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.