Grand Slam Tennis 2 - PS3 Review
|23/11/2011||EA Games||EA Sports||EA Canada||1-4||2-4|
Tennis games have been around for decades - indeed it has been 40 years since Pong was first released in the arcades. What amazes though is that Electronic Arts, who dominate a large number of sports genres, have never really got a foothold and retained it in the tennis genre. But here in 2012 the company is making a big splash with Grand Slam Tennis 2 which despite the moniker is the first game in the series to hit the PS3 after the original was a Wii exclusive.
|Stefan Edberg is one of the legends in Grand Slam Tennis 2.|
So this is a tennis game and as a result there's no storyline to follow. What this game does contain is the four Grand Slam Tournaments (Wimbledon, Australian Open, French Open and US Open) as well as 23 past and present players including (current male) Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Kei Nishikori; (legends male) Boris Becker, Björn Borg, Stefan Edberg, Pat Cash, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, and Michael Stich; (current female) Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, and Ana Ivanovic; and (legends female) Lindsay Davenport, Chris Evert, Justine Henin, and Martina Navratilova. It's quite a line-up with player likenesses included in the game as well as their game styles.
Upon starting the game you'll be presented with a menu with multiple options. The "Play Now" section allows you to jump into a single or doubles game, and needs no explanation. The "Game Modes" section contains the meat of the game with a 10-year career mode where you'll enter tournaments, training and rivalry matches to improve your world ranking, ESPN Grand Slam Classics allows you to relive 25 classic matches from the past and complete the matches in your own way while the Tournament mode allows you to, well, enter tournaments.
|Visuals in the game are cleanly impressive.|
Moving on and the "Training" section allow you to enter Tennis School or Practice court - probably something which newcomers to tennis games would do well to check out. The "Online" section allows you to enter multiple online modes or check leaderboards and it's an are where we can see the game generating much longevity for this title - especially if you have a few friends with the game.
As with almost every sports game there is an option to create a player and it's absolutely astounding just how many options are available - they are virtually limitless. Hell, I'd go so far as to say police forces around the world could use this to create "Sketches" of criminals. After you've created your player you can even upload it to EA's servers so others can download it, while you can also download players uploaded by other gamers.
|Serena Williams is instantly recognisable.|
As we detailed in the preview of this game there are two ways to play this game - with the Dual Shock 3 controller or the PlayStation Move. The Dual Shock 3 controller sees you playing with the "Total Racquet Control" as the developers have dubbed it with the left analogue stick moving your player, and the right analogue stick controlling the shot type and angle, although L2 can be used for a lob shot and R2 for a drop shot. It's slick and works very well indeed. For those of you looking for some exercise, or entertainment the PlayStation Move controller makes a fine substitute for a actual tennis racquet and while it occasionally gets "lost" when behind you this is another great way to enjoy Grand Slam Tennis 2.
So let's look at some aspects where the developers could have improved this game further. First of all I was disappointed by the lack of licensed tournaments in the game. While the four Grand Slam tournaments have been licensed, there is little else and even the career mode only has these four Grand Slam Tournaments, and then four unlicensed venues including Shanghai, Geneva, Dubai and Brighton. This could have been fleshed out more - Davis Cup, Fed Cup, Hopman Cup would have been nice additions.
|Australia's own Lleyton Hewitt is in EA's game.|
In terms of the actual gameplay everything is pretty slick although in my hours of playing I don't think I've ever hit the ball out, and only hit into the net a couple of times. It may not make for a "nice" game to have balls going out every few points, but it would add to the realism. AI of the opposition is also pretty lackluster, especially on the easier difficulties. Serve a ball wide and the opponent will never hit it down the line, always going across the court making for a very easy serve and volley winner. This makes the career mode disappointing as the first year starts off at the easiest difficulty, before moving up in Year 2, then again in Year 3. It's only then that you will have a challenge, but by then your ranking will have moved from 100 into the top 30, you should have won the Grand Slam (the four majors in a year) and there's little reason to go on other than more offline matches.
It would have also been nice to see matches start with a coin toss so matches are randomised to serve or receive first. The omission for Hawkeye is also a disappointment - perhaps even a very small ramdomised chance of a reversed decision could have been a nice addition. The developers stated it would have broken up the flow of play - but an option to toggle this on or off could have been included for fans. That sounds like a whole lot of negatives, but are small issues in an otherwise enjoyable titles.
|Roddick takes on Hewitt.|
Also impressing in this title are the visuals with a slickness that only a triple-A development team can offer. Player likenesses are impressive and the amount of customisation in the player creation tools are astounding - some of the "created" players from gamers around the globe are instantly recognisable. Not only do they look great but their animation is silky smooth and many of the play styles such as stances, shot types and movement from real life players have been incorporated into the game for more realism.
We don't have too many complaints about the visuals. We did, however, encounter a very rare match where the ball seemed to jutter very occasionally (this was during offline matches, single player). When playing online - and we put this down to lag - the ball occasionally looks like a clear winner but then the ball "jumps" to the opponents racquet and he returns the ball. Finally the crowds, while good are occasionally stagnant when they should be cheering like mad at the end of a match, or when a big point is won.
When we first saw and played this game we were blown away by the commentary from Pat Cash and John McEnroe which was detailed, authentic and interesting. Unfortunately now after playing the full game we've realised that this commentary is far too limited and it will only take a couple of matches before you hear the same phrases over and over in each match. We've already heard dozens of times Pat Cash say "OK John discuss the pros and cons of hitting your shots deep..." to which McEnroe replies with "Well there's not too many cons..." before going on to list the pros and cons. At times too the commentary isn't accurate. Often a serve out wide and out of reach will receive the comments "right at the body". Ermmm... no.
|Nadal smashes the ball on a clay court.|
Beyond the repetitive commentary though this game gets everything else right from the ball sounds, to the crowds, the ambient effects and even the grunting levels! Playing in the French Open you'll hear the scores called in French, and on occasion police sirens wailing in the background. Oh, wait a sec, they're the same sirens as in the Australian Open - and I certainly don't recall our emergency services using that siren here! Music, which is predominantly in menus, is suitably lively for a tennis game.
As a first release in EA's new tennis franchise Grand Slam Tennis 2 really is a fine effort. Indeed this game seems to get all the key components correct, although it never quite pushes the game to dizzying "must have" heights. It comes close though and tennis fans would do well to pick up this title.
Review By: Dave Warner
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|GRAPHICS||Players, courts, animations and menu presentation are all very slick.||87%|
|SOUND||It all sounds great except the commentary which, while Pat and John are great, is far too limited and repeats after only a couple of matches.||70%|
|GAMEPLAY||Either with the Dual Shock 3 or Move Controller this is a great game of tennis although AI could be improved.||85%|
|VALUE||A lengthy career mode, single matches and online gameplay means you will get value here but there could have been more tounaments.||80%|
|OVERALL||Grand Slam Tennis 2 is a polished, enjoyable title that never quite lives up to its full potential but has enough to earn a recommendation for fans.||81%|