There I was, standing in the middle of centre court staring up at the crowds giving me a standing ovation when I realised I was actually really really happy that I had made that last shot.
Okay maybe I should go back a bit; a few days earlier a package arrived on my desk, it was Top Spin 4 – a tennis game from 2K Czech that I had been looking forward to for quite some time.
I do thoroughly enjoy getting out of the house and heading to the courts to smash that little yellow ball up and down the lines, and the idea of being able to emulate some of my idols on the console had me intrigued. I wasn’t overly optimistic to be fair but I wanted to try it out anyway.
So as soon as I could I organised myself some time and stuck Top Spin 4 into the Xbox 360, up came the opening sequence which was pretty standard for a sporting title, lots of heroes, cheering crowds and a whole pile of passion.
I clicked through and went to start a career. A simple player editor popped on screen where I could set my name, country and residence before continuing on… Then things got a little more complicated as I could now change my sex, skin colour, height, weight, shirt, pants, hat, shoes, socks, racquet and accessories.
But wait that’s not all! The advanced editor then allowed me to select facial hair colour, size and shape along with hair colour and shape before going onto eye colour, lips, nose and on and on… You can customise pretty much everything about yourself in this editor which isn’t my sort of thing but I know a lot of people do like this.
Before leaving I noticed one more button though which took me to a screen which had my face on it and a pile of points, you can then scroll to these points and individually move these points to finely tune your fantastic good looks.. or in my case turn my tennis player in a slightly chubby white Mike Tyson after 1 t0o many bouts… impressive.
Okay but now I’m bored so lets head out to actually hit a ball. I start my career and I am shown a screen for January 2011 in which I can choose to either spar (train against an opponent of my choice) or select one of the 3 events available to me. Training is pretty self explanatory and is strongly recommended if you want to practice those cross court or down the line smashes.
So after being thrashed by my training partner I headed into my first tournament which oddly enough doesn’t use the standard scoring of tennis but rather thrusts you into a super tie break, first to 10 wins.
I’m up to serve first and I need to choose between a Power Serve (A), Slice Serve (X) or Top Spin Serve (B). The mechanic is dead simple, you choose your serve and hold that respective button down until the ball is at it’s peak and then you let go and aim where you want the serve to go… hit it to early or late and you lose power and direction.
This mechanic is exactly the same for return shots but when the ball is coming at you it’s far harder to nail that perfect shot.
That is pretty much the entire mechanic of the game but that’s not a bad thing at all. Top Spin 4 is very much like Fifa 11 in that it’s simple to do the basics and get into the game but to perfect your shots and really start climbing the ladders you have to get the timing and shot selection down perfectly.
I lost my first 5 games in a row before heading out and changing the difficulty level from Normal down to Easy after which I started to hold my own.
After winning a few games I had earned enough XP to level my player up, to do this you head into your player editor and select which agility’s you want to increase from the 3 set groups. Offensive Baseline, Defensive Baseline and Volley & Serve. I decided to max my baseline game from the beginning and after a few level ups I was approached by a coach who specialised in baseline forehands.
After accepting his service I noticed my stats now had a +5 on two of the abilities and I was met with a screen of goals to reach such as “Return 5 forehands with good or better timing” after doing that in the next round I was rewarded with more XP and was then able to rank up some more and unlock new coaches with different skills.
3 hours later I had cleaned up the minor tournaments and was now climbing the leaderboards and entering the major tournaments – and I hadn’t even replenished my beer yet.
During my first major I was being held point to point with my new Russian enemy and in one particle point while we were 8-8 the rally lasted an eye watering 36 shots before I placed a perfect drop shop just over the net, my Russian foe though managed to get there and just return it back to my forehand which then lobbed him with an elegant shot to the baseline, as he scrambled back I surged towards the net just in time to meet his return back hand with a cross court smash which turned the already cheering crowd rapturous and had me fist pumping on the couch until I realised my wife was staring at me like i was a mad man.
And that to me is what makes this game great, if you are a tennis fan then you’re going to be exceptionally hard pressed to find a better tennis experience indoors.
Top Spin 4 on the PS3 is rumoured to have an incredibly in depth Move implementation but unfortunately our Move review units have not arrived so I couldn’t test that out. We may get back to that at a later time though.
Presentation 7.5/10 – The graphics are good but not L.A. Noire amazing (sucks being compared to a game that hasn’t even been released yet but the facial animations of L.A. Noire are mindblowing). The courts are nice but you’re not going to buy Top Spin 4 simply for it’s graphics
Sounds 8/10 – I’m giving it a high sound score purely down to the sound effects, the grunts, squeaks, bounces and all round effects are brilliant. The sound track and commentary however can become tiresome.
Value 8/10 – If you’re a tennis fan then this will keep you going all year, possibly even for the next 2-3 years before the next one is released since Top Spin 3 was released in 2008
Gameplay 9/10 – At first look the gameplay seems to be incredibly basic and you can play the entire game with a simple push of the A button. However once you start getting into it you realise the gamplay is far more in depth and addictive.
Overall 8.5/10 – I can’t say it enough, this game is really good IF you are a tennis fan, don’t buy it if you aren’t. The career section will keep you going for countless hours and if you can beat the computer on Hard you are a better man/woman than I am.
I for one would just like to finish this review now so that I can go back and finally win that Wimbledon Trophy my mom always wanted me to win.
Top Spin 4 was reviewed by Gavin Mannion