|System: Wii, PS3, Xbox 360|
|Release: May 10, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Comic Mischief|
by Sean Engemann
After five years of Wii Sports stealing the tennis scene with its simple controls and addictive gameplay, Sega is trying to liven things up with Virtua Tennis 4. It certainly keeps the controls simple, but aside from a few enjoyable minigames, does nothing to make this entry an addiction.
A handful of current tennis superstars are available, like Andy Roddick, Rafael Nadal, and Venus Williams, but the game certainly would have benefited from a wider pool. You can create your own character and work your way up the rankings in World Tour mode, but this feature is limited and lacks the full customization tools you may be hoping for. The venues are also limited. Although you can choose some major and minor locations, they are generic representations, so you won't actually be playing in the virtual Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia.
If you don't believe that this is a pick up and play game, you can start with the Practice Mode. A small series of tests show you how to serve, place the ball, and choose the right swing. It takes about five minutes to do all the practice rounds, and afterwards you'll wonder why Sega bothered to even include these.
The exhibition mode allows you to quickly setup a match, pick the length you want, a pro to play as, and a venue. Designed to give you a quick tennis fix, the matches have nice pacing and don't feel stretched out, unless you set them up that way. Up to four players can hook up for a match, so pick your doubles partner wisely.
Virtua Tennis games have always had a reputation for having off-the-wall minigames. While the Party Mode selection is limited to just under ten minigames, a few are quite enjoyable and have good replayability. Ace Striker has you whacking a soccer ball into a goal guarded by paper cutouts. Royal Poker requires you to make a poker hand by hitting a wall of cards. The most enjoyable though, especially with friends, is Bomb Match, where you volley a time bomb back and forth, trying to keep it away from your side of the court before the timer runs out and it explodes.
The main single player mode is World Tour. Nintendo fans will immediately be transported back to the days of Mario Party, as the world is transformed into a game board where you move using numbered tickets instead of dice. You'll often be completing minigames during your turn. With a seventy day season, you must think ahead and carefully strategize your moves across the board. A clever idea, but often times the luck of the draw makes you skip a sought after event, or miss a major tournament altogether.
There are exhibition matches and publicity events to partake in. All of these raise your star meter, the currency used to enter into major tournaments. You'll also receive cash for completed events, which can be used to purchase various movement and special tickets, as well as new gear when it becomes available. You must monitor your condition meter though, which decreases with every event until you land on a rest square. An unrested character is more prone to injuries, which can diminish the days left in the season, and also causes you to suffer a handicap when playing a match.