To be a successful tennis player, you must be hugely fit, fast, have a natural gift for the game… and, of course, a great grunt. The louder the noise you can make while hitting the ball – even sounding like you’ve stood on a bear-trap – the more your opponent will be put off. Those sounds could soon be coming to a living room near you, with the release of Virtua Tennis 4.
Virtua Tennis 4 contains a suitable amount of grunting, and more importantly, a tennis engine that does a sterling job of recreating the flavour and flow of a real match, yet is forgiving enough to make it accessible to beginners. As excellent as it may be, this core engine remains pretty much the same as it always has been in the series from the very off.
So what’s new? Some polishing of the multiplayer mode, which runs very smoothly, and the addition of super shots – hard-hit precision strokes that are difficult to return (but can only be used infrequently). The major alterations, however, are a reworked World Tour career and the addition of support for Microsoft’s Kinect controller (and Move in the PS3 version).
The new World Tour is delivered via a board game format in which you have to manage your player’s training and match preparation via the strategic use of movement cards. While this might sound odd (and it does introduce something of a random element), we thoroughly enjoyed this fresh approach. It presents some interesting decisions about when you train (via mini-games), rest, play exhibitions, sign autographs for fans and so forth.
As for the Kinect, that can only be used in exhibition and party modes. Player movement is handled automatically by the CPU, save for the decision to rush the net which can be invoked by stepping forward. While Kinect reads your shots pretty much without lag, the on-rails feel is unsatisfying and the application of strokes is often inconsistent.
In general, the motion-controlled game is far easier and lets the player pull off difficult shots and volleys with no sweat. Conversely, actually directing shots is fiddly, and you’ll sometimes miss for seemingly no reason. The end result is a mixed bag which might be fun for the kids and knockabout family play, but doesn’t offer much else.
- The refreshed world tour mode is novel and engaging.
- Kinect play is disappointing and limited.
There's the usual tweaking in this incarnation of Virtua Tennis, but the twin pillars of change are a story of success and failure. The new World Tour format is a highly engaging way to build your virtual tennis player, but the Kinect implementation is ropey and only good for family larks. The tennis engine remains an excellent one, and - motion-cotrol aside - this is a very accomplished recreation of centre court action.