Grand Slam Tennis
Tennis is hip these days and since the launch of the Wii it looks to be the ideal game for people who would normally never look at a console and controllers. Such things EA manages to pick up faster than a trucker a willing blonde and Grand Slam Tennis didn’t take long to be developed.
Of course one of the most important features is the integration of Wii MotionPlus, the add-on that should allow a more precise control and it’s exactly that feature that will determine how much fun there is to be had with this game. Our first experience, however, left us behind quite confused. The Wii indeed detects movement more accurate; it notices better if you hit hard or soft, you can do a slice or top spin ball depending on your movements, and also the direction of your return determines where the ball will end up. With that more accurate registration, however, also comes a big problem.
No matter how much I tried to do the same hits, the result all too often remained independent from how well I thought I was hitting. Due to this you’ll focus more while playing and at first sight you think to be having a nicer game with more depth but after a while you’ll become frustrated and just quit altogether.
So the controls aren’t 1 on 1 (what you do isn’t perfectly transfered to the game) but you do lose the accessibility and the fun that made the original controls so popular with casual gamers. In other words, I’m starting to get worried about who will be served with decent, more precise controls? The gamer looking for a perfect control will despite the promises of the WMP have to look further while occasional gamers will literally turn off their console as they’re no longer able to succesfully end a game. On top of that the tutorial is lacking and offers almost no feedback while the difficulty degree of the game is a lot harder than you’ve ever been used to from a Wii game. On Normal even in my first game I often could east dust (or gravel in this case) and got slammed hard! Wii Sports, this is not!
We’ll have to wait to see how other games will use Wii MotionPlus to make a final judgement but for now it seems all but a success for those that thought finally to experience a perfect transfer of their movements to the screen.
The game itself has plenty of content though. There are seperate matches to do, some party games, you can count callories and follow a program, but the main part is of course the career mode where you can do your thing in the four well-known Grand Slams. The latter exists of playing some practise matches and challenges, followed by the tournament itself that consists out of five games you all need to win. EA did their best to make both the tournaments as well as the opponents as realistic as possible. Many big names make their appearance, just think of Federer, Nadal, Serena and even Justine. Also older stars like Pete Sampras and Boris Becker are in the list, something that gives the game a little extra. You can also create your own player, with a decent amount of options, after which you can make him better by playing, earn more experience and you slowly but steadily build your skills.
As said beginning, and also experienced, players will have difficulty to master the single player and it’s therefore all the better that we get a decent multiplayer component. The online components (including leaderboards) work swiftly and well and can serve as an example for many other developers. After a couple of games it appears that playing against other human opponents is a lot more fun, eventhough the controls remain a hard nut to crack for those that are used to Wii Play or Wii Sports.
Also on the presentation we have to give credit. Don’t expect a realistic graphical style but the more stylized graphics do succeed to bring the known stars to life very recognisable, an a bit cute. What did bother me are the annoying and plentyful repetitions. Luckily you can quickly skip these with a push on the button but I do wonder why the developers always think we need watching what we’ve just done over and over again. The fact that the sound of your hits comes from your controller, and the audience is perfect for the atmosphere is fun though.
The conclusion of this review is rather surprising. While I thought at first this game would exell in its controls while all the rest would stay behind, Grand Slam Tennis appears to be a very complete and well worked out game that gets crippled by the new Wii MotionPlus controls. These may be more precise but this definitely doesn’t heighten the fun: the registration of your movement is all but perfect and it still seems to have problems with random flaws. Something made worse by a lacking tutorial and feedback, and the high difficulty degree of the single player. Luckily the presentation is very good and the multiplayer certainly worthwhile.