Top Spin 4 Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Top Spin 4 Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

You’ve Been Served

2K Sports serves up the next iteration of their tennis simulation games, Top Spin 4. Fans who dove into countless matches from the third game of the series may be disappointed with the omission of fresh content. But what the game lacks in groundbreaking new features, it makes up for with numerous nice touches, each immersing you more into the game and heightening the sense of euphoria with each point won and the frustration of each ball missed.

The list of professionals you can play as or against is impressive, with Andy Murray, Serena Williams, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal, just to name a few. 2K has even added legendary players to the roster, such as Bjorn Borg, Boris Becker, Pete Sampras, and of course, Andre Agassi. Sadly, if you want to see Agassi’s vintage mullet sweeping across the screen, you would have needed to preorder through GameStop. Nonetheless, it’s a nice touch to have past and present greats square off against each other, just one of the many small adornments Top Spin 4 offers.

Top Spin 4 Screenshot

Your ultimate goal is to become a tennis legend, working your way from minor tournaments to becoming the champion of Grand Slam events and the #1 ranked player. Of course, as in real life, you’ll need practice… and a lot of it. Fortunately, the game sports a great tutorial called the Top Spin Academy, where you’ll learn serves and volleys, baseline attack and defense, shot placement, and a combination of everything. It is a lengthy tutorial, which you can quit at anytime, but once you hit the court in a ranked matchup, you’ll be glad for the time spent in training. If you need to brush up on your technique, you can always do individual lessons or spend some free time on the practice court honing your skills. When you’re ready, you can dive into an exhibition game, where you can play any player, at any venue, with any settings. The interface allows for a quick setup so you can promptly get to playing.

But the meat of the game is in the career mode, where you create your character from scratch using a non-standard and slightly confusing customization tool, but still one that ultimately lets you create a unique avatar. From there you start with a newcomer status, ranked last on the list. Each month of the season, you can partake in one preparation event and one tournament. The preparation events include sparring partners, charity events, sponsor matches, exhibition games, and others. You are limited by your status to which events you can choose, but as objectives are met, these are unlocked for future participation. Thankfully, despite 2K’s commitment to true simulation tennis, you have the option to curtail the match length for the events, opting out of the prolonged and straining official format in favor of shortened tie-breakers, where it’s basically the first player to ten points. The game’s default setting is actually a nice mix, with certain events as tie-breakers, some as abridged matches, and others full length showdowns. You’ll also start tournaments in the quarter-finals, alleviating the burden of preliminary matches.

Top Spin 4 Screenshot

As you progress with your created character, you’ll earn experience points. This is an excellent addition (especially for an RPG buff like myself) that allows even further customization of your character and play style. As you hit a level up marker, you can choose between three styles: serve & volley, offensive baseline, and defensive baseline. Each style will adjust individual attributes such as power, speed, forehand and backhand swings, and others. Although the court is open for you to control your character as you see fit, after several matches you’ll find yourself invariable sticking to one style. The only problem I had with the leveling is that it was so gradual I didn’t notice a profound change in how my character reacted on the court. On easier difficulties this problem is more apparent, as you can handily best any opponent no matter what your level is.

A nice feature when gaining repute is the arrival of coaches. Each coach is particular to a play style and grants a boon to your attributes and experience by keeping to that style. Complete coach objectives throughout matches to augment your skill, and hire on new coaches as they appear. You’ll also receive sponsorship deals as your fan base builds, receiving e-mails and unlocking new gear. The assortment of clothing is authentic to all the major brands like FILA and Nike, but all are superficial. It would’ve been nice to have something extra to work towards, like unlockable rackets that upgrade your attributes.

Top Spin 4 Screenshot

The graphics are the real highlight of the game, especially with your HD boosted to the max. Not only are the different court types (clay, grass, hard, carpet, etc.) perfectly proportioned, but the backdrops of the plethora of venues brings you right to that location. From the sun setting over the ocean in Hamilton on the Bermuda Islands, or the great shadowing from the latticework at the Dubai Sports complex, to the blue hues of Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia, the detailing is exquisite. Even small elements like chairs, cameras, and sponsor banners add to the realism of the location. Equally impressive are the player animations, whether reaching for the ball or slowing down after missing a cross court shot, they all seem as close to what players would do in reality as possible. Finally, the crowd has its own life, a first in the series. Although several cookie cutter images and reactions easily stand out, there’s a better vibrancy and believability to the spectators. Top Spin 4 also supports 3D stereoscopic imaging, for those who have the luxury of a 3D television.

The sound and music are good and bad, respectively. All the effects, from the squeaky shoes to the grunts of the players to the building anxiety of the audience during an extended rally, are perfect, and paired with the graphics, Top Spin 4 is as close to reality as a tennis game can get. Care was even taken to match audience cheers with venues. When playing against Andy Murray in the U.K., expect an onslaught of “c’mon Andy,” or “go Rafa” when battling Nadal in Barcelona. The music tracks on the other hand are a poor selection of indie pop and rock, which seems more appropriate for a Tony Hawk or X Games game. Considering the vast etiquette of tennis and the simulation goal of 2K Sports, a more subdued playlist would have been better suited. A tall order, I guess.

Top Spin 4 Screenshot

My biggest disappointment was the motion controls. Incorporating the Move and Wii motion sensing into the game seemed like an afterthought, which may very well be the case. The defensive stance that it’s too difficult to simulate tennis with motion controls is a cop out, since Sega is doing just that with Virtua Tennis 4. After testing the motion controls, the animations are still set, with your swing movements simply triggering them. The game doesn’t even use Wii MotionPlus, which quite frankly should be the standard for all future Wii game development. And no Kinect support! I guess it stands to see how the future of motion gaming on all systems develops, but this was definitely a missed opportunity for 2K.

Despite my obvious displeasure with the poor motion controls, the classic style on the controller still does a fantastic job of keeping your fingers moving with a variety of shot combinations, from flat shots, slice shots, lobs, and of course, top spins. If you’re looking for online features, you can play ranked and unranked matches, check the leaderboard, and bring your player to the World Tour mode, where you compete in quick matches and several tournaments, vying for that coveted #1 spot.

Tennis by nature is a simple translation to video games; some would even call any tennis game a glorified Pong. Simulation-style tennis games have an even tougher time holding an audience by not incorporating off-the-wall dynamics and impossible super shots. But by heightening the depth of the experience with gorgeous visuals and many small touches, Top Spin 4 delivers the most realistic tennis game to date, and one that easily appeals to purists of the sport. Hopefully 2K Sports will embrace the idea of motion control for their next game and redefine the meaning of simulation.

Excellent detailing and animations, as well as a beautiful color palette, give Top Spin 4 the realism the publisher was striving for. 3.2 Control
While the classic control style works fine, the series, especially a simulation type, should be moving into the motion control era. 3.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
While the music choice is awful, you can rush through the menus to get to a music free match, filled with terrific sound effects and crowd ambience. 4.0 Play Value
Between the lengthy career mode, customizable characters, and online tournaments, there’s enough here to keep fans of the series and tennis game newcomers alike grabbing their rackets and hitting the court. 3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Real Tennis- From the life-like visuals of the world’s best players, to the recreation of the world’s most hallowed courts and the unparalleled authenticity of the on-court gameplay, Top Spin 4 provides a breathtaking tennis experience. When your player moves, watch their shadow move with them. As you rally with an opponent in a crucial point, listen as the crowd builds with intensity. Experience everything the pros do in a real tennis match.
  • All-new Intuitive Controls – Totally re-engineered from the ground up, all-new gameplay controls provide for an unbelievably responsive and satisfying experience allowing you to target your opponent’s weaknesses & dominate the court at any skill level.
  • The Deepest Player Roster Ever – Experience the best collection of tennis talent ever assembled as you now have the option to play with twenty-five of the world’s top pros, dozens of talented up-and-comers and some of the game’s most iconic legends.
  • My Player Mode – Create and customize every aspect of your created player as you develop your own style of play to dominate the field on your way to becoming #1 on the World Tour.

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