2K Sports returns once again with a new addition to their popular series of tennis games. This is as close as you can get to playing tennis, without stepping onto a real court and grunting – Top Spin 4 promises to be best yet.
The main aim for any game, no matter what genre, is to make it feel realistic. It doesn’t matter if you’re fighting back blood lusting zombie hordes or playing a casual spot of tennis. If it doesn’t feel real, then all senses of fun and escapism are lost. Thankfully Top Spin 4 truly delivers in the old realism department.
The versatility and expansiveness of game play is always important, but in a tennis game where the scope of game play can easily be narrow. Achieving a fresh and new experience every time you enter the virtual court can be hard. Top Spin 4 has gone some way to successfully execute this. Whilst there are only four main shot types (flat, lob, slice and top spin), there are several variations of each shot type.
This creates a whole new learning process in the game, whereby you gradually train yourself to intelligently pick a shot type. So if you are on the back foot, you might want to play a controlled slice shot to re-affirm your position in the game. If you are pressing onto your opponent, you could play a flat power shot and take the game by the scruff of the neck. This introduces a tactical and calculated element into the game. This means matches between players of differing abilities can enjoy a level of competitiveness. It also makes the game exciting, just like in real tennis, with a cleverly crafted shot you could go from being under pressure to winning a point.
Another great thing about the game play is the motions and movements of the players, they move like real tennis players. Instead of tennis playing robots following one dimensional orders, the players move and groove as realistically as ever. One criticism of the game play would be the slow reaction times of the players, sometimes you’re not able to react to a returning ball as quickly as you’d like. Also sometimes the players tend to get stuck in a crab like mosey, that sort of sluggish movement isn’t a burden on the game, but definitely not a positive.
Of course another huge aspect of any game is the graphics, it can be said with confidence that Top Spin 4 has succeeded on the graphics front. In terms of actual game play, it could easily be mistaken for a real tennis match if you were just glancing. Most impressively are the graphics for the players, you can actually tell who’s who, even though Rafael Nadal’s face is a bit on the hairy side, you can easily tell him apart. Whilst it isn’t pivotal to give the star players their own specially tailored, accurate faces, it does make playing as them better.
Whilst the most important elements of the game are executed successfully, other smaller segments of the game have also been done well. Whilst music choice and taste changes from person to person, the soundtrack on Top Spin 4 is likely to please and impress most people.
One of the best features of the game is certainly the academy. The learning curve of any game can be a large stumbling block on the road to fun and enjoyment, the academy feature means you learn every aspect of the game, from the bottom up. You receive an education in Top Spin 4, where you’re taught every shot type, you try to hone your accuracy and generally improve your game play. It is a brilliant addition to the game, and perfect for someone new to the Top Spin 4 series.
Another good little feature that should be made compulsory on every single game is the helpful loading screens, which offer controller information and other helpful snippets of information. Simple things like that brighten up the most mundane parts of the game.
There are a few irritating bits in the game however. The audience clapping will really wear you down, it is the same repeated sound clip after most points, if you find things like that annoying then the mute button will be your only solace. Also you’ll often hear the umpire shout ‘OUT’, especially when you’re just starting to play the game, but for some reason on some court types, mainly clay, the umpire will shout something out more akin to the word ‘BAT’. If you notice it, then a) it proves that we at Gamestyle aren’t imagining things and b) hours of tennis can do crazy things to an umpire.
Top Spin 4 is a fantastic game and definitely the best tennis game currently on the market. There a few minor flaws, but for every negative, there are a hundred more positives. The realism of the game play is leaps and bounds ahead of competitors and predecessors in the series, but there are still a few loose ends that need to be tied up.