May 1, 2011
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.
November 15, 2009
It is Saturday morning on an unexpectedly warm day in Toronto. I receive a call at 9:00am from my mother saying she has arrived at my condo and is waiting patiently downstairs. We were supposed to meet at 9:45 but I guess my mother was too excited and didn’t want to be late (she loves Agassi even more than me). By the time I figured out what to wear and programmed the GPS it was now 9:30am. The destination was about 45 mins away in a wealthy little town called Oakville located west of Toronto. Andre had a book signing the night before in downtown Toronto and reportedly over 700 people showed up. I was not one of those 700 because of work and other obligations so I decided we would drive a little further and see him on Saturday. The plan was to be there for 10:30am and we arrived a few minutes earlier and were greeted by two Chapters employees at the door asking if we were here for the signing. I guess they didn’t either see or understand my shirt with the Agassi as a stick figure and the number of slams he won flying off his racket like one of his blistering returns back in his prime.
The Chapters employee took us to the lineup and to my surprise we weren’t the first people there. The book signing was slated for 2pm and we were there over 3.5 hours before. When I asked the nice girl at the front of the line what time she arrived she said she was here before the doors were even open. We chatted a bit and in the first 30 seconds I could see that she was obsessed with Andre more than anyone I had ever met before.
In the week since the book had been released, she claimed to have read it several times cover-to-back and could nearly quote any page. When I asked her what it was that made her so gaga for Andre she simply said, “It’s Andre.”
There were no seats provided at the event which was a bummer but quite understandable considering they were expected another 700 people today. The aerial view of the lineup must have looked like a countryside road in Italy with all the twists and bends in-and-out of the bookshelves. We were the 10th and 11th people in line so we knew everything was going to happen pretty fast. To my chagrin, I noticed that the Starbucks in this particular location had shutdown which meant no coffee for Dan on a Saturday morning. I had to find other ways to stay awake so I picked up a few magazines, talked to a few other people in the line and ate some of the packed lunch my dear mother prepared for our journey. Overall the time passed quickly and the staff at the event were quite nice. They passed around Hershey Kisses (why not coffee!) and even provided a band who seemed to only play 80’s tracks.
Finally, around 2pm you could feel a buzz in the air. Everyone knew that at any moment Agassi would be walking through the back entrance and through the security guards who had already made a clearing.
2:05pm came by …..nothing. 2:10pm…..still nothing. Finally, around 2:13pm Andre walked in and the crowd erupted as if he had just won Roland Garros again. He walked directly into a back room to discuss things over with the store on how everything was going to go down. We barely managed to catch a glimpse because of the crowd and the massive bookcase obstructing my view.
After a few minutes he started to walk his way through the crowd shaking hands and smiling with the people. He even stopped and laughed at some of the new friends we met in line who had dressed up in blond wigs and Nike headbands. As he was walking closer and closer I saw my mother’s eyes light up. She wanted to get closer and closer and by doing so (my 5′1″, 63 year old mother), knocked over the 6′3″ gentlemen next to us. I had warned him before hand but he didn’t believe me. Lesson: don’t doubt a little Italian women’s strength!
A had a few friends that went to the Toronto event the night before so they gave me the 411 on how the whole signing would go down. There was no memorabilia signing…garbage! He would only sign a certain page in the book… ok I guess. There was no personalizing the autograph… what the heck was that about… and finally, no posing for photos!
I knew these restrictions were set by the store so that he could get through the whole crowd in the allotted 2 hour time frame, but it did make us feel as if we were gipped a bit.
I had a decision to make. How could I make sure that I got that perfect picture with Andre? I decided to set my Canon SD700 to “continuous” mode which I knew would downgrade the quality but I would also be able to have many more photos to choose from.
Throughout the days leading up to the event I had remained fairly calm telling everyone that I was mostly going to this event for my mother, to say thanks for all the times she brought me to see Agassi when I was a child.
Even as he walked in front of me to get to his chair I had remained unfazed.
We have interviewed Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick and many others so this should be a piece of cake.
I didn’t have to worry about thinking of anything clever to say, I just needed to get this book signed and tell to Andre that it was an honor to meet him and move on. As I became the next person in line something happened to my body. My legs started to get nervous and I began to shake a bit.
A feeling like I was going to play Agassi at the US Open came over me (I know, stupid, but I couldn’t help it).
A friend that went to the signing yesterday told me that when you speak to Andre he looks right at you, and the moment becomes surreal in a split second. I listened to him and believed him, but I did not truly understand what he meant until I experienced it myself.
Andre: “Hello, how are you?”
Why is Andre Agassi, winner of 8 Grand Slam titles, asking me how I am?
Dan: “Um, I am good Andre. It is truly an honor to meet you.”
Andre: “Thanks, have you read the book yet?”
Dan: “Yes I have. It is amazing and incredibly funny.”
Andre: ” Thanks man. You don’t know how much that means to me.”
It was completely irrelevant to me whether or not Agassi truly meant what he said—he made me believe it was important to him. He looked at me in the eyes and made me feel as if there was no place that he would rather be than here with his fans.
I wanted to stay and talk but of course I was being whisked away by security.
That was my moment and no one can take that away from me. I know to many it may sound corny and even when I think about it myself, I sometimes wonder why we feel a deep connection to people we have never met before?
Is it because we wish we lived their lives or that we want their glory? Is it because we like their clothes or their fame? I don’t know the exact answer but I know that the answer runs deep in all of us.
It is something inside the soul, something that is placed in us as a child and causes us to act 9 years old when we are in fact 29 years old.
Andre went through a lot of criticism when the revelation of his book became public, but when seeing all those people here you could see that they didn’t care. These were his true fans. The people that waited hours in line for just one moment.
The moment to tell a person that they have watched for years on t.v., a person that they have bought numerous clothes, cameras, and cereal boxes of, “thanks for the memories, we will always be your fans.”
Long live the Radicals.
May 1, 2009
The news just seems to get from bad to worse for the Aussie as he was denied a wildcard into next week’s Belgrade event as the final spot instead went to Cypriot and TC favorite Marcos, my career fell apart after my girlfriend left me, Baghdatis. This leaves Hewitt with only the Madrid event for his prep for Roland Garros but given Hewitt’s career results on clay, I don’t think anyone is really freaking out.
Hewitt was originally slated to play the Davis Cup event in Chennai but Australia pulled out of the event because of security fears.
February 24, 2009
Below is an interview with Roger Federer’s fitness trainer and conditioning coach Pierre Paganini who had a sit down with Blick. He goes on to say that R-Fed is not hurt but rather this is more preventative maintenance and he needs to work on a few things rather than play more events. This just adds more questions for Federer fans as to whether just wants to beat the record for number of slams or if he still feels the #1 ranking is attainable. What do you guys think of Fed’s move? Interview is below:
- Mr. Paganini, what’s going on with Federer? What is he doing?
Paganini: At the moment we give him some time to recover. We intensified the work with his physio therapist. But to make it clear once and for all: Federer is not injured. What we are doing is pure prophylaxis. We are working for the next two weeks in Dubai. Roger also flew in two sparring partners to be able two work on the court.
-Was Federer a 100% fit in Melbourne?
Paganini: Well we have to go further back for this. Roger got injured last November. His injury is cured. Everything was ok in Melbourne. But with so many matches it is not easy to recover 100%. He wasn’t impeded in his game. But it meant a lot of stress, the journey, the pressure, etc., so the body’s reaction in a stressfull situation and during a normal traning is not the same. He felt it, and that’s why we have decided to take a break in order to prevent other injuries from occuring [sic].
-What did you learn from it? Do you have to change something?
Paganini: Well we understood that we have to spend even more time doing physical preparation. This is the priority between the tournaments. Roger wants to pay attention to his body in order to be able to manage those stressfull situations.
- Does that mean that he is going to play fewer tournaments?
Paganini: No, it simplyn [sic] means to plan in a different way, manage the time differently. We have to organise ourselves even better in order to be able to do a proper physical education wherever Roger is.
- Roger is not going to play the Davis Cup. As a Swiss man it must hurt you, but as a fitness coach you must think that it is right.
Paganini: As a fitness coach I always should be against it whenever it concerns the body. You have to recognize that if he would be playing Davis Cup he’d be playing as the team leader. He’d play Friday, Saturday and Sunday non stop. That’s just a lot for your body. Roger is like a jewel. And he knows that it would just be too risky.
February 23, 2009
Are you looking to improve your resume, join a fun and exciting team and have the chance to meet some of the top players in the world? If so, Tennis Connected is looking for some creative, fun, and bright bloggers to write a few articles for our site. You don’t have to be a professional. We are looking for individuals to contribute 2-3 articles a week. This is not a paying gig but there is the opportunity to become a full time team member with access and press passes to tour events. If you are interested, please feel free to contact us through the contact page in the menu. As always, if you see some news that we haven’t covered, send it our way and get Kudos for your contribution!
February 3, 2009
Rafael Nadal spoke up to media about the whole Phelps bong smoking incident that has taken over the nation lately. Nadal, who met with Phelps at the past Olympic games stood behind the American and told everyone to chill out about the topic. Here is Rafa’s quote:
It does not portray the best possible image, but everyone can have a slip-up. In the end sportsmen are just not machines. Everyone is free to do whatever they want.
He has been on holiday for some time. He has attained all his goals and he is taking a sabbatical leave and he is totally free to be able to do it. He will have plenty of time to get back and prepare for the coming Games.
To be honest, I agree with Rafa. Yes, pot smoking is illegal and I am not one to say that athletes should be able to use drugs even when they are not competing, but at the same time don’t we think that this whole thing is getting blown out of proportion? If Phelps hadn’t done what he had done this past summer then people probably wouldn’t care as much. All I am saying is that there are worst things out there. At the very least now Ross Rebliati has a new smoking buddy. Let us know what your thoughts are below.
February 1, 2009
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January 31, 2009
Different Name, Better Game
As you have noticed by now, The ATP Blog has now changed their name to Tennis Connected. Along with this name we have made numerous enhancements to the site to make the site better for you our readers. We would like to thank you for the continious support throughout our first year and we will strive to bring you even more from the tennis world. Below is a summary of the changes we have made and as always, if you have any suggestions or feedback please send it to us via our contact page located here.
New logo and color scheme
This was probably (or hopefully) the first thing you noticed when seeing the site. The new color scheme was done with the help of some of our dedicated readers who volunteered and devoted their time to answering our surveys.
Now available in 34 different languages
Yes that is right. Tennis Connected is now translated (sometimes roughly) in 34 different languages! To change the language click on the appropriate flag in the sidebar when viewing a post or at the bottom of the homepage. Warning: This may cause the layout of the site to do some funny things and we are trying to get this resolved.
Now we have made it easy for you to share some of your favorite articles on the site. At the bottom of every post, you will see a few icons like the image below. Just click on your favorite sharing site and off you go.
Tennis Connected is now on Twitter. What is Twitter you ask?