, then the rally is over?” Well, yes, that’s technically right. The issue is that Racket Sports limits your control so much that you CANNOT hit the ball out of bounds, unless you’re attempting a special “risky” shot (pulled off by holding the trigger button.) Oh, and you can only attempt these special shots when playing with the “Advanced” control mode, which only adds that ability and asks that you point the controller in the direction your character is running in to make him or her go faster. That’s not really all that advanced.
If you’re still somewhat confused about the difference between gesture-based gaming and actual motion control, then you just need to pop your Sports Champions disc into the PS3 and have a crack at table tennis. Then, load up Racket Sports and do the same. It truly feels as if you’ve gone back in time and as soon as that ball is in play, you’ll feel the difference.
And it doesn’t really matter about the above-average graphics, the online play, the career mode (which is welcome, even if it is very linear and sparse) or the potentially entertaining “Party” mode that allows up to four players to rumble through the different discipline with a little twist in each round – such as having the ball disappear at random – since the game itself plays so, so poorly.
I suppose that trying to shoehorn as many variations on a theme – even if they are practically identical – into a single, low-priced package should be classed as admirable and if you’re being incredibly generous you’d say that the game is on a par with the majority of Wii-based tennis titles out there that don’t use MotionPlus. If you’re being realistic though, you have to think that the game should be a heck of a lot better than that with hardware that is obviously a lot more capable in every department, and with a control system that has already been proven as being incredibly accurate and entirely usable for a game of this type. I can see absolutely no reason to recommend this, even at the price which – given that the game was released as one of only five Move-only titles on Move launch day – is an absolute indicator that the publisher knows full well that Racket Sports isn’t good enough.
Review contributed by: Ken Barnes