Reviewed: September 21, 2003
Released: August 15, 2003
Itís amazing how much of a personís recreational life can, and has, been replaced with videogames. Instead of going to the golf course I can stay home and sneak in 18 holes between primetime TV. Instead of going to the beach to play volleyball or surf or going to the mountains to ski or snowboard I can do all of these activities at home safer and usually much cheaper. Now, DreamCatcher is about to invalidate two years of tennis lessons and frequent weekends spent on my old apartmentís tennis court with their latest PS2 release, Agassi Tennis Generation.
Tennis games seem to be a rarity in the world of video games. The last tennis game I played and really enjoyed was Virtua Tennis way back on the Dreamcast. With the recent rash of console volleyball games it seems the clay courts have been replaced with sand pits but Andre Agassi is here to change all that.
Agassi Tennis features:
Agassi is barebones tennis, which is both good and bad depending on how you look at it. Personally, I found the lack of any training, practice, or mini-games quite distressing. You are literally thrown to the wolves and forced to learn the game while you play it. Whatever happened to those machines that fire the balls across the net, and where are those training drills that test your accuracy by having you hit the ball into certain quadrants or knock down targets?
Agassi assumes you already known the rules of tennis or at least read the manual in order to play this particular game. Those of you who like to pick-up and play a game will be in for at least a 3-4 game learning curve. Admittedly, the controls are simple once you learn them, but with no way to practice your timing and control you learn by playing and losing.
The face buttons control the various types of hits; slice, lob, topspin, smash, and the more pressure you apply on the button the harder the hit. Once you have picked the type of hit you can then control the angle of return using the analog stick to place the ball left, right, deep, or drop it just on the other side of the net. The system works quite well with a few limitations.
There is no onscreen prompt to indicate where the incoming ball might be going and no target to show where you are about to hit the ball. This would have been a nice feature for training purposes or perhaps on a lower skill level. The only indicators that do appear are the circle to highlight the intended receiver (useful only in doubles) and the power arc used for serving.
The Arcade and Quick Match modes are fairly standard and support 1-4 players with AI players filling in any spots not played by real people. You can pick from 32 players, none of whom I was familiar with, but I donít think they are supposed to be real players anyway, other than Andre. Quick Match is a single game or set comprised of three matches while Arcade takes you through a series of five rounds, each increasing in difficulty and changing players and locations at random.
The Tournament mode is obviously supposed to be the centerpiece of the game, but it too is lacking. You cannot create your own player and increase their abilities through practice or experience, but rather you are forced to play Andre, and only Andre, as you take him through ten tournaments around the world trying to earn enough points to become world champion.
Visually, Agassi gets the job done with some excellent court graphics and above-average player graphics. While all the players move realistically enough they donít have a lot of interesting textures or details to really make them pop off the screen. And for those of you looking for miniskirts and ponytails, all the players in Agassi are men. The only player with any extra attention to detail appears to be Andre, for obvious reasons.
The courts are detailed with line judges and plenty of spectators that cheer, ooh, and ah as the action dictates. The presentation is fleshed out with picture-in-picture inserts of player reactions after a shot, and each scoring shot is replayed in slow motion from a variety of camera angles.
Speaking of cameras, you can play Agassi from either an overhead camera that gives you a wide angle of the entire court or from the court camera that is positioned about six feet behind the player. While this angle offers the most exciting and realistic gameplay experience it is also the most challenging, as the ball will frequently be hit off camera leaving you to make wild leaps of faith to return the ball.
The menus are clean and simple and you pick your court by spinning the globe and getting an image of the court and some detailed info. In the tournament mode this is expanded to show player standings and your overall rank in the championship.
What little music there is in Agassi is the typical sports-style tunes you might hear during the opening or closing credits of an ESPN broadcast. It fits perfectly and stops when the gameplay begins so you can enjoy the authentic sounds of people playing tennis.
Unfortunately, tennis isnít a very audible sport and with the exception of the grunts of the players and the hollow thump of the ball bouncing off court and racket there isnít much going on. The crowd makes appropriate noise when they are supposed to and there is some commentary that covers the very basics of what is happening, usually exclamations for a great play. One nice touch is you can hear the court announcer calling the scores out over the PA system.
Agassi Tennis Generation, while limited in gameplay, is still a steal at only $19. Even if you only play the tournament once, the multiplayer modes should offer more than enough fun to warrant a purchase. This assumes you enjoy tennis, either as a sport, videogame, or both. Playing doubles will certainly encourage a bit of cooperation and teamwork that isnít always found in a multiplayer game.
Agassi Tennis Generation is a simple, straightforward tennis game that will likely appeal to fans of the sport that want to bring the courtside action indoors. With a total lack of practice modes, mini-games, or tutorials, the casual gamer may have trouble finding enough to do with this title, but hardcore tennis buffs and even those who just enjoy knocking the ball back and forth will appreciate the slick interface, fluid controls, and realistic gameplay.