Grand Slam Tennis 2 Review (PS3, Xbox 360)

Disclaimer: this is a review of the single-player modes. The code we received could not connect to online matches, and EA couldn’t get another copy out in time.

I seem to have become the tennis master here at TSA Towers, reviewing both Top Spin 4 and Virtua Tennis 4 last year. These two franchises cater to very different audiences, with Top Spin aiming for the sim aspect of tennis, and Virtua Tennis taking care of the arcade crowd. However, EA’s Grand Slam Tennis 2 looks to be trying to combine the best of both worlds.

The original Grand Slam Tennis was released back in 2009 for the Wii. Forsaking realistic visuals for a cartoon-like appearance, the game was one of the first to use the (then) brand new Wii Motion Plus add-on. This time around things are different; with realistic visuals and terms such as ‘Total Racquet Control’ and ‘P.R.O AI’ pushed to the forefront it’s clear that EA means business.

– ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW –
[drop2]First up is a little tip; upon starting the game you’ll want to head straight for the training mode, as there is a lot to learn. Whilst Total Racquet Control may sound like a fancy PR term, it is actually the best tennis control scheme I have ever come across, albeit something that is initially fairly daunting. EA thinks so too, as I was awarded with a silver trophy just for managing to pass the training levels.

Total Racquet Control gets rid of the need for controller buttons, instead mapping every single shot to the right thumb-stick. Yes you heard me correctly; your volley, flat, top spin, smash, slice, and serve are all taken care of with one stick. This is why the training mode is so important, as it teaches you the various inputs of different shots and how to vary the power.

For example, pulling back on the stick then pushing it up and to the right will produce a top spin shot towards the right corner of the court. However, a quick flick of the stick down and right will produce a slice to the left side of the court. Where the ball lands is dictated by the angle you move the thumb-stick, adding another layer of strategy to every match.

I’ll be honest, written down it sounds needlessly complex, but in motion it’s an absolute joy to use. Sure at first you’ll mistime serves and mess up a few shots, but when it clicks you won’t want to go back. Eventually it becomes second nature and you’ll be able to hit your mark automatically. I recently played Virtua Tennis 4 on Vita, and whilst it’s still a good game using the buttons to control the shots felt a bit, dare I say it, old fashioned.

Move is also supported on the PlayStation 3, with the option to use either the Move and Navigation controller, or just Move. I wasn’t too keen on the solo Move option, as the computer controls your players movement which felt a tad slow. The Move and Navigation set-up fared better and is enjoyable to use, but still not a patch on using a controller with Total Racquet Control. The motion controls are a nice addition, but just sticking with a controller and Total Racquet Control is the best way to go if you really want to get into the game.

Next up is ‘P.R.O AI’. Essentially this means capturing every player’s mannerisms as much as possible, be it the way Nadal swings for a forehand shot or the banshee-like noise of Sharapova. This system is also meant to adapt to how you play, so if you continuously fire off flat shots to the left the AI will catch on and position itself accordingly. On the harder settings this works really well, and every point is a battle as you try and out-think your opponent.

In terms of content, you’ll be spending a fair chunk of time in the career mode. This mode spans ten in-game years and sees you take a created character from rank 100 right up to the top of the table. The main highlight of the career is being able to compete in the grand slam tournaments, which EA has obtained the licence to use. However, you won’t get far without levelling up your character via training, which focuses on certain areas, and exhibition matches which unlock attribute points and new tennis gear to give your player a stat boost.

Everything you do earns points, which help you climb the ranks. Of course you’re going to want to get the win in as many matches as possible, but every match also comes with two secondary objectives, such as “break the opponent’s serve”, earning you additional points if you manage to fulfil them. It’s an interesting distraction, and encourages you to try out different shots and play-styles. The career also gets tougher as you progress; whilst you might ace year one, don’t expect such an easy ride by year five.

[drop]One of the most impressive aspects of Grand Slam Tennis 2 is just how many tennis players, both past and present, are available to use or play against, and nothing highlights this better than the ESPN Grand Slam Classics mode. This places you at the crucial moment in some of the greatest tennis matches, such as that Nadal/Federer Wimbledon final, and allows you to try and rewrite the ending. There are matches spanning three decades, adding up to several hours of content in this mode alone.

Graphically the game looks nice, and stands up against other titles in the genre, but seems to lack the polish we are used to in other EA Sports titles with quite a few of the likenesses not looking quite right. However, the courts and crowd are spot on.

As mentioned at the start of the review, we couldn’t test the online parts of the game. That doesn’t mean I can’t tell you about them, though. As you’d expect, there’s the standard ranked or unranked head to head mode, for either singles or doubles matches. Then there are tournaments where you are playing for national pride, as your results count towards your nation’s standings in the Battle of the Nation’s leaderboard. You can also play in Grand Slam Corner, where every match you play at a venue increases your rank there.

So it sounds like the perfect game, right? Well there are a few negatives. First up is the commentary. Initially, having Pat Cash and John McEnroe chatting away is pretty cool, and actually sounds really natural. Then, all too soon, the repetition kicks in. I swear, if I have to hear John McEnroe talk about the positives of approaching the net again I might just scream.

Then there’s the loading. Every time you load up the game it has to connect to EA’s servers, then retrieve information from the servers, then retrieve online pass information. It’s pretty slow. It seems to get worse though, especially when you want to modify your created character by equipping new gear. Just selecting a new racquet caused my PS3 to turn into a whirring box of noise as the game tried to process this request.

Pros

  • Wonderful controls.
  • Move is a decent second option.
  • Lots of content.
  • A good selection of players, with 23 in total.
  • A wealth of online modes.

Cons

  • The loading.
  • Repetitive commentary.

In my opinion Grand Slam Tennis 2 is the best game in the genre. Total Racquet Control is a joy to use, and the way the AI adapts to your play style means you will fight for every point on the higher difficulties. Yes, the long load times are annoying, and sometimes actually discourages modifying your character, but if you’ve had your eye out for a new tennis game this is the only one you’re going to need for quite some time. Superb.

Score: 9/10

– PAGE CONTINUES BELOW –

15 Comments

  1. Great review. The control scheme reminds me of Skate, which I had to put down after 20 minutes because the controls felt too complicated but just for the sake of being different from the THPS controls, which felt natural after so many hours spent in School 2. The last tennis game I’ve played was Mario Tennis on the Game Cube if I recall correctly to maybe in this case I could get used to the controls.
    Great review and this confirms that if I end up picking up a Tennis game in the near future it’s this one.
    What’s up with Owen Wilson being a pro tennis player in screenshot #5? :P

  2. Absolutely loved the demo for this and it’s good to see my positive feelings shared in your review. I’ll definitely be looking to get this at some point.

    • I was very impressed with the demo too, and when I saw this review in the timeline/newsfeed just now my eyes lit up. Glad it’s been recommended because it did play very well.

  3. Sold. I do love me a good tennis game.

    • Snap. Will get this. Good review.

  4. Loved the demo, will be buying it.
    I thought Move worked well, but it’s a shame it still needs you to press those tiny buttons to modify shots and that it wasn’t totally just down to motion so I think I’d still play it more with control-pad.

    • It does seem like they slightly missed a trick with that one. Plus I still don’t feel like the buttons are all that natural on the move but that could be put down to lack of use more than anything.

  5. My copy of the game has just arrived. Looking forward to trying it later.

    I hope the Superstar difficulty is harder than in the demo. It was far too easy to win in the demo.

  6. I’m a novice at tennis games, but I tried the demos of Grand Slam Tennis 2 back-to-back with Virtua Tennis 4. VT4’s controls seemed vastly better to me! How would you compare the two?

    • More coffee needed. That was a load of rubbish! Try this:

      I’m a novice at tennis games, but I tried the demos of Grand Slam Tennis 2 back-to-back with Top Spin 4. TS4′s controls seemed vastly better to me! How would you compare the two?

      • TS4’s are good, but I much prefer GST2.

  7. Was always planning on picking this up, the review has just reaffirmed my plans. Cheers Dan.

  8. Good review (and easily the highest score on the interwebz) but I think you missed a trick by not putting more effort into reviewing the Move component of the game.

    Firstly, it’s significant for more than just fanboys that Kinect wasn’t included in a multiplat title. Are devs finally starting to realise that they can’t get the best of either by trying to shoehorn them into the same titles? I sure hope so.

    Secondly, this review didn’t really talk to the immersion or accuracy of Move in this title. The comment …..”The motion controls are a nice addition, but just sticking with a controller and Total Racquet Control is the best way to go if you really want to get into the game.” …. doesn’t really tell us much. Is it accurate or not? What do you mean “get into the game”? I would have thought using the Move would get you more “into” the game in terms of immersion than a controller. If you mean the ability to be successful, is it because Move is inaccurate (which from the Eurogamer review it does not seem to be) or just more challenging?

    Not since the excellent 1:1 swing of John Daly’s Progolf has there been a Move sports title that seems to take the Move seriously… this (and MLB 12 The Show) seems to attempt that but few reviews bother to explorer it. Very odd.

    *review spoiler*

    For anyone looking for more Move info on this game, Eurogamer have a little more detail in their review and describe Move as the best thing about the game, but only give the title 7/10.

    • I have to second this. For me using Move is the ONLY way to play tennis games now. This is why I bought Move!

      I enjoyed the demo. The Move controls takes a little getting used to, and I’m still not sure I’m doing it right. It’s really hard to get topspin. You have to exaggerate the wrist twist movement to get it. And I also find it hard to accurately play the ball where I want it to go. Especially down the line on the same side I’m on (straight forward). On forehand it always seems to want to go cross court (diagonally).

      I would also like 1:1 controls, but in 3rd person view I think this is not possible, because they have to take into consideration the animation of the player. But 1st person view with invisible player and 1:1 controls (like in table tennis in Sports Champoins) would be doable.

  9. Well, I’ve played some of the game. The single player is a bit meh. The AI isn’t challenging even on the hardest difficulty. Career mode seems like it could be fun the further you progress, though.

    The online is great fun, though. Only played one game, but there was no lag and it was playing like single player. It’s good to play a mode that’s actually challenging as well.

Comments are now closed for this post.