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First Impressions: Grand Slam Tennis 2

Posted by Sammy Barker

The latest tennis contender

The recent Grand Slam Tennis 2 demo on PlayStation Network supports PlayStation Move, so we got to grips with its motion controls to see how it shapes up.

Ever since Sports Champions redefined motion controls with its table tennis mode, we’ve longed for a similarly accurate tennis game. Both Top Spin 4 and Virtua Tennis 4 made attempts, with the latter game’s isolated motion control mode coming off the better of the two. While VT4's motion control mechanics felt good, they lacked the wider implementation to make them anything more than a side distraction. To its credit, Grand Slam Tennis 2 makes PlayStation Move a viable control option for the whole game.

Unfortunately, the results are only marginally better than Top Spin 4. Both 2K’s title and Grand Slam Tennis 2 adopt a similar implementation, replacing button inputs for motion gestures. While the precision of EA's new Total Racquet Control system makes Grand Slam Tennis 2's implementation the superior of the two, it’s still not the 1:1 simulation of the sport that we’ve been clamouring for.

There is some intricacy to the way the controls are presented on PlayStation Move though. Steady rotations through the ball allow you to perform flat shots, while cuts naturally result in slices. Down and up rotations allow you to perform top spin shots, while angling the racquet has a rough impact on shot placement. For example, if you play a shot — backhand or forehand — with the PlayStation Move angled outwards, you’ll be able to play the ball down the line; scoop the controller around and you’ll play the ball cross-court.

Unfortunately, while the precision appears to be there, the game has a penchant for completely misdetecting what you’re trying to do. We struggled with backhand immensely, and while our top spin forehand shots would nearly always go where intended, we felt slices were similarly difficult to control in either stance. The biggest illusion-killer is the game’s complete disregard for correct form though — if you swing a forehand return when the ball is actually coming to your player’s backhand, the game will detect and play the shot anyway. It creates a complete disconnect between your motions and the game, breaking the experience.

Further disappointments come in the form of modifiers, that allow you to hold the Move button to return drop shots or hold the T button for a lob. In reality, scooping beneath the ball and playing upwards should allow you to play a lob shot, but these kind of actions go completely undetected by Grand Slam Tennis 2. It’s a bitter disappointment that years after the release of Sports Champions, still no one has managed to replicate that level of motion control quality.

Still, Grand Slam Tennis 2's strengths come from the presentation department. The inclusion of Wimbledon alone is a rarity, and it looks absolutely stunning in-game. Dust kicks up as your players run around centre court, and you can even hear the faint roar of jet engines flying overhead. There’s a great sense of place. Commentary provided by Pat Cash and John McEnroe adds to that sense of occasion, though we couldn’t help but notice that the range of recorded dialogue seemed disappointingly thin. Hopefully this is just a limitation of the demo.

While these impressions are based on a demo that, as always, "doesn't necessarily reflect the quality of the finished game", the motion controls on offer will disappoint those who want ultimate tennis control. We'll put the game through its paces when it's released next month to see how the final product compares to the other contenders.

Game Screenshots

User Comments (13)



wooferine said:

I so agree with this preview. I was so disappointed with the demo I deleted it from my PS3 immediately after trying it out.



jfmole said:

I agree that the Move controls aren't great yet - not even up to the level of the Wii Motion Plus version from a couple of years ago. But I pre-ordered it anyway. The presentation is that good. So I'm hoping for some good multiplayer modes and a patch to refine the Move controls.



Ginkgo said:

I agree with everything you said here. The presentation of the game is really good, and the game is fun to play. In fact the motion control scheme actually works, BUT you just have to get your head around the fact that they are gestures that map to the TRC system. They have in no way tried to implement 1:1 motion tracking, which is what we are all so disappointed about.

The complete disregard for left/right-handed, backhand/forehand and that how fast your swing doesn't control power are for me the most frustrating parts. If they fixed this, I could probably forgive the rest.

I was definitely going to get this game. Now, I don't know. I probably still will, but will wait until it is cheaper, which I suspect may happen fairly quickly.



jfmole said:

I have to amend my previous comment... I finally "got" the Move controls! It took about 20 minutes of trial and error on the practice court just focusing on one side at a time. At first I couldn't control where the ball was going, it always reported my timing was off, and I never got over about 15% power. Now I can place the ball where I want with over 80% power and good timing - consistently! It turns out that, just like in real tennis, swing preparation is the key.

Prepare for the shot by taking your backswing very early with the Move controller. At first try taking your backswing before the ball comes out of the ball machine until you get the hang of it. Hold the Move controller in the backswing position with the lighted ball facing away from the screen/PS eye. You should feel the Move controller vibrate if you're doing it right. Keep holding this position, and then after the ball bounces in front of you complete your swing. Use the in-game help screens to learn how to complete your swing to obtain a desired shot type and placement. A low-to-high forehand swing across your body will produce a top-spin shot, a flat forehand swing ending on your forehand side will produce a shot down the line, etc. Once you get the hang of it, it's pretty addictive! Backhand shots work exactly the same - start the back swing as early as you can and keep it behind you until you're ready to follow through. Again, you should feel the Move controller vibrate while you hold your backswing position if you're doing it right. Also, if you look closely at the player on the screen he will imitate your backswing preparation if you do it properly.

Oddly enough I was able to figure out the backswing by seeing the reflection of the Move controller in my TV screen bezel. That's when I noticed the correlation between pointing away from the screen and the controller vibration.

Again, there is nothing gimmicky about this. Early preparation with the backswing is exactly the way to perform a real tennis swing with power and consistency. However I will say that the current demo is far too forgiving with missed swings, to the point of making it confusing and difficult to tell what to change in order to improve. For example, on the practice court you can take a half backswing about shoulder-high on the forehand side and just hold it there, and your player will swing (albeit poorly) anyway. This is not helpful, and I hope they fix that in the final game.

Next I need to work on the backswing during a game while running around. And I'm definitely excited for the full release!



autogolazzo said:

Dagger! This is the one that I was hoping for. Actually, any of the 3 tennis games released in the last year I had high hopes for because that is the sort of thing I thought a Move controller would be best suited to.

So, a year and a half into things, we have no good tennis game, no good boxing games, no good bowling games, some sub-mediocre golf games, awful bowling games—these are the sort of games I thought they would be able to handle with the Move.

What we're left with is 2 good good shooters, a TON of ported casual Wii games, and one very good sports game that felt like a demo at first, but is since held as the pinnacle of the Move franchise.

What is it that George Bush (the younger) once said? "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice... (long, long, long pause) ...You don't get fooled again!"

And yet I still come to this website everyday with the hopes that my hardware purchases will someday be warranted.



autogolazzo said:

Ok. @jfmoles comments are slightly reassuring but still contain the ever common (for move related titles) "once they PATCH these minor issues..."

Whenever I hear about patches for Move issues, they never seem to get released or, when they do, never seem to fully address the issue at hand.

But you given me hope. False hope, probably. But hope nonetheless.



Gamer83 said:

Honestly, great motion control would've been a nice bonus but it's not make or break for me. I played the demo on the 360 and from a presentation stand point the game is awesome. Everything I've read indicates there will be a deep roster, the commentary is great and as a big tennis fan the addition of Wimbledon has put the game over the top. I'll be picking it up and having a lot of fun with it even without solid motion control.



autogolazzo said:

Do you use a Move control and a Nav control for this game, unlike the latest Virtua tennis that just moves the player for you?



Ginkgo said:

Yes, you use both the Move and Nav controller for the game. If you don't have a nav controller, it will do the motion for you. So both options exist.

I actually played with my daughter, with me using the Nav controller to move and her not for simplicity. The combination worked fine.



autogolazzo said:

I finally played it with Move and Nav. It's definitely fun, looks fantastic and there is a learning curve.

The problem with the Move is that not only is it not 1:1, it merely treats your swing as a button push. No matter how hard, how soft, how your wrist is and how the racket would make contact with the ball does not matter. It is simply registering that you are swinging. And it doesn't even register whether it is a forehand or a backhand. Timing is the only thing that is being measured and that is what affects power and placement. It really makes you appreciate Sports Champions table tennis.

To change the type of swing you have to hit various buttons on the move controller, which is not always an easy task, as they are strangely placed.

The worst part about it though, has got to be the part where it doesn't recognize a forward swing vs. a backhand. It just doesn't make sense and kind of takes the fun out of the game. I really really really hope they fix this part of the game. I highly doubt it though.



autogolazzo said:

Ok. Played Grand Slam 2 with Move once more. Turns out the controls are even worse than I and @jfmoles thought.

He was correct about the importance of using the back swing, however that is ALL you need to do to hit the ball: Pull the Move back, and the computer swings the racket for you. You don't even have to swing at all.

Yikes! That's really bad.

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