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Review

Review: Top Spin 4 (With Move)

What a racquet.

When it comes to tennis games most people fall into one of two camps; Team Top Spin or Team Virtua Tennis. It’s kind of like Twilight’s Team Edward vs. Team Jacob battle, although with less emo pouting, less sparkly vampires but, oddly enough, more zombies (in Virtua Tennis 3’s case).

The Top Spin series has always been considered the hardcore option when choosing a tennis game; the Ying to Virtua Tennis’ fruit dodging Yang. Some people, however, felt that Top Spin 3 went a step too far by ditching what had come to be the norm in terms of controls, and implementing a system that not many people felt comfortable with. This is all set to change as Top Spin 4 seems to have returned to a more traditional scheme, whilst also throwing motion control in for good measure.

Info:
  • On PS3, Xbox 360 & Wii
  • Supports 3D
  • Move compatible
The game has two main control methods; PlayStation Move or DualShock 3, and as I was keen to dust off my Move controller I headed straight for that option. As expected, the Move acts as your tennis racquet whilst your Navigation Controller (or DS3 analogue stick) is used to move your player around the court. To be brutally honest the implementation is a touch disappointing, and rather than 1:1 movement everything seemed a bit scripted (like Wii Tennis). You can add spin or select a different type of shot via the various face buttons on the controllers and for the most part it works reasonably well, although there were one or two issues with shot detection where I would swing the Move but nothing happened on-screen, causing my opponent to win the point.

Don’t get me wrong, using Move is fun for a bit of a laugh when you want to pop on for a quick exhibition match, but for those who are serious about progressing far into the career mode the DualShock 3 is what you want to be using. It’s a shame really, as if the precision we know the Move is capable of had been fully utilized this control scheme would have been something very special indeed.

Using the DualShock 3 increases accuracy ten-fold, but strips away the simplicity of using the Move. The square, circle and X button are all mapped to various different shot types, whilst pressing the triangle button will perform a lob. Holding R1 will see you rush the net; whilst combining it with one of the face buttons will see you serve and rush the net in preparation for a volley.

You then have to take into consideration your shot timings, as if you hold and release the shot button at just the right time you’ll get a ‘perfect’, more powerful shot. If you release too soon you aren’t penalised, but too late will see your shot power reduced, or it may even go out. As with other tennis games any shot can be directed to various parts of the court, with the addition of being able to drop it closer to the net or belt it right towards to back line. Care is needed though, as too much pressure either way will see the ball sail way over the line, along with the corresponding “OUT!”

Mastered that? Fantastic, now you’re ready for power shots and control shots. Holding down any of the shot buttons will see a circle appear and fill with red. Once the circle has filled completely you are ready for a power shot which, as the name suggests, ups the power but also decreases accuracy. The control shot is the power shot’s counterpart, forsaking power for pinpoint accuracy which may catch your opponent off guard or, at the very least, unsettle them. Stamina also plays a part, with a gauge that is on display during a rally. Green means you’re raring to go, yellow indicates that you’re slightly winded, orange means you’re heavily winded and red is for “uh oh”.

As you can see there is a lot to get to grips with, and your opponent will generally force you to mix and match your play style, so a trip to the Top Spin Academy is most definitely recommended. The Academy is essentially a fancy tutorial, guiding you though basic and advanced shots and tactics and generally helping you get to grips with gameplay mechanics. The next step you want to take is to dive into Top Spin 4’s character creation mode. It’s fairly in-depth, allowing you to modify looks, clothes, stance, although it is the only creation tool I’ve used where I haven’t been able to recreate a decent version of myself.

Out of all Top Spin 4’s modes, Career mode is where you will be spending most of your time. The objective is to take your created character and rise through the ranks month by month. You will earn the right to participate in minor and major tournaments, as well as one-off special events. Every win/loss will earn you XP which you can plough into upgrading your character. Throughout Career mode you rank up in two ways; one sees you gain a level based on XP, whilst the other sees you fulfill certain objectives such as ‘gain 45,000 fans’, with you eventually being given a title such as ‘Rookie’. These titles are the key to being invited to bigger and better tournaments.

If you play well enough in Career mode you will be approached by a coach. Each coach has a rank, be it bronze, silver, or gold, and they all bring with them benefits such as upgraded stats. It isn’t as easy as that though, as you have to unlock these coach skills by completing a set number of in-match objectives. It sounds like a hassle, but the boost your coach will provide could be the difference between a tournament win, and second place.

King of the Court mode sees you and up to three other friends compete in a ‘winner stays on’ bunch of singles matches. Whilst it lacks any sort of depth, it’s still a lot of fun and can be played verses the computer. There is also an exhibition mode for when you just want to nip on for a quick match.

Once you’ve done all of this there is a positively humongous online mode to tackle, which is comprised of normal verses matches, an online World Tour mode where you can enter your created character into a tournament online, and a 2K Open mode where you pick a real life pro and try and reach rank number one. There really is so much to do here, but it’s worth noting that the servers weren’t exactly heaving during my play-through.

In terms of presentation, Top Spin 4 is definitely easy on the eye. From the TV style camera angles showing players waiting to be announced, to the nicely detailed and instantly recognizable character models, there are few complaints. What’s also pleasing is that the players don’t have that listless stare that has plagued tennis games in the past. The courtside atmosphere has also been handled well, with ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ and screams of excitement when a player pulls off a shot that looked lost – this is especially effective when playing with the Move controller as you do feel more immersed in the matchb. What isn’t so great is the way the crowds have been animated, especially when you see them in the replays. They all simultaneously burst into a synchronized round of applause before stopping dead, like someone has flicked a switch. It’s such a bizarre and downright creepy thing to behold!

Pros

  • Looks good
  • Plays well
  • Lots of content
  • An online mode that’s stuffed to bursting

Cons

  • Move feels tacked on

Overall I’m very impressed with Top Spin 4. Whilst it doesn’t bring anything new to the table, everything it does bring is refined to within an inch of its life. It looks nice, it plays superbly, and it is deeper than a conversation with Professor Brian Cox. Your move, SEGA.

Score: 9/10

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25 Comments
  1. stingraz
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    Sorry if I’ve missed something.. but I don’t think you covered the 3D? Surely a big selling point for this game? That would tempt me over the edge to get this.
    I understand if you don’t have a 3D TV, but in that case, it isn’t a complete review (in my opinion).

    Comment posted on 21/03/2011 at 17:07.
    • Ryan1991
      Member
      Since: May 2009

      3D is good. There, review complete.

      Comment posted on 21/03/2011 at 17:33.
    • Dexter17
      Member
      Since: Jun 2009

      Gamers with 3D sets are in the minority, so it’s not a crucial part of a review. When 3D televisions dramatically drop in price and making their way into the majority of homes, then I think, would a review call for a serious analysis of the 3D aspect. Until then, it’s entirely optional discussion point in my opinion.

      Comment posted on 21/03/2011 at 17:35.
      • philbert8
        The Frankie Boyle Of TSA
        Since: Sep 2010

        When you don’t have to wear stupid goggles over my current stupid goggles, I might be interested.

        Comment posted on 21/03/2011 at 17:38.
      • MaD dOctoR 79
        Member
        Since: Dec 2010

        sorry but, every aspect or a game is relevant in a review, no matter how many people own the equipment to get the full value out of it.

        I don’t own a 3D set either, but if a game has it, it should be part of the review…not everyone owns HD setups for example, but most of the time you will be reading about HD graphics.

        Comment posted on 22/03/2011 at 04:14.
      • tonycawley
        Pint! Pint!
        Since: Feb 2009

        Mad doctor, Tsa is a website that doesn’t make money. their reviewers don’t get paid, they do it for the love. if he hasn’t got a 3dtv how do you want him to review 3s? perhaps you should buy him the set, then he can review it “properly” for you.

        Comment posted on 22/03/2011 at 08:01.
  2. Voganlight
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    I play tennis in real life, and the Move implentation in the demo was awful. I’ll wait for Virtua Tennis 4 and then decide which one to buy.

    Comment posted on 21/03/2011 at 17:13.
    • Erroneus
      Wanted "Trophy Hunter" but was too late.
      Since: May 2009

      Beat me to it! I also play tennis IRL and I have a feeling, it’s not for the better, when playing these games. I would KILL for a game, which can give the same feeling, but I guess that’s not anywhere close at this moment.

      Comment posted on 21/03/2011 at 17:15.
      • Voganlight
        Member
        Since: Jul 2009

        The one thing that irritates me the most is that I always confuse left and right since I’m not moving like in real life. I initially thought Virtua Tennis was implementing it the proper way (Move left and the character also moves left) but it seems I was wrong.

        Comment posted on 21/03/2011 at 17:36.
  3. Erroneus
    Wanted "Trophy Hunter" but was too late.
    Since: May 2009

    Guess I have to wait for Virtua Tennis 4 and see if they manage to do some proper Move support.

    Comment posted on 21/03/2011 at 17:13.
  4. toutski
    Legend
    Since: Oct 2008

    Looks interesting.

    Tennis games and golf in particular are what move should really be excelling in.

    Comment posted on 21/03/2011 at 17:15.
    • Roynaldo
      Member
      Since: Nov 2008

      the last TW game was PANTS with move, like really really pants. Full proper set up and a good amount of practice and it was still god awful.

      Comment posted on 21/03/2011 at 17:49.
      • tonycawley
        Pint! Pint!
        Since: Feb 2009

        Yeah but john dalys prostroke golf was pretty good.

        Comment posted on 21/03/2011 at 22:30.
  5. StevenHibs
    Member
    Since: Oct 2009

    I have the Move, but its not one of the reasons I would use to buy this game, this game was always going to be best played on a dualshock, as are most games!

    Comment posted on 21/03/2011 at 17:19.
    • Roynaldo
      Member
      Since: Nov 2008

      sometimes jumping head first with the move is better. I did it with both Resident Evil 5 and Heavy Rain and just cant imagine myself playing either with a DS3 now.

      Comment posted on 21/03/2011 at 17:47.
  6. Roynaldo
    Member
    Since: Nov 2008

    Sorry, im in the VT camp. So much more to it than plain old tennis. All those mini games just give it something else. Glad you liked it but i aint buying this…..maybe if it becomes cheap or i get a craving for it while Wimbledon is on, whichever comes first.

    Comment posted on 21/03/2011 at 17:46.
  7. kivi95
    Member
    Since: Oct 2009

    Will wait for Virtua Tennis 4 as i want to play with move.

    Comment posted on 21/03/2011 at 17:52.
  8. Jim H [Teabags]
    Member
    Since: Nov 2009

    Playing with the Move made TS4 feel like Ubisoft’s Raquet Sports when I played the demo. Will have to retry using the Dualshock instead.

    Comment posted on 21/03/2011 at 18:29.
  9. awesomenessx2
    Since: Jan 1970

    I’ve been playing a lot with the Move and I like it a lot.

    Comment posted on 21/03/2011 at 19:56.
  10. Dange
    Member
    Since: Jan 2011

    played the demo with Move and hated it. Was expecting decent accuracy but all it did was remind me of Racket Sports. Really hope Virtua Tennis 4 puts the Move support to good use. Something like the accuracy of Sports Champions table tennis but with Navi support for controlling the player in game.

    Comment posted on 21/03/2011 at 20:25.

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