Grand Slam Tennis 2|
You might not be able to find a bigger fan of tennis, both in the video game world or in real life than me. I follow two players like they are family: Rafael Nadal and Daniel Rayl. Ok, so the last one is my brother and isn't a household name outside of my own, but still a great and fun player to watch. I have spent countless hours playing tennis with my bother and have a huge appreciation of how the pros make everything look so easy.
Throughout my short tennis career I have sat and watched every grand slam tournament and picked my brothers' brain on every little detail you could possibly imagine and I am still looking for more. So you can imagine my excitement when Grand Slam Tennis 2 fell into my lap. EA has finally taken full advantage of the capabilities of PS3 and brought a whole new dimension to virtual tennis. They have also brought out the big guns bringing back some of our favorite past players like; Sampras, Borg, McEnroe, Navratilova, and Everett. As a tennis enthusiast I put the game in and had no idea where to start.
I finally decided to just start with playing as my favorite player and try a quick game. I did the classic matchup of Nadal vs. Federer. I jumped in without reading anything or training and just went with the button system used in previous tennis games. I quickly decided this was just like any other game tennis game I have ever played; it just looked better. After a glorious victory over Federer on the grand stage of Wimbledon, I decided to give this game the benefit of the doubt and try the training school. This is where I realized how foolish I was for just jumping into the game.
Welcome to Johnny Mac's training academy. Here is where you find that EA has really used every aspect of the controller. The loading screens show that you have two options of hitting the ball. You can use the button system just like every other game out there or you can use the analog stick and time it like you were really hitting the tennis ball just like you would swing a club in Tiger Woods. It is what EA is calling Total Racquet Control. Flicking forward quickly gives you a flat shot, flicking back gives you a slice, and then pulling back and flicking forward gives you the top spin shot we all love to hit.
The system isn't easy to use and once in a while it mixes up your top spin shot with a slice and when you try to overcompensate for a better angle it doesn't swing at all. Getting the hang of it with direction doesn't take very long but getting the proper angles and all its little subtleties can take hours. There is a very big learning curve and if you don't have a lot of patience this new control scheme could get very frustrating, especially with McEnroe doing his all-too-familiar yelling for playing horrible and wasting his time. Once you decide on what system you want to play with you can master it with groundstrokes, serving, and volleying all under McEnroe's watchful eye. Once you pass the academy pick up your trophy and set out to start your career.
Before you begin your 10-year career journey youíll need to create your player. The custom player creator has to be the most advanced I have seen in a long time. You have so many options on how to make your player that you can even create real-world people. You can see this when you upload your player or look to download other created players. I went on and saw that someone made Andre Agassi and Gael Monfils. After creating the look of your player you have the options of choosing who you want to model his or her game after. I picked to serve like Roddick and hit like Nadal. You have all sorts of players, past and present, to choose from. After all of that you get a ridiculous amount of points to assign to various player stats. You can make him incredibly fast with not a lot of power or net play or you could make him or her a heavy hitter but not the greatest mover.
Next you get to pick what type of clothing you want to wear and from what brand. I am a huge fan of Adidas and went with just their line from head to toe. Nike has their line and has allowed allowed you to don its Federer and Nadal lines so you can look like the pros. Finally, after picking the look and gear of the player you get to pick the type of racket you want as well. In real life I play with a Wilson racket and to my surprise the game had the one that looks just like mine. You can pick from Prince, Babolat, and Head. There are endless combinations to choose from and you could easily spend hours just creating your player.
After setting up your character you get to jump right into play choosing from a pre-grand slam tournament, a training session to gain points in a certain area of your game, or play in an exhibition match. I just worked on playing tournaments to gain more points and occasionally worked on training. I have a problem with this part of the game. The computer AI plays down to the level of your player. I have gone up against Nadal in every final for my first year and he never breaks 85 mph on his serve because my player can't. I even increased the difficulty level and all that did was have them return more shots than they would have at a lower difficulty level. I never lost a match and the only time I was broken was when I let the player do it so I could get the trophy for breaking back after I got broken.
John McEnroe and Pat Cash man the booth and I was really excited to hear some of the things and how crazy they would be about a horrible play or awesome shot. What I got was the same pre-recorded bits over and over again; at least from McEnroe. You quickly hear about how great hitting the ball deep can throw your opponent off his or her game and how there are no draw backs. I heard it about ten times in three matches and quickly turned the mute button on.
There are some great upgrades though from previous tennis games. You can choose the length of every match between a short match, medium match, and a long match. They vary on games played in each set and how many sets you want to play. You get this option for every individual match not for a whole tournament. Itís great for when you are in a hurry and want to finish a tournament fast. Every round can be a quick short match until you get to the championship and then want to have at it in an epic battle for the title.
Another great new feature is that when you have an issue that happens right in the middle of the tournament and you have to turn the game off you would previously have to start it over again when you turned the game back on. Not anymore. You have the option of saving mid tournament! I have always wanted to be able to do that so I can play and enjoy really long tournaments and not feel rushed. With this addition to the game you can increase the length of your games, making it easier to complete the bonus tasks for more points used to increase your world ranking.
After winning every game in my career I wanted to test my new skills and ego with some online matches. I don't have the PSN plus package so that could greatly change what I am about to write. It was really easy to find a singles match right away. They try and match you up with someone close to your current online ranking to keep the games fair but sometimes to find someone it has to jump to better players and the matches are a little lopsided. I was really excited about my first online tennis experience, but that excitement was short-lived when the dreaded lag appeared. Out of nowhere my opponent jumped from one spot to another and after thinking I had a winner, the ball is suddenly flying past me for a point for my opponent. It doesn't happen a lot but when it does it catches you off guard. Just remember the point isn't over until the ball has dropped twice and always expect your opponent to return the ball and you can cope with the lag. Again, PS Plus users may have premium servers and bandwidth available that free-to-play games canít enjoy. I love the replay system with all the cool camera angles that capture the action. While I was playing sometimes I got so into the game that I just wanted to watch the replay of a great long point and sometimes I just wanted to move on. There were a lot of times when I would fast forward though a point while on the receiving end and the server would just stand there. I am hoping that means that he was watching the replay of his great point and even though I didn't want to watch he got to control the speed of the game and replay system while he or she served like you do in an actual game.
Another issue I had with online play was that you don't get to control the length of an online game but after having some really long matches in terms of time (two sets and first one to 3 games per set lasting 45 minutes) I can understand why EA locked that length in. To help with this if you have a match that ended early or was an instant classic you have the option of replaying the match if both players agree. If you are not a singles player and like to play doubles there is a doubles option online. This is much harder to find games for though. First off, you have to have two players playing on your console for it to even begin. Then you have to have someone else looking to do the same somewhere else. Unfortunately, I never was able to find a doubles game but like most players out there I didn't mind because I am primarily a singles player.
If you have a PS Move this is the game you have been waiting for to really let go and have some fun. Now you are in complete control and get to feel like you are actually playing tennis. The camera reads the Move motion controller really well and I didn't have any serious issues. Now the timing of your swing controls where the ball goes, and if you want to hit it up the line you have to wait longer to control that. If you want to hit cross court you have to swing earlier. One issue with this is when you hit the ball it says too early or too late and when that happens I would have liked to see the ball travel out instead of landing in to make it more realistic. A first-person camera angle would have been a great feature for PS Move if you only saw the racket, the net, and the player across the court. Instead it is locked in just like normal game play which takes away from the potential immersion. It would have been the perfect opportunity to really go above and beyond to bring the real life experience to the living room. There is no support for the Navigator, so when playing with the PS Move the computer controls your player movement. All you do is hit the ball.
I was torn with the look of the game. I was blown away by some aspects but others elements were far less impressive. The surface you play on was unbelievable right from the start. You play on the hard courts of Australia and you can see the shoe marks from where players slide like you would in real life and on the rare occasion when the computer hit a hard top spin shot you could see the ball mark. Unlike other games it stayed throughout the entire match. Not only did you see the marks but you could hear the squeaking of the shoes from side to side movements.
Then you move to the French Open and you see everything in the clay. There is even clay floating in the wind around your feet when you walk around. Then, just like the squeaking of the shoes on the hard courts, you hear the gravel crunch as you walk or slide to your shot. And finally, once again, the grass courts of Wimbledon take the cake. You get to watch the grass turn to dirt throughout the match. As you move from side to side on the baseline you can see the worn area grow and if you like to volley you can see the grass wear out around the net. I was blown away by the attention to court and venue detail even with it only being 720p.
As great as the court graphics are the greatness stops there unfortunately. Crowds are low-detailed lifeless backdrops, and even the ball boys and line judges look like mannequins. But more importantly are the annoying jaggies around every character. From a gameplay standpoint this shouldn't matter because you are looking more at the ball rather than the players, but in the idle animations between shots and the replays you canít help but see the lack of any anti-aliasing. It would have also been nice to have a few choices of playable camera views.
As a huge tennis fan I am very happy with how this game was put together. The career mode is set up for you to have countless hours of enjoyment where you can hone your skills and climb the ranking leaderboards. The character creator allows you to change things anytime you want and really lets you build your perfect vision of a tennis player. Other than the horribly repetitive commentary and some very long load times for everything you do in the game, I loved Grand Slam Tennis 2.
While there is plenty of room for improvement this is still one of the few tennis games out there than you can justify spending $60, especially if you love tennis, either in real life, video games, or both. So grab your rackets, lace up your shoes, and get ready to swing your way to number one in the world.