Top Spin 3 Review
|Release Date:||June 20th, 2008 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Andy Hemphill (Bandit)|
As always at this time of year, embittered tennis fans like me are often annoyed by the huge number of wannabe Andy Murray's who sign up to the nearest tennis club (usually mine) mess around for a fortnight and then get bored and disappear as soon as Wimbledon is finished. But, help may finally be at hand for the armchair tennis pro, as 2K games release their latest effort in the tennis sim genre- Top Spin 3.
Ok, so let me take the first service:
Top Spin 3 is one heck of a game, the tennis equivalent of a down-the-line winning shot. Previous efforts in the genre have been button-bashing, ball smashing wastes of time, usually featuring a few generic characters and some poor animation- not so here. Top Spin 3 is graphically spectacular. All the main courts and events are here, from the US Open to Wimbledon, and each of the courts is rendered beautifully, featuring all the relevant linesmen, umpires and a crowd who have ten times the life of your usual sporting game crowd.
Each of the players are beautifully modelled and all the big name stars are here, as well as the stars of past tournaments, so playing a game as Andy Murray and facing off against the mean serves and mastery of Boris Becker is only a button press away. Each of the players' motions have been realistically rendered, from the bouncing-on-the-balls-of-your-feet ready stance to the long lunge that usually accompanies a cross court shot, and the motions are so smooth that you really have to look hard for any slowdown or glitching in the strokes.
The character's animations are similarly well modelled, Federer's hair moves with each stroke, Andy Murray's massive adams apple bobs realistically as he pumps the air and even the crowd react with the game, standing up and clapping and having to be told to shut up by the umpire, who reads out the score without sounding as if it's all been recorded separately and put together later.
So, love - fifteen to Top Spin 3 then.
Next up is the realism of the game. While a console game's box usually promises the world to a gamer and hardly ever delivers, Top Spin actually does manage to stick to its guns.
As a tennis player myself, I know that this is a sport that requires incredible skill, timing and aggression, and this is reflected in the game. Your player, be it Murray, Federer or Seles each plays the game slightly differently, taking different strokes and aiming for different lines, but with Top Spin 3 it is surprisingly easy to devise your own strategy.
The game uses each of the Xbox's four main buttons for a different stroke, with yellow being a lob and green being a drive for example, but a simple control method allows you to turn a weak return stroke into a winner: As the ball comes at you, pressing and holding a button builds up power and allows you to hit a stronger shot, and using the left thumbstick allows you to steer the direction you hit the ball, so forcing your opponent onto the left side of the court then finishing with a smash to the right becomes an easy task and very gratifying to pull off.
The learning curve is shallow and it is a very easy game to pick up and play, before you know it you can become a tennis pro, or, if you're really struggling, you can pop into the handy 'tennis school' where you can learn a little more about the game- maybe how to finally slip the ball past Becker's net defence.
Love - thirty to Top Spin 3.
However, sometimes the sim can get a little too realistic. If you time a shot wrong or don't push the right button at the correct point your player tends to 'stall' and stop where he's standing. Also, it's surprisingly hard to break into a run in this game, in real tennis if you're getting lobbed you just jog back till you have a shot then take it, in Top Spin the player character hops backwards for a bit until the game decides that you've held the stick long enough for that to class as running and sets your character off at a good lick.
Now while this may seem only a minor point, when you're playing an opponent who has a habit of lobbing you while you're at the net working for the kill shot it can get very annoying very fast- I'm looking at you, Roddick.
Fifteen - thirty to Top Spin 3.
Next up is the career mode, and this is where the real meat of the game comes into play. It all starts out with the player creator, which features an absurd amount of options to tinker with your avatar: Face, body, gender, grunts, clothing, racquet, sponsorship, place of birth, occupation, place of residence, the list goes on and on. And even after you've chosen a generic character, you can go into 'sculptor' mode and adjust every single point on your avatar's face.
For a laugh I decided to play around with my poor character and a few minutes later I had created a monster of a man, all sharp edges and raised cheekbones. Thank god for the undo button!
So, once you've got your avatar all kitted out you can launch into the career mode and take your character to the top, fighting your way from the back lot tennis tourneys of Brazil (apparently they do have them) all the way to the grand slam tournaments of big time tennis. And don't go thinking it's easy, the AI of your opponents is pretty good, and they will counter your strengths and exploit your weaknesses with equal precedence.
Fifteen - forty to Top Spin 3, game point.
The game also features a solid multiplayer mode, allowing you to take on other tennis aces from across the world and show your mastery of the top spin forehand, and even if the lag occasionally causes problems with the play, it's still a fun experience.
So, Top Spin 3 wins the first game and is well on its way to taking the match, and I am happy to say that it does deserve the applause it's been getting.
If you're looking for a good tennis game to pass away the long summer months which features outstanding control, great graphics and a solid career mode, then you'd better grab your whites and get onto the virtual court.
- Easy to pick up and play
- In-depth single player
- Solid multiplayer
Not so good stuff
- Lag can cause problems in multiplayer
- Hard to get the characters to run at the drop of a ball
- Could get repetitive
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