Motion controllers and tennis games have seemed the perfect match ever since Wii Sports put a plastic Remote in your hand and told you to be Roger Federer. Regrettably, since then, few titles — if any — have come close to matching Nintendo's pack-in when it comes to intuitive controls and the all-important fun factor: EA's Grand Slam Tennis on Wii used MotionPlus to offer 1:1 controller tracking, but didn't win over everyone with its cartoon-styled characters. Sega's Virtua Tennis 2009 on Wii also used the motion-enhancing add-on but didn't go for 1:1 control, a disappointment considering the controller's capabilities. Regrettably, Top Spin 4 mimics the latter in the control stakes, resulting in a disappointing tennis experience.
Sports Champions set the bar pretty high for motion controls in sports games, so expectations for the first dedicated tennis simulation were understandably elevated. After a simple calibration gripping Move in your right-hand and a Navigation or DualShock in your left you're let loose on an empty court with just a ball machine for opposition. You soon discover the player does not mimic your controller's position: holding it high, low, forehand or backhand doesn't have any effect on your player's stance. In fact, your player doesn't even swing when you do; this is far from 1:1 control.
Essentially, the way you swing the controller mimics a button press. The idea is that as the ball reaches your player, you swing the controller and aim the shot with the analogue stick — if you play with good timing, you'll get an accurate shot, but too soon or too late results in poor placement. In Top Spin's world, "good timing" isn't the same thing as "when you would naturally hit the ball": you must swing well before the ball reaches your player to activate your swing, as it were. It feels distinctly unnatural to swing the controller when you wouldn't naturally play a shot, and although a text tag above your head lets you know if your timing was good, late or too soon, there's no sense of a correlation between the racquet and the shot: guesswork will do as much good as careful consideration on your shot timing.
You still have access to a full range of shots with Move using a combination of motions and buttons, with powerful top spin shots and delicate slices all available, but setting your power is unpredictable: what you thought was a hard-hitting forehand can come out as a precision control shot, and vice versa. Serves are similarly unpredictable, but these problems could have been easily overcome with better instructions and tutorials.
The main menu contains a section called "PlayStation Move Tutorial", but it's simply a series of diagrams and text descriptors: there's no Move-specific content to help you get to grips with the controller, no videos showing you how it's done. The Top Spin Academy offers plenty of lessons on the different kinds of shots, with text instructions at the start of the lesson, but it's flawed: you can't move to the next lesson without finishing the previous lesson. This wouldn't be so bad, but if you simply can't pull off the specific shot — say, a slice serve — you can't review the instructions unless you go back to the beginning of the lesson and start again. The whole experience seems geared towards DualShock users: very few admissions have been made to Move owners, and that's a real shame.
Should you persevere with the Move controls you'll find the underlying game reasonably solid. The career mode follows the usual formula — create a rookie, rise through the ranks, become the very best like no-one was before — but lets you evolve your player in three play styles, increasing your statistics as you go, letting you play to your strengths or build on your weaknesses. As you gain more fame and fans, new coaches will seek you out, granting you special skills that improve as you fulfil certain objectives — win 50 points, score 25 winners with control shots and so on. It's a welcome addition that means you can alter your player's skills without starting again, doubly welcome as the level cap is 20: we played six game months and reached level 13, so it won't take too long to max out your player's stats.
Outside of the career mode there's the usual suspects: exhibition matches, the previously-mentioned training area and a winner-stays-on offline mode called King of the Court, which is a passable arcade-style attempt at tennis. If you're planning to go online, the ability to take your custom character into a virtual tour mode is welcome: seasons last one week, and the player who wins the most matches and tournaments is crowned the world number one, until the next week anyway. There's certainly potential here, but we found the game too underpopulated to recommend.
A new animation system for Top Spin 4 means players sway, slice and slide more fluidly than in previous outings, but the rest of the court is disappointingly staid: ball boys remain rooted to the spot throughout matches, and the crowd all cheers in perfect synchronisation. There's a lack of atmosphere on the audio front too, with just an announcer and umpire to break up the grunts and groans that go hand-in-hand with the sport.
Top Spin 4 had stacks of potential to be the definitive Move sports game, but its motion controls disappoint: you never believe you're swinging a racquet or feel that connection with the sport. Considering Move's capabilities this is a real letdown, as we know the controller is capable of far more. For all its legendary players, enjoyable career mode and online play, if you're planning to play this with Move, we can't recommend it; grab a DualShock instead.
lets hope someone gets it right before too long. it would be sad to go all the way to top spin 5 and not have any decent tennis games for move.
From what I have played of the demo, I completely agree with the review. Extremely disappointing. And with the upcoming Virtua Tennis having seemingly better Move control but unfortunately limiting Move support to Exhibition and mini-games, things aren't looking good for Tennis fans. If it weren't for the odd calibration problem, Grand Slam Tennis on Wii got the controls perfect. Put that control with the graphics of Top Spin and that would be all we need. Looks like we'll be waiting another year though
Ah that's a shame... let's hope that Virtua Tennis 4 delivers the goods instead then!
@ Dazza: you obviously didn't read my comment above yours. C&VG website stated that Virtua Tennis 4 only supports Wii motion, Move, and Kinect control during Exhibition and mini games. Thats all. Even the Wii version resorts to using d-pad and buttons during the career mode. So no, I don't believe it will deliver the goods
@Wastedyuthe YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS! /smashes racket and exits court in a huff
What a shame!
Great review James.
Anyway, this does seem like a disappointment. I was hoping for at least full move control in the career mode.
Yea but still a great review James!
I felt from the demo that the game would be a disappointment for those interested in using the Move.
I think the review is good, and it reflects what I thought was a problem with the NBA 2K11 review on this site. This site is devoted to the Move and games that utilize it. While NBA 2K11 is a solid game as can be seen from all other site's reviews, it's Move controls are awful, even worse than the Move controls for Top Spin, yet NBA 2K11 got like a 9/10 on this site. So, how does Top Spin rate if one doesn't consider the Move? Wouldn't it be a bit higher? Or shouldn't NBA 2K11 have really been scored as a Move game?
From all accounts, people LOVE Top Spin 4 when using the dual shock, especially tennis players and hardcore fans.
Shame it sucks for the move.
@din_djinn my thoughts exactly.
Guess I'll not be getting move for this game.
I can't comment on the game itself because I don't have it. But one part of the review does bother me. I actually play real tennis (USTA rated 4.0-4.5). You do need to start initiating your swing when the ball is a good 6 feet in front of you. That way, by the time your swing is near the side of your body (racket face is open), you'll hit the ball square. If you swing too late, that's when the ball becomes a moon ball. In fact, late swings are the reason beginners can't keep the ball on the court. Again, I can't comment on the game since I haven't tried it but I can comment on tennis mechanics. for example, gamers have some weird notion that all racket sports have the same mechanics (table tennis, tennis, racquetball, etc.). they do not. In tennis, there is very little wrist action except for the serve and maybe the slice. Top spin and other groundstrokes come more from your legs for power and your arm motion and grip for type of stroke. A strong western grip for heavy topspin. A more continental grip for flatter shots. For example, if you finish with your stroke so that your arm is point straight forward, it'll be a straight flat shot. In fact, if you go into a tennis class and play with a loose wrist, they'll laugh at you. And yet gamers somehow talk about how important it is to have wrist action. I guess it's because gamers grew up playing Wii tennis games and watching tennis on TV rather than playing on the court. Again, I'm not covering the game, but just tennis mechanics in general. If the game uses the analog stick at all, I think that makes it a fail.
@dirtyvu Cheers, looks like I didn't explain myself in the review well enough. What I mean is that you start and finish your swing well before the ball reaches you — you play your shot, there's a pause, then your player plays his/her shot. I know it's important to prepare but I think perhaps Top Spin takes it a little too far!
@Din_Djinn Yeah, I realise that looks weird. I think this is a much more natural fit for Move and many people would like buy it for Move to experience the full range of gameplay modes, whereas NBA 2K11 features Move as a way to ease newcomers in. That's just my take though. For what it's worth, I did play this with DualShock as well and still couldn't say I had a great time!
@ dirtyvu: I don't play Tennis in real life, but enjoy the console games (when they are good), so that info was quite insightful, thanks. However, you're right- this game is a fail, because it doesn't take into account the direction of your swing, or even which side- you could be doing a back hand in the game and still do a fore hand stroke with the Move and pull it off. You have to hold a button while swinging if you want to lob or slice, yet you are able to swing diagonally up to add top spin. The poorest decision though has to be directing your shot via the analogue stick on a DS or Navi controller instead of registering that from your Move swing. Absolutely pointless incorporating the Move- added to help with marketing and boosting sales no doubt, without any effort from the developers.
how can the developers even consider releasing this game for the Move when it is so cleary a JOKE. I've been waiting on this game for months, I would have gladly waited another 6 months for them to get it right. Someone needs to be FIRED.
What is clearly needed is for someone to take a note out of Grand Slam Tennis' book- make a Tennis game FOR the Move- no DS control option apart from for movement if the player hasn't got a Navi controller. The problem with both Top Spin 4 and Virtua Tennis 4 is they are trying to do both DS and Move controls in the same game (and making Move control more of an afterthought in the process). Someone needs to make a Tennis game that only has Move control, so the player can use the Move in all aspects of the game not just exhibitions, and the developers can concentrate on making the Move work perfectly for the game unlike these two "efforts".
I wonder if we might see a tennis game hit PSN. I think in the boxed retail market it's tough to have three successful sports games — even football only supports two — so perhaps a download, Move-only game might have more success.
This looks promising:
however, if only in exhibition mode, I won't buy
It seems they added the same terrible controls they developed for Top Spin 3 for the Wii. So far, it seems that Gran Slam Tennis will remains as the only viable choice for a motion controlled tennis videogame.
I'm gonna have to check out this Grand Slam Tennis game then!
@sacababe: this is why you can't do real tennis moves in a video game. it's because if you really knew how to play tennis, chances are you would actually play tennis. tennis is one of the hardest sports to play. it can take months for some people to just learn how to keep the ball on the court. that guy's motion is terrible in the VT Move demo. He's swinging like it's badminton. Virtua Tennis has always been an arcade game, not a simulation. But that's why it's fun too. They make tennis accessible to everyone. I'm sure they're making VT fit gamers' expectations rather than real tennis player expectations. People would never play a tennis game where they can't even keep the ball on the court.
@ dirtyvu: and that's all i have ever wanted in a Tennis game- a FUN experience. It's not much to ask that a Tennis game allows me to make forehand and backhand strokes adding spin if i want or and upward motion for lobbing, gentle stroke for drop shots etc etc. I want a game me and my family can play together, and one we will have fun playing using motion control, like we did with Wii Sports Tennis and Grand Slam Tennis on Wii. I can't believe I spent so much money on a technically better system yet the games are getting worse not better.
@wastedyuthe Not sure about worse, it's certainly an improvement on Racket Sports at least!
@james: Actually as much as it pains me to say, I prefer Racket Sports to the Top Spin 4 demo. At least it attempts to direct the shot based on your swing direction unlike this- with a little practice it works 7 times out of 10. Not ideal i know, but you can also do lobs, slices, and add spin, all by motion control- no buttons needed. And types of shot work pretty well from my experience. The only issue I have with Racket Sports tennis is the shot direction not always going where you aimed your swing. I really wanted Racket Sports to be bettered
I kinda disagree with this review.
Yes, the Move controls are not 1-1 sensitive, but remember Top Spin is also a simulation game, and a big part of success in this game counts on the stats of the real-world tennis players, not just the PS3 players'. I mean, with 1-1 Move controls, how can you play (left-handed) Nadal if your a righty..?
Also, I was thinking about 1-1 swing direction, and using just the Move controller for moving around the court.. which I feel wouldn't be too good of an idea because I imagine I might wreck my living room having to run around and do real-world tennis swings. The 1-1 controls of Table Tennis in Sports Champions was awesome, but it is Table Tennis.
I find the Move controls are intuitive enough. I tried playing the game just doing random racket swings with the required timing, and it played good, and I can imagine a casual gamer eventually picking this up with some practice. I can also imagine a veteran Top Spin player can implement some of the more complicated tennis simulator controls.
Maybe its just me, but being a Top Spin 3 fan, some of the gripes I hear about this game sounded like the gripes for TS3 (not arcadey enough to pick up and play, takes time to learn, etc...) but I feel this game is worth my time (and sweat... yes I was surprised I worked up a sweat with this game!).
I do agree, however, with the crowd and graphics in general, which don't feel like a big improvement over the previous TS title, but at least it has decent 3D.
This game should have gotten a 7/10 in my opinion.
Maybe we will see tennis in Sports Champions 2 if they ever get around to making it. They did a hell of a job with the table tennis in that one IMO.
@ dirtyvu ...I've played tennis for the last 20 yrs. I don't expect the games to be exact, of course, it would not be "fun" if it were too realistic. Sports Champions-table tennis is a good example of how to blend "fun" w/ accuracy and realism. They should have done this w/ Top Spin but didn't. I'm hoping VT will be a closer attempt to achieving this. And, no, just b/c I can play tennis doesn't mean that I don't want to play it on a console..as you may have already noticed, many atheletes like competing in a "simulated environment" just for fun.
Like CGC76 i'm going to have to disagree with this review. I got this game over the weekend and was skeptical at first. But after sticking with it for a few hours i must say that it's a very worthwhile title to pick up if your looking for a tennis game with move support. I've played the motion demo of virtua tennis as well and say that top spin comes out on top.
If you can forget about the 1:1 tracking for a moment and really give the gestures a go then you will have a more immersive experience with the game. I may post a more detailed review later on when i have some time but for now i'll just say give it a go. It takes a while to get use to using both the motion controller and the nav controller but it's worth it.
Tap here to load 28 comments
Leave A Comment
Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...