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October 23, 2005
Top Spin - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
20/10/2005Take TwoPower & Magic1-4, 2 GHard
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen

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On an indoor court.
The year was 1966 and a gentleman by the name of Ralph H. Baer started work on a games machine that would eventually lead to Pong, and the modern videogames industry. Almost 40 years on and it's amazing to see how times have changed. Gone are the Black and White screens with sprite and vector based graphics and in their place are polygon pushing workhorses. The Playstation 2 has been graced by several tennis titles to date with Sega's Virtua Tennis 2 and Namco's Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament 2 being the stand out titles. This game, Top Spin, was released on XBox to much critical acclaim, commercial success and much fanfare by Microsoft about two years ago now but a recent selling off of the companies sports assets means the game is now available on PS2 through 2K Games. Has the game ported well? Read on to find out...

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Going for the big serve.
When it comes to gameplay Top Spin is probably the most varied in terms of shots which are all mapped to different buttons on the face of the controller. With the press of a button you can perform slices, drop shots, lobs slams and power serves. One neat feature is the ability to press the R1 button to perform a risky shot. As it sounds this allows you to pull off the big winner, but mistiming the shot could see you losing the point just as easily. In terms of game modes Top Spin has the required Exhibition games, Tournaments and Career modes so you'll find plenty to do.

As expected the game includes all the surfaces such as hard, clay and grass and sixteen top professionals such as Roger Federer (Switz), Carlos Moya (Spain) Lleyton Hewitt (Aust), Gustavo Kuerten (Brazil), Jan-Michael Gambill (USA), James Blake (USA), Sebastien Grosjean (France), Tommy Rebredo (Spain), Maria Sharapova (Russia), Venus Williams (USA), Martina Hingis (Switz), Meghann Shaugnessy (USA), Elena Dementieva (Russia), Daniela Hantuchova (Slovk), Amanda Coetzer (S.Africa), and Ashley Harkleroad (USA). One of the new additions to this game is the ability to use the PS2's Eye Toy to put your face into the Create a Player mode. This is actually one area where the game excels as while not quite as good as EA's sports titles its better then most and seeing yourself running around on the court can be quite entertaining.

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Graphics are a bit meh...
The second main new feature is the online gameplay. Sadly there is only support for 2-players in this mode however the results of these singles matches can go towards your created players rankings. We experience a little bit of lag playing online which surprised us, but it rarely cost us a point during the match so it's not too bad I guess.

There are certainly some disappointments with this game. Primarily we would have liked to see some new features to the game besides online gameplay and Eye Toy support. Given that it has been two years since the original games release on XBox we would have loved to see perhaps a large player roster, some mini-games or most importantly an improved career mode which isn't up to the standards in Sega's Virtua Tennis series. Another problem with the game is the load times which really needed to be worked on. It's disruptive and makes doing anything in the game quite a chore - and an annoyance. Finally we're a little bemused by the need for this game to take up 1897kb of your memory card. If Virtua Tennis 2 can be saved in 362kb and Namco's Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament 2 in only 64kb we don't know why this game should be almost five or even thirty times as large.

Graphics are the one area where the change to PS2 has taken its biggest hit. It's disappointing to see that even with two additional years of technological advancement and expectations the developers couldn't get anywhere near the quality of the XBox visuals. The character models occasionally look passable, but often quite average and on the weaker end of the PS2's spectrum of character modeling. The courts and crowds, well, we're not even going to go there. They're abysmal with the crowds looking more like a Technicolor Dreamcoat then real life. On a slightly brighter note the game retains the animations rather well with players leaping and running around the courts in glorious style.

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Playing in China.
Top Spin's audio is, as you would expect, fairly basic. The players hit the balls with the applicable grunt or groan while the ball makes a lovely plonking noise when it hits the racquet or ground. Where this game fall dismally flat is the crowds. Listen to a real match at the US Open, or Australian Open, and the crowds erupt with cheers and hollers when points are won - especially for the home player. In this game it's simply a dull cheer with little to no excitement.

If you've been waiting for Top Spin to appear on the Playstation 2 then you'll be pleased to hear that everything remains intact in terms of features. While the graphics are a couple of notches below the XBox version the gameplay is just as impressive as ever.

Review By: Dave Warner

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version) or Amazon (NTSC Version).
GRAPHICSA few notches below the XBox version visually, good animations.
SOUNDGood enough effects, but only mediocre crowds make this sound dull.
GAMEPLAYDespite the technical challenges this game is still tremendous fun.
VALUENeeded improved career mode and 4-players online, $49.95rrp.
OVERALLTop Spin may be lagging technically but the core gameplay remains as entertaining as ever. If you're a tennis fan and either bored of Sega and Namco's titles or unable to find them given their age then this is worth checking out, just don't expect the brilliant game that appeared on XBox. (Dare we say you should get that version instead of this one if you have a XBox!)

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