There has been quite the shortage of tennis games on consoles in the last 5 or 6 years and in the space of a couple of months we end up getting 2. The second of those to be released is Tennis World Tour and with the developers coming with the credentials of a few of them working on the brilliant Top Spin, I went in to this game with high expectations. The first thing that is noticeable is the lack of any notable licenses in the game, which wasn’t an issue for me going in to it as long as the gameplay was on point. The roster isn’t the biggest, but it has a few known faces in there but I expected there to be a bigger roster of players. There are the typical modes you might expect to see in a game like this including exhibition mode, practice mode Online multiplayer and the obligatory career mode. Online at the time of writing wasn’t active though which was disappointing but after completing a few tutorials I immediately headed in to the career mode.
Straight away I was thrown in the the creation suite to create my player and it left me a little disappointed with the choices that it gave me. There were a few generic faces to choose from and I could enter the personal details but apart from that there was little else to creating this custom character. There are no hair choices or face morphing in any way and it all felt a little underwhelming, but again I wasn’t bothered as long as the gameplay held up well and offered an exciting game of tennis. Once in to the career calendar there are a few options to choose from and how you go about your training, tournaments and even which coaches and agents you decide to hire. There are also sponsorship deals that can be signed that reward you with instant cash that you can spend on clothing and equipment for your character, but much like the creation suite, there isn’t much to choose from in the store and everything is a little bit dull by design.
Perk cards play a big part in the career mode too and earning these boost cards can give you many boosts to your players stamina, speed, accuracy, power and much more. These cards have a limited lifespan and choosing wisely plays a big part, especially when getting to later, more difficult tournaments. XP can also be earned throughout and is the currency used when increasing defence, serve and power stats. This is earned by playing matches, honouring training days and sometimes even resting can earn you some of that beloved XP. What I did find frustrating though was that I had to exit out of career mode completely and go in to the player creation hub in order to upgrade my players’ stats, hire coaches and agents and to also change my players’ attire. A little long winded to say the least and a little baffling as to why this wasn’t incorporated in to the actual career hub where everything else to do with progression is situated. The career mode seemed okay and felt quite detailed without being too complicated, but I would have liked some more depth to certain things.
So on to the gameplay then and having been a huge fan (I still am) of the Top Spin games, having some of that development team working on this game gave me high hopes indeed. Upon playing my first match though it was evident that something wasn’t quite right with the gameplay. It wasn’t fine tuned, it wasn’t as responsive as it should be and it lacked precision which is key in a sports game, particularly a tennis game. It tries to play very much like Top Spin games do, especially the later ones but it feels so unresponsive at key moments of a match, so much so that it became frustrating more often than not. It had a clunky feel that just felt like I didn’t have full control over my character. Sometimes the desired shot I wanted didn’t trigger properly and my player just decided to stay still as he watched the ball fly past him.
There were times where gameplay wasn’t too bad and at times I would have some exciting rallies but it was all few and far between and incredibly inconsistent. I even questioned how an actual match played out to, with certain situations in gameplay almost feeling scripted. For example I could be ahead 40-0 but the AI would come back almost instantly to tie things up, as if the game had scripted the difficulty went up a massive amount just to bring the AI level. Some shots that I had been making easily all of a sudden started going out or hitting the net. The gameplay overall here left me very disappointed indeed and to have such clunky, unreliable, inconsistent and unresponsive gameplay is a serious let down especially when the calibre of some of the development team.
Visually Tennis World Tour is a bit of a mixed bag with the courts looking detailed and vibrant on screen but this area is unfortunately let down by the lacklustre character models, who don’t seem to pack much detail at all. Animations are robotic at times, which may impact why the gameplay is so sluggish and stiff too. But it is in its audio where the presentation really falls short. The commentary in Tennis World Tour certainly leaves a lot to be desired. Firstly the commentator doesn’t make much sense, waffling on and repeating the same lines over and over. It really started to grind on me after a while and quickly became both tedious and boring. I managed to get a grasp of what he is trying to get at throughout a match and in a nutshell it’s basically him questioning what planet the tennis players have arrived from, accusing them of ball abuse while dropping bombs, sprinkling everything with pepper while playing unconscious. Yeah, I didn’t get it either. Crowds are pretty nonexistent, adding very little to the overall atmosphere especially in a match when a long and exciting rally ends. Rather than get a huge cheer, I was treated to a couple of claps and a ‘woo’ at best which is a little disappointing.
To put it bluntly, Tennis World Tour is really disappointing and the fact that there is still no online multiplayer accessible at the time of writing this review and the fact that it isn’t live nearly 2 weeks after launch is just unacceptable. This game should have filled the void left by the lack of a high end tennis game and at £45 it would suggest that it does. Unfortunately though the price doesn’t reflect the sheer lack of quality on offer and while it offers a few signs of being a good tennis game, it just isn’t. It tried to hit an ace but there really isn’t much to love and while it tried to serve us up something memorable it managed to fault more times than it should have.