Craig Baker On April - 15 - 2011

In an effort to expand my comfort zone with different types of video games, I will be reviewing Top Spin 4 this week. This will be the fourth installment of the franchise from developer 2k Czech. In the past Top Spin has been known for its ultra realistic portrayal of tennis. This year 2k has ditched the over complicated controls for a more accessible and streamlined control system. Lets jump in and see if the boys over at 2k can attempt to turn around a struggling franchise and attract new comers to the genre.

I would like to begin by saying this is the very first tennis game I have played on console, with the exception being wii tennis when it first came out. As an outsider to the franchise I wasn’t sure what to expect from the series. Starting out after completing close to an hour of training exercises to sharpen my skills I was ready to jump in with both feet. I created a character which is simple and very deep. You can change every aspect of your player from body type all the way down to the type of socks he or she wears. Now that I’ve got my player and a nifty ten gamerscore just for creating a player I set out on my career path.

The career mode is what you would come to expect from any traditional sports game. You can track statistics, unlock new items for your character, and level up you player through experience earned in matches and training simulators. The game play in the actual matches is tense. I found real pleasure going back and forth with the computer AI and felt as though they were adapting as the match went on to my play style often not falling for the same tricks twice altering the way they would attack the net.

The control system feels really smooth. I haven’t experienced the old one but this is rather easy to pickup and most people should feel comfortable quickly. Whether or not hardcore fans of the series will enjoy the changes remains to be seen. Switching the type of shot you are using is as simple as hitting a different button and you can aim the ball seamlessly with the left stick even though you use it to move your player as well. Top Spin also offers Move support for PS3 owners and of course is the same for those playing it on the Wii.

As far as the Online goes what I experienced seemed solid but was lacking at times. Getting into a match is easy enough using the quick match feature, but it always seemed to match me up with amazing players from around the world. I didn’t see anyone online from an English speaking country. And I really got my ass handed to me. You can also participate in a type of online league called World Tour mode. In World Tour you can compete in quick matches or tournaments with your created player to earn xp and try to advance your way up the world leader board.

The presentation overall of Top Spin was exceptional. Two of the hardest things for any person involved with animation whether it be in films or video games would have to be hair and fabric. Getting these light materials to move in a realistic fashion is often missed in a lot of games but the developer at 2k Czech really hit a home run on this one. The materials moved very realistically at an amazing 60 frames per second on consoles. The only gripe I had in the realm of graphics was the character models. The faces often had a very blank stare. The bodies of the players moved great though, and when you see the licensed players it really looks like them as they gracefully move around the court. PS3 and 360 owners alike will be able to take advantage of the breathtaking 3D feature. I for one have really enjoyed my 3D experience thus far on the 360 version of the game. There are some interesting camera angles that add exceptional depth when used in conjunction with a 3D television.

Another thing that annoyed me in this game was the dreadful menu music. I went so far as to completely turn it down in the options. Besides that the in game sound effects were good. The echo of the PA system sounded authentic and you even get to hear the traditional Serena Williams grunts as she smacks the ball with a devastating force. For whatever reason they haven’t included a commentary team to talk over the action. It would have been nice if someone was commenting on my amazing shots.

Overall I would have to say Top Spin 4 is a great game to play. I love playing it by myself and I could imagine playing with a friend would be fantastic. It may have lacked in certain areas of the complete presentation but the gameplay and controls are tight. There’s nothing like pulling yourself from behind to win and getting over on the AI. Every point feels earned and at the end of the day you feel like you’ve really accomplished something. Pick up 2k Czech’s Top Spin 4 on 360, PS3, or the Wii now.

Review

ProsCons
good graphics, tight gameplay, deep career modebad character models, lack of online community
Rating
78%
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