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June 4 2007
Smash Court Tennis 3 - PSP Review
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Stadiums look good, crowds do not!
We've said it before and we'll say it again. Tennis makes a great videogame. There's a reason why one of the first videogames of all time, Pong, is basically a simulation of the sport. It's easy to pick up and play, but can also take quite a while to master. Namco's Smash Court Tennis titles sit somewhere nicely in the middle of the road between arcade based over the top thrills, and hardcore simulation which means it's easy to pickup and play. With 16 professional tennis players including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Justine Henin-Hardenne and Maria Sharapova on offer, Smash Court Tennis 3 allows you to take to the court as your favourite player or create your own player from scratch.

The first thing that hits you about this game is the stellar presentation and large number of options available. The game opens with a neat pre-rendered movie showing off the players that feature in the game. When you hit the menu you are presented with a wide range of options including the game modes. These include Tutorial, Exhibition, Arcade, Pro Tour, Ad Hoc, Challenge and Statistics. All these modes should be pretty self-explanatory to fans of the genre. While the Tutorial mode is a great way to learn the basics of the game it's not overly deep - then again neither is the game so I guess we can let that past. The Exhibition and Arcade modes are also fairly straight forward.

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Graphics are looking pretty good.
Where this game does come into its own, and also where you'll likely spend the vast majority of your time is in the Pro Tour mode. After selecting your players sex, country, first name and last name you can customise a tonne of options such as height, weight, hairstyle, face, outfit, shorts, racquet, shoes, accessories, playing style, left or right handed, and backhand, service and receiving style. It is a fairly solid customisation process overall. After creating your character you can then enter the Pro Tour. You'll enter tournaments, practice sessions, and compete with other tennis players to earn the right to become their partner. The ultimate goal - to reach number one in the World Rankings - not an easy feat.

As well as those games a 2-player Ad Hoc mode has been included which we haven't been able to test as yet but should provide a few thrills. We are disappointed there is no 4-player mode in the game. The mini-games include one based on Pac-Man, another based on Galaga and a third mode called Bomb Tennis. They are a fun distraction but certainly not up to the quantity, or quality, of those in Virtua Tennis.

While this game is easy to pick up and play sadly, where Smash Court Tennis 3 falls apart is the movement and responsiveness of the players. Even when you're playing as a fully decked out and top level player everything just feels so sluggish when you're playing the game. This is certainly quite a few notches below Virtua Tennis 3 when looking at speed and it is so detrimental that it really does affect the gameplay.

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Playing on the grass court.
Graphically Smash Court Tennis 3 is, well, middle of the road. Everything is in place, the courts, the players, the ball, and a very 2D unrecognisable crowd. Hell, I haven't seen crowds look this poor since the PSOne days! As with any sports game though the crowds matter little. This is all about the fluidity on the court but as we've previously discussed the game just moves so sluggishly.

One of the first things that hit me about this game is the music - for one reason or another it annoyed me. It's not bad quality, but just, arrgh, irritating. The crowd cheers appropriately as the action on the court heats up or cools down while the umpire calls the scores out accurately - it's not like they could get that wrong really!

While a solid title with plenty to play through Smash Court Tennis 3 is let down by sluggish player movement around the court. Even the fastest professional players seem too sluggish to me and it does bring the game down a couple of notches and certainly makes it the weakest in Namco's series to date. One good thing to note though is that, like many other Sony titles, this game sells for only $59.95. This is a true disappointment overall, but one which tennis fans may get some enjoyment from.

Review By: Dave Warner

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GRAPHICSSome decent enough player models and courts, but crowds suck, and it all runs too slowly for our liking.
SOUNDIrritating music, ball whacking noises, cheers from the crowd.
GAMEPLAYI'm sorry, but I can haul my own fat ass around a court quicker then these players - it's just so sluggish.
VALUEA solid career mode, ad-hoc gameplay, single player modes. Plenty to do here.
OVERALLSo a decent tennis video game that does nothing to stand out from the crowd. It's all too sluggish for our liking, but still, it's not a complete disaster either.

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