EA Sports Grand Slam Tennis Wii Review

EA’s Grand Slam Tennis isn’t a first party Wii title, although it’s the first game to demonstrate the goods of the MotionPlus add-on. EA are obviously strong supporters of Nintendo’s motion sensing enhancement, with tennis already covered and golf to arrive in the very near future.

In fear of allowing the MotionPlus to overshadow the game, lets remember that without games it would be a useless piece of cosmetic plastic, merely making the Wii remote a little longer. With or without the MotionPlus, Grand Slam Tennis (the first in a new sports franchise for EA) is a great game of the sport, even if one scheme is more accurate and more talked about than the other.

Flat shots, slices and topspin shots are pulled off with motions, though lob and drop shots are executed with button presses during the swing, quite excusable without MotionPlus, but less so when you factor in the motion sensing enhancement. Also, the serve of the ball is basically the same whether you’ve got MotionPlus plugged in or not. Perhaps EA are just leaving room for improvement, I’m pretty certain that this won’t be the last time that they grace the court.

Oddly, there’s no tutorial included which would have certainly benefited MotionPlus first timers, although there is a practice court in which you can attempt to perfect your motions on. The game can be purchased standalone or packaged with MotionPlus, the latter unlocking a truer recreation of the ball smacking sport.

Without the MotionPlus, racket swings come down to timing, with it, it becomes more precise and gives off more of a feeling that you’ve got an actual tennis racket in your grasp. Whichever way you play, it’s possible to plug in the nunchuck for full player movement, but you can opt to leave it to the very capable AI to do all the running about for you as well. Obviously with the nunchuck plugged in, the game is tougher to play as the multitasking of hitting the ball back and getting into the right positions requires both hands, though at least you can’t blame the AI if you don’t reach the ball in time.

When the MotionPlus is plugged in, though, the game does have a learning curve and you have to get used to holding the remote steady to keep it in synch when the back and forth action comes to a halt. It’s certainly impressive to witness your player moving the racket in the same direction as yourself, and when you get to grip with things, even if it misreads a motion at times, you’ll notice your accuracy improve: ball placement governed by your actual motions.

Moving away from controls and onto the options, the game includes a Grand Slam mode and various multiplayer options. The Grand Slam mode has you creating a player (options aren’t that vast, although you do unlock gear) and playing against more familiar real world opponents (past and present) at Wimbledon and in the US, French and Australian Opens. But the game is also kind enough to give you a breather from all those seriously tense knockout tournaments with warm-up exhibition matches against nobodies, as well as skill challenges: tennis with more outlandish rules. Slightly more serious, during these pre tournament stages, there’s also legend challenges, which gives you the opportunity to beat one of the pros and win one of their special skills to bring about some self improvement to your tennis.

There’s also a fitness option, setting the amount of calories and the weeks that you want to lose them within. I certainly found it to be a lot of fun to be told of my progress with my weight goals, even if the benefits aren’t quite as vast as the game would have you believe, then again I don’t think it’s supposed to be taken seriously.

Grand Slam Tennis is also quite the multiplayer package. Offline, the game is played in split screen and if you want to play something a little different from ordinary tennis, there’s the entertaining Tennis Party mode for you to turn to. Tennis Party has various modes, everything from (amongst others) king of the court, wherein the majestic king can only score, but you can become the shiny crown wearer by knocking the ball past him, tag team has you playing in doubles and taking it in turns to be the ball returnee, net master is the tennis that everybody knows, the twist is that points scored from the net are worth double. Online, the game is generally very smooth with little noticeable lag, an important thing to lack for a game that requires split second timing, also you’re not only playing to rack up the wins for yourself, but for your entire country as well.

Graphically, EA haven’t gone for ultra realism, instead we have cartoony player models and some nice animations. The visuals are distinct and certainly have a personality to call their own, but may not sit well with those who want a truer look to match up with the realism that has been applied to other areas of the game. Aurally, it’s very authentic tennis (grunts, squeaky shoes and ball meeting racket), but the commentary from Pat Cash could have been much more varied than what it is, as it does soon begin to annoy.

Whichever way you play it, EA Sports Grand Slam Tennis is a lot of fun, though you’ll need MotionPlus if you want a more accurate game. It’s certainly a promising start for EA’s new tennis franchise and shows off Nintendo’s enhancement to a satisfying degree, but they have wisely left some room for improvement, you know, so they’ll have something new to shout about in the next one.