Next Generation Tennis 2003
We, crazy Belgians, consider ourselves very lucky, having 2 professional tennis stars like Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne. Mostly because of them, tennis is a very popular sport here at the moment. I don’t know if virtual tennis has become more popular as well, but Carpace gives it a shot and launches their annual Roland Garros game (Next Generation Tennis in the US). But did they succeed in developing a must-have sports title or is it just another dull tennis game ?
The game certainly doesn’t run short on modes. First of all there are Arcade and Exhibition modes for some quick fun. If you want to push it to the extreme, there’s an Endurance mode, which lets you play on and on, until you lose or forfeit a match. If these modes are still too hard for you (which I honestly doubt), you can still stop and enter the Tutorial, which teaches you the basics with some easy training sessions. Once you’ve mastered all the shots, it’s time for “the real thing” in Career Mode where you just create a character and start a career. At last, you can also create and play you own Tournament.
That sounds nice, but the modes that should be concidered the most entertaining, such as Career, are rather disappointing. You just participate in one tournament after another until you’ve earned enough points. You can then spend these on training sessions that (if you succeed in achieving all goals) boost one of your skills: forehand, backhand, service and volley. Or you can use those points to buy a new court, colour of balls, … But basically, the Career mode really doesn’t offer enough variaty and the training sessions are simply boring.
It’s a shame aswell the number of playable characters is quite low. At first you can only select a player out of 10 characters (women included), including Saffin, Corretja, Schneider and our very own Henin(-Hardenne). This way you encounter the same opponents in almost every tournament, which makes the game extremely repetitive.
And, just as about every other aspect of the game, the graphics have their downsides as well. Don’t get me wrong, while playing, they look quite nice, but once you see a close-up, you’ll notice the lack of detail and the crowd, which is still as flat as … oh allright, I won’t say anything bad about Justine. Fortunately, the players’ faces seem pretty realistic so you can immediately recognise a character. The animations however are just mediocre. For instance, after each point you’ve won, your character will triumph by making a movement of joy. Too bad you see the same one almost every time, more animations wouldn’t have been a waste of developing time.
When it comes to sound & music, I can be rather short. Next to one rather inspirationless techno tune that plays while you’re browsing the menu’s and some “tock … tock” sounds, the game is quite quiet. Oh yes, and when you score a point, the crowd starts cheering too.
But all these flaws still can’t bring this game down, at least if (and only if) the gameplay is top notch. But sadly, this hardly is the case. There’s a large number of available shots (topspin, backspin, lob, …), but most of the time you’ll strike the ball with topspin, since it’s the fastest shot. While hitting the ball, you can use the controls to punch it in a certain direction. Well at least, that’s the whole idea, but it never seemed truely clear to me. From time to time, the ball goes out or is fired into the net, so you start wondering what on earth you did wrong. It can be really frustrating to hit the ball out 3 times in a row and not knowing why, I tought you were supposed to control the ball yourself ?
And not even your competitor entertains you by letting you run after each ball. Instead he seems to enjoy smashing it back at you. The A.I. isn’t challenging one bit and most points your adversary gains are due to your own faults. Also, unless he’s forced to, your opponent will never come up to the net, so you can collect easy points by sprinting towards it and smashing the ball (but do pay attention, sometimes the evil bastard will lob you). But after a few matches, I was already able to win each and every match with a devastating 6-0/6-0 … imagine, me ! Fortunately there are still 2 higher levels of difficulty, which make it just a bit more challenging, but still …
But there still is one bit of good news: the multiplayer is quite entertaining, simply because that way both players suffer the same sloppy gameplay and aren’t as dumb as the A.I. This game can actually be fun to play with some friends, it’s just a shame there are no extensive multiplayer modes or minigames.
And so we keep on waiting for the one tennisgame to rule them all, since Roland Garros 2003 fails in almost every aspect which can make a game legendary. Whatever you do, don’t buy this game ! Oh, and please, aid your fellow gamers by putting this title behind some other PS2 games … Thank you !