Top Spin PS2 Review

Tennis isn’t the most widely appreciated sport about. Barring Tim Henman’s annual two-week Wimbledon debacle the game of bat and ball is largely ignored. So developing a game in a genre that has a king already in Virtua Tennis might not seem that shrewd.

There is another major concern – Top Spin is over two years old. It first appeared on the Xbox in 2004 to an overall positive reception. It’s a game that has already been well played, and graphically, has had its day. Despite the two year difference it’s very difficult to see what has been done. Why now?

It’s understandable if the game is an AAA title like the Grand Theft Auto series – when Rockstar took an absolute age to make the jump across the Playstation – Xbox divide. Nothing momentous has happened in these two years. Top Spin is as it was in the first place: a competent, polished Tennis sim, not amazingly remarkable, but just good.

The best way to review this would be to make the inevitable comparison between the Virtua Tennis and Top Spin. While Virtua Tennis is a widely popular pick-up-and-play arcade fest, which can be mastered in a few hours, Top Spin finds a niche in the genre. It’s a simulation of the sport made with depth in mind – a game for the thinking gamer. It is about outsmarting your opponent using the strengths of your tennis player. So if Roger Federer is unbeatable in real life, by Top Spin’s system he should be as formidable in the game. In theory this is a smashing (forgive the pun) idea, but in practice largely fails to deliver – you’ll find yourself finding a pattern that works rather than changing your game for each individual opponent. Still, the effort should be applauded.

And you’d still be left with a very playable and enjoyable game, if it weren’t for the awful presentation. It takes so much effort (and patience) to get through the seemingly never-ending loading screens that when you have finally set up a match, you’re too peeved to truly enjoy your first taste of the game. And the thought of going through that all again to play another match is somewhat off-putting. It is a shame, as the actual game holds up well; the learning curve is balanced – giving you a challenge that isn’t frustratingly difficult. The gimmicky ‘power-shots’ – that are ‘charged’ when making accomplished shots throughout a match – work well as they are not simple to pull off and but are damaging enough to risk when you reach pivotal moments in a match.

Following on from the ugly presentation – the ‘World Tour’ navigation is a pain. Looking more like a Megadrive port than an Xbox one. Irritatingly bring colours and a sluggish cursor only accentuates the poor finish and general lack of effort invested when polishing Top Spin off (hehe).

Top Spin – if you ignore everything you see outside of the actual playing of the game – is a worthwhile drain on your time. It offers a something more realistic than Virtua Tennis, which purists will appreciate. It’s also a more realistic challenge where your chances of winning a match are not completely dictated by the stats of your opponent or the difficulty level the game is set at. However with the release of Top Spin 2 on the Xbox 360, is it worth your while buying this? Probably not.
Then again – when ‘Tiger’ Tim gets knocked out of Wimbledon again this year you’ll need something to satisfy your cravings for the fluffy yellow ball. A budget priced copy of Top Spin would be ace (oh God).