There’s been a lot of talk regarding Nintendo’s Wii MotionPlus peripheral ever since it was announced last year. Isn’t Nintendo just charging us for a functionality that was supposed to be included with the Wii to begin with? Would it really be worth shelling out 20 bucks a controller for the peripheral? Would there be enough games to really take advantage of the increased functionality? Well, after playing EA Sports’ Grand Slam Tennis for the Wii, I think most people would agree that the existence of MotionPlus is fully justified.
In terms of game structure, Grand Slam Tennis is very similar to just about every other sports game you’ve ever played. There are a variety of modes, but the major single-player offering is certainly the Career mode. In Career mode, you’ll get to create your own character and then participate in the Wimbledon and the US, French, and Australian Opens as you attempt to win a Grand Slam. This set-up is generic and predictable, but it really just behaves as a framework for the extremely fun tennis matches that the game offers.
The reason that you’ll want to play Grand Slam Tennis is for the controls. With the Wii MotionPlus accessory attached to the Wii Remote, you essentially have 1:1 control of your character and are able, with practice, to put the ball wherever you want on the court. This is without a doubt one of the most satisfying experiences in any sports game I’ve ever played. Most shots are controlled entirely with the Wii Remote, though drops and lobs require use of buttons. This is just a little bit off-putting, only because it breaks up the 1:1 control a bit. Still, it’s not a huge deal and overall the game controls wonderfully.
That said, Grand Slam Tennis does possess a learning curve, and it’ll take awhile before you’re able to really volley with some sense of confidence. Shots themselves are fairly intuitive; one of the more difficult aspects of this game to master is movement. Moving your character toward the ball with the Nunchuk’s analog stick while simultaneously setting up a specific shot can be a little much to handle at first. Luckily, there’s a practice mode where you can work on coordinating these two actions.
There is also an option to have movement controlled automatically, for those who can’t grasp the movement/shooting combination. Frankly, though, this takes away much of the fun of the game. To begin with, the A.I. for character movement isn’t particularly consistent. Secondly, when you turn this function on, you’re essentially reducing Grand Slam Tennis to a slightly more sophisticated version of Wii Sports tennis. That would be a shame, because Grand Slam Tennis is a very deep, fun tennis game and simplifying the title would be to ignore all it has to offer. Believe me when I say that spending the thirty minutes or hour it takes to really get good at this game is very much worth it.
Of course, in order to fully appreciate Grand Slam Tennis, you’re going to need to shell out twenty dollars for the MotionPlus peripheral. As a gamer who generally operates on a budget, this left a bad taste in my mouth; however, after spending a good amount of time with Grand Slam Tennis, I’m convinced that the purchase was well worth it. In fact, after extensively playing the Career mode, I went out and bought a second MotionPlus accessory so that I could play multiplayer matches with friends. If you’re looking for a justification to purchase MotionPlus, Grand Slam Tennis fits the bill.
Interestingly, there is an option to play Grand Slam Tennis sans MotionPlus, but doing so is foolish. You lose the wonderful ball control that comes along with MotionPlus, and, again, Grand Slam Tennis essentially just becomes a fifty-dollar version of Wii Sports tennis. Admittedly, really appreciating this game is going to require a significant investment: the fifty dollar game plus at least one twenty dollar MotionPlus peripheral. Frankly, once you really get into Grand Slam Tennis, you’re likely to invest in a few more accessories to take advantage of the local multiplayer options.
Local multiplayer has two main components. First are the traditional tennis matches, which support up to four players in a doubles match. The game is lots of fun even by yourself, so it goes without saying that playing with up to three friends is even more exciting. There’s also a collection of tennis-related mini-games. These tend to be gimmicky and more of a distraction than anything else, but in Grand Slam Tennis, the mini-games are actually quite engaging thanks to the excellent control scheme.
Grand Slam Tennis’ Wi-Fi capabilities make the package even more attractive. I played several matches and they were executed flawlessly. There was no lag at all, and the excitement of playing against another human is elevated in a game that relies so much on skill at making nice shots.
Visually, Grand Slam Tennis takes on a cartoony look. This is probably a good idea, because the super-realistic graphics that are so valued in sports titles on the PS3 and Xbox 360 aren’t really possible on the Wii. The visual representations of popular players like Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic are very much recognizable despite not being particularly realistic.
Grand Slam Tennis is one of the most impressive sports games packages that I’ve seen in a while. EA deserves to be commended for getting on the ball with MotionPlus and offering up a game that provides a compelling reason to purchase the accessory. If you’re a tennis fan or are just excited about Wii MotionPlus, then you owe it to yourself to check out Grand Slam Tennis.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.7 Graphics
They’re not technically impressive, but they’re cheerful and work well with the game. 4.8 Control
Far and away the best controls of any sports game I’ve ever played. MotionPlus works phenomenally. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Sound effects are repetitive but somewhat atmospheric; announcing is forgettable. 4.0
Lots of game modes, but this needs to be balanced with twenty dollars-a-pop MotionPlus peripherals.
4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.