TC Quick Review of Top Spin 4
May 1, 2011 · Print This Article
The good people at 2K Sports have released the 4th iteration in their blockbuster tennis franchise Top Spin. The Top Spin series is best known for bringing ultra realistic game play to the console market since 2003 and ever since has gone through many variations by changing up the controls, player lineups and of course bumping up the graphics.
The first thing you notice when you pop in the TS4 disc is how much the game and the gameplay itself feels like a tennis match you would watch on TV. From the player entrances, to the between points cut scenes, there is no doubt that 2K really wanted to make the gamer feel like they are taking part in a real match.
One of the elements that makes this game what it is is the player lineup. There are a wide array of players, both past and present (25 players in total), including the most anticipated (according to me anyways), Andre Agassi. There is even a retro version of Andre that all pre-ordered gamers received and he looks pretty good but unfortunately due to his new sponsorship with Adidas, he isn’t wearing some of the old neon outfits that we grew up with and that still sit in my closet. There are a few exemptions that I would like to see including Johnny Mac, but I believe he has been signed exclusively to the EA Grand Slam Tennis franchise. The ATP side is definitely more covered than the WTA side, but I am not sure if this was due to dollars or due to the ATP’s greater popularity at the moment.
The venue list has also been beefed up and looks very realistic. One thing you notice right off the bat is that the crowd does not look cut and pasted and all over the place. The sound they produce during different times in the point really adds to the ambiance of the game.
Another amazing addition is that the players really move differently according to venue/surface. Obviously this is most evident on clay where the player’s not only slide like in real life, but also the recovery time and hitting behind the players have the same effect as on the dirt.
There are a lot of venues, some are real and unfortunately some are not. While they do have three out of four of the slams, everyone will notice that they have left out Wimbledon. This is of course due to money and the fact that once again it seems like EA has exclusivity on that venue. They do have the “Dublin” Open which does take place on grass, but it is a downer in a game that is so realistic in so many other ways.
Career mode is quite good and very similar to what you have seen in the past if you have played any of the previous Top Spin games. The game starts off with you as a newcomer trying to make it on the tour. You start playing low level events (1 star) trying to build wins to enter larger events. Each win gets you “XP” points which you can use to train your player. One thing that is different with TS4 is that you can hire different coaches which bump up your level according to their teaching ability. You unlock this potential by accomplishing four specific tasks for each coach (ie. Hit 50 winners, 25 volleys, etc.).
Although Top Spin 4 does a better job that the previous games in terms of challenges, the first couple of matches seem too easy and essentially pointless. I would love to see a bit more scaling in terms of challenge. Once you do start stringing some wins together and make it to the higher matches the competition does get better, especially when in a semi or final. Nadal is difficult to beat on any surface but at Roland Garros, good luck on your first try. Many gamers might hate this but I loved it. It really is a challenge and makes you have to pick and choose your shots wisely as opposed to just button mashing or coming to the net like every other tennis game ever.
By far my favorite part of the Career mode is the “Dream Matches.” This is where you challenge a legend to a match. This was so much fun and depending on the pro, also very challenging. Courier’s forehand was massive, Sampras’ serve I didn’t even see sometimes and of course Andre’s return put me on the defensive many times.
One thing that makes TS4 a lot better than the previous tennis games is that in order to progress the game keeps altering the challenges. For ex: You need become No. 1 to have so many fans; beat so and so at such a venue to unlock an outfit, etc. I have played for at least 48 hours (not straight but close) and I can honestly say I am maybe 50 percent through. This is a very welcome change since before I would usually just trade in my game the following week.
Online game play has been very good as well. The game matching has been pretty spot on and there are many different variations depending on your level or the amount of time you have. Another huge plus is that the rankings reset every week. That means every Monday you can start over and try to achieve the No. 1 ranking over the guy/girl that seems to play 25hrs in a 24hr day. The only negative I have had is trying to play a friend online but it didn’t seem to go through, but I am not sure if that was an Xbox problem or with Top Spin’s server.
By far the best element of Top Spin 4 is the controls. Throughout the history of the game, the developers have played with different button combos but I have to say that I think they have finally hit the nail right on the head with this one. The simple reason being is that the controls are more like real tennis. The success of the strokes depends on timing. You hold the button for your backswing, then release when your player is to start the follow through. As easy as this sounds, it does take some time to get used it. This allows balls to go short, wide, long, in, out, etc and really adds to the realism. When you do win a point, match, etc. you have a greater sense of accomplishment than in previous versions. Also, it prevents net rushers to always have the advantage because now their reflexes need to be super sharp instead of just button mashing.
Overall Top Spin 4 is definitely worth the price ($59.99CAD) and is taking the world of online tennis sim to the next level. Is it perfect, no, but then again you can’t expect Madden-like development for a game who’s niche market is a lot smaller. Overall Top Spin 4 gets 8.5/10.
- Controls are very good and very symbolic of tennis
- Wide variety of venues and challenges
- Array of both new and legend players
- Player movements and gameplay very realistic
- Graphics, especially player faces can look a lot better and really should look a lot better
- Omission of Wimbledon
- Lack of sleeveless Nike tennis shirts
- Lack of Kinect support
- No ability to have tantrums between points (this used to exist in previous versions)
*Special thanks to 2K Sports for providing us with a copy of the game.