Xbox games: Top Spin

Top Spin tennis has some nice Australian elements. They include an opening sequence featuring Aussie band The Vines, the ability to train and play on local turf (including January’s Australian Open), and a detailed likeness of fist-pumping Lleyton Hewitt — who, sadly, never yells “C’mon!”.

Of the 36 total players in the game, 16 professional male and female players (including Sampras, Chang, Blake, Kournikova, Hantuchova and Hingis) were motion captured, resulting in realistic players with life-like moves, playing styles and animations.

The Exhibition game mode allows one to four players in singles or doubles, and Xbox Live online play is supported. Unfortunately, there is no cooperative multiplayer mode. Other game modes include Custom Tournament and Career. The latter is what makes or breaks a sport game, and Top Spin certainly serves up lots of depth.

You start out ranked 100 and have detailed options to give your character looks, a name and nationality. After choosing a natural ability, you’ll have to earn a maximum of 14 career training points for dividing over the disciplines of Serve, Forehand, Backhand and Volley. You earn skill points as you jet around Top Spin’s world for training.

This works as an excellent introduction to the game before tackling tournaments and starting out on the road to unlocking Grand Slams, increasing your rank and earning Legend status.

The game has a range of surfaces in well-detailed stadiums and suburban-style courts. These, in addition to split screen replays and sound effects like player grunts, the crowd calling out names, clapping and cheering, and the ball being hit, are nothing short of superb.

Player response and movement is fluid and your shot repertoire consists of standard shot (A), slice (X), top spin (B) and lob (Y). These buttons also allow different types of serves and can produce shots such as volleys, through the leg miracles or overhead smashes. Additionally, the left trigger is used for drop shots and the right trigger for smashing a winner.

The game’s AI isn’t bad and each com-puter opponent has a different playing style and weaknesses. However, you too often find yourself easily dominating points by using a simple hit-to-opposite corner strategy.

Matches consist of three sets of three games (presumably to make the game more enjoyable). After a while, though, you still start wishing for a mini-game distraction, and there isn’t any. It’s this lack of career mode replay-ability, noticeably absent tennis stars and in-game touches like racquet violations, ball boys who actually move and Let serves that bring down this first outing of what will hopefully be great franchise. That said, Top Spin is arguably the best tennis simulation currently available.

Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Power and Magic

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Danny Allen

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