It can’t be much of a coincidence that within days of Top Spin 2 going on sale, Sega had let slip that Virtua Tennis 3 was within a year of appearing on next generation consoles. After all, the tennis game market – hardly the most competitive of genres – is mostly a two franchise race.
And yet there’s a clear split. While Virtua Tennis and its sequels are primarily arcade-focused, Top Spin extends on that, coming up with something deeper, more strategic and theoretically longer lasting. As a result, the original Top Spin compromised the quick-pick-up-and-play beauty of Virtua Tennis and yet bountifully rewarded those willing to plug themselves in for the long game.
For Top Spin 2, similar conditions apply. Once again, it’s a tennis game that at first glance is quite simple to get to grips with. The controls aren’t tricky, it’s fairly straightforward to put together a few on-court rallies and in general it seems a painless ride.
But then reality sinks in. In the career mode in particular, those basic shots don’t get you very far, and the game constantly pushes you to explore the nuances of shot selection available to you. And it’s a bit of a trade-off. Top Spin 2 quickly becomes quite tricky and soon isolates the enthusiast as opposed to the devotee.
Yet if you’re one of those not beaten by a challenge, then it’s a strong sports game. As you build up your player through a series of challenges, training and low key tournaments, gradually more impressive strokes and tricks become available to you. Be warned though, it’ll take some considerable time to get to the point of being in contention for a grand slam, and when you get there, it’s very hard work to emerge victorious.
This sequel doesn’t move things on quite as much as you’d hope. In spite of the addition of extra graphical glitz and frills, the core proposition is largely unchanged from when we saw it last. What’s more, you could pretty much photocopy the pros and cons of the last version and apply it to this.
After all, it can be an engrossing, long-lasting sporting challenge on one hand, yet there are moments when you’ll wish an individual match would just get a move on, especially in the later stages. And, ultimately, it’s not as much fun as Virtua Tennis, even if it is going to last you a good chunk of time longer. In short, it’s the same trade-off as before, just slightly improved and in much nicer clothes.
Company: 2K Sports