Top Spin 2
For a lot of sports fans, Top Spin on Xbox was the best tennis game on the market. Especially the online part could convince, eventhough there were some details that could easily be exploited by experienced players. Developer PAM and publisher 2K GAmes realised they might have a very strong series in their hands and spent 2 years in training mode. Now they’re back in the field with Top Spin 2 and we’re of course here to check it out.
The makers clearly wanted to go beyond just “developing a game”. Especially the deeper finishing of the gameplay compared to Virtua Tennis made the predecessor a success, and they’ve continued on that road even more. Don’t understand me wrong, as newbie you can still easily hit a ball, but those that really want to delve into the game will be happy to find that there’s even more depth to be discovered.
A better control with the stick, realistic ball physics, more options, features and official licenses will rejoice many tennis fans. A gamer that will truly be able to combine all things (good placing of the ball, the right shot selection, a bit of patience and a secure amount of force) will really have an edge on someone who doesn’t know how to do all these things. The way you control your avatar has also been adjusted, with new risk-shots and alternative shots that interact with your momentum (some sort of meter that shows how well you’re in the game). Although it sounds complicated, it’s quite intuitive after a couple of minutes playing.
Very handy and new is also the automatic finishing of a match. Both at the beginning of a match as well as any game you can choose to get the game done automatically in a couple of seconds. This is a gamble as difference in ranking and momentum are looked at but you can also get some surprising results. Luckily you can get this predicted game by game. It does manage to finish long, boring matches in a couple of seconds.
The offline career mode has clearly advanced compared to its predecessor. The finishing is excellent and the variation between games, practise and all kind of things you can do in the menus (like shopping) is nicely balanced. Each week you can choose between training (with tons of mini-games), a tournament (small, big, grand slam, etc), playing with the national team, and also a bunch of special events where the sponsor requires you. Only the long loading times tend to irritate a lot and literally took my drift away to continue playing or start up a new campaign. Also the difficulty curve is sometimes a but unbalanced but with a bit of practise it’s doable.
Graphically things are quite alright, but the X360 has given us nicer pictures on our LCD. Especially the player models could have been better. The use of shaders suffers a bit with the “shine-syndrome” and Rockstar for instance did a much better job with the characters in Table Tennis. Too bad as the animations are pretty cool.
A word on creating your own player is in place here. Although the options are enormous, the sliders are so mingled that you’ll take hours restarting again and adjusting until you’ve got something that looks better than a combination of Henin and Mauresmo. The new licenses and perfectly recreated playing fields on the other hand are very beautiful and the gravel looks just as good as on TV.
Although it will never be a love-game, Top Spin 2 wins the match in two sets. Graphically it knows no equal and also the controls and campaign were very much enhanced so that offline gamers can look forward to quite a lot of hours of tennis. Online it’s also enjoyable, although Table Tennis can come to steal some people away