Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament 2 - Review
Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament 2, or Smash Court 2 for short, is the second game in Namco's Playstation 2 tennis series. The original Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament was a good, if somewhat uninspiring, game. This second game not only looks a lot better, and promises more, but it has just been released in time for Wimbledon. So what's in the game then?
|Playing a doubles match.|
Well for starters Smash Court 2 features 16 of the worlds hottest tennis players including Hewitt, Roddick, Safin, Blake, Haas, Gasquet, Ferrero, Henman, Capriati, Clijsters, Henin-Hardenne, Hantuchova, Mauresmo, Kournikova, Davenport and Serena Williams. The four official Grand Slams are available including Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon and U.S. Open as well as many other small tournaments on the four main surfaces such as hard, clay, grass and indoors.
Smash Court 2 includes several game modes. Arcade mode is simply competing in tournaments on one of three difficulty levels. The Exhibition mode allows you to play a single game for up to four players (assuming you have a multi-tap) while the lesson mode acts as a tutorial. The Challenge mode should hold some interest as this contains several mini-games used to hone your skills while the Watch mode allows you to sit back and watch a computer controlled match between selected players.
|Nice, clear in-game graphics.|
The Pro Tour Mode, however, is where you will spend much of your time as you create a player from scratch and then join the World Circuit, entering tournaments (if your ranking is high enough), buying equipment and entering practice sessions. This mode will have you hooked for weeks. One of the most interesting aspects of this title is that you can play only the crucial points/games in a match, or play the entire match. During this mode you will experience points which will allow you to upgrade your characters attributes such as Serves, Stamina, Court Speed, and all the different tennis shots.
The great thing about Smash Court 2 is the wide range of shots on offer including topspin backhands, half-volley drop shots, lobs, smashes and pinpoint passing shots. It's easy to pick up the game and have a hit, but to become a truly great play you will need to master all the shots - and learn when to use them properly. The difficulty curve has also been leveled out considerably from the last title. In the previous game there was a noticeable jump in difficulty after the second round of a tournament, in this game it increased after every match, and according to the opponent being played.
|Serena goes to serve.|
There are a couple of areas where Smash Court 2 could have been improved prior to release. The most obvious is an AI issue where the player, if the ball is heading straight for him/her, will sometimes have difficulty determining which side to play it from. Surely the developers could have included an animation to essentially "block" the shot in front of you. The L1 button to run should have been a little more responsive, it can take some time to get the speed up, but by then the ball is usually well past you. Finally, games are meant to be fun and the lack of dives for shots in the game removes much of the fun of watching and playing the sport/game. There's nothing better then diving for a ball and getting it back for a winner.
|On the clay court.|
Graphics have certainly improved from the clean, but dull, look from the original game. The animations are much improved but there can be some problems, especially when the players can't determine which side to hit the ball on as mentioned above. The frame rate is rock solid while the player models are much better then any other PS2 games, but still below those in Top Spin on XBox which looks quite stunning.
As with most Namco games the sound is generally of very high quality. The effects are good, and the crowds responsive to the action on screen. One annoyance is the occasional shout outs such as "Come On", but it's not by the players, or if it is why is it a female shouting out when men are playing. Strange. The music is minimal, but used well in the menus and replays.
|Serving on an indoor court.|
Overall Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament 2 is a step in the right direction for the series. The graphics are improved considerably, the game modes increased and refined while everything is presented as a nice neat package. If you want a tennis simulation then you can't go wrong with Namco's Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament 2, if you want an arcade styled game then you may be better off which Sega's Virtua Tennis 2 which can be had for less then half the price of this game.
Review By: David Warner
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|GRAPHICS||Certainly better then the original, great animation good models.||77%|
|SOUND||Adequate crowd and sound effects, some weird shouts from players.||70%|
|GAMEPLAY||The game has a better learning curve, but some odd AI errors.||86%|
|VALUE||Tonnes of stuff to unlock, and several game modes to master.||88%|
|OVERALL||Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament 2 is easily the best tennis simulation on the Playstation 2, and several steps up on the original game. Highly recommended for tennis, and sports, fans.||83%|