The Digest: 2K Czech served up a winner with Top Spin 4 by making it one of the most realistic games to date with new mechanics and an accurate aura of tennis matches. However, it’s not your ‘Mario Tennis’ and can often provide long, monotonous gameplay for those who are not great fans. While I can’t see myself playing this game with my non-tennis friends, Top Spin’s realism makes it the best tennis game around and one that I’ll continue to play.
THE FACT SHEET
RELEASE DATE: March 15, 2011
PUBLISHER: 2K Sports
DEVELOPER: 2K Czech
ESRB RATING: “E” for Everyone
I’ve played numerous tennis games: Virtua Tennis, other Top Spin games, Sega Superstars Tennis, Mario Tennis 64, Wii Tennis, Smash Court Tennis 3, etc. But none have felt right to me as a tennis player. While Mario Tennis, Wii Tennis, and Sonic Tennis are solely for entertainment, the other games were created to provide a great tennis experience. Yet none of them have ever succeeded in creating the correct mood and level of intensity that a game should provide. Instead, they often sink to the clearance aisles of the stores because their gameplay is as simple as holding a button down and outlasting your opponent. In fact, I purchased Smash Court Tennis 3 for Xbox 360 for only $5.
Top Spin 4 revolutionizes the video game experience of tennis, to an extent. The shot control system is ridiculously complex and if you do not use the beginning Tennis Academy, you’ll be lost. This is the first tennis game where I have continuously hit the ball out of bounds because of less than ideal timing. By quickly tapping the button associated with the shot, (B – topspin, A – flat, X – slice, and Y – lob) you have more control over the shot because you have reduced the power. But to maintain this control you have to perfectly time the contact between the racquet and the ball. If you press the button moments before the ideal contact point, you’ll lose most of the control that you were striving for, just like in real life. Hitting the ball late also provides the same result.
Power shots require perfect timing as well and complement the more accurate shots. I was initially confused with power shots because the small meter that appears when you hold the respective button down has no bearing on your timing. Instead, it simply says that your shot will be hit with this much power. Once I learned how to control my power shots, I was able to start winning by coupling them with the control shots.
When the power shot is combined with the control shot in the Tennis Academy, you can start to learn how a tennis match is actually played – with offense and defense. The game becomes one of tactic, not who can hit the coolest or hardest shot. The ability to be tactical is perhaps the best part of this game. I know as a tennis player that its not as easy to win a match as most games say but Top Spin 4 makes you earn your win.
Marching up the learning curve is not easy, but it gives you a true appreciation of your skills. In the career mode, you feel a true sense of accomplishment when you enter your first Grand Slam and go toe-to-toe with some of the best players in the world. And those skills are only matched by the wonderfully recreated atmosphere of these grandiose tournaments. Also, being able to play at the authentic, licensed Roland Garros is a bonus for any tennis fan.
Top Spin 4 is the first game to get the atmosphere of tennis right. It is the first game to make you realize the severity of playing a tiebreak or breaking serve to win a set. It is the first game to recreate the intricate parts of tennis that add to the gameplay experience. It is the first tennis game that I can feel a sense of accomplishment by winning a match. It is the first game that I know when I truly earned a win over my opponent.
Conclusion: If you are looking for a tennis game, get Top Spin 4 because it is the best one on the market. If not, let this pass under your radar. As great of a sports simulation Top Spin 4 is, it’s still tennis and much more expensive than a game like Smash Court Tennis 3 or Sega Superstars Tennis where you’ll either have a lot more cartoony fun or save nearly $55. Once I mastered the skills of Top Spin 4, I loved nearly everything about this game. However, it definitely is not for everyone.
Single Player: 9/10 | Multi-Player: 9/10
Special thanks to 2K Sports for providing us with a copy of the game for review.