EA Grand Slam Tennis 2 Controls
The prospect of launching a comparatively new tennis title is effectively like taking on the might of FIFA and Pro Evo – such is the monopoly of Virtua Tennis and Top Spin – but if there is one company who you can likely trust, it’s EA Sports. The company has previous of course, and can count themselves as market leaders in the world of sports gaming, but tennis has always been a more difficult prospect. So could the EA brand extend its quality to the clay and grass courts?
Well, somewhat typically, Grand Slam Tennis 2 bears all of the hallmarks of EA Sports excellence: slick presentation frames professionally built environments and impressive, realistic gameplay. There is something of a departure from the first game, which announced the arrival of the Motion Plus add-on on the Wii, with a move towards more deep gaming and a style that falls somewhere between simulation and unbounded arcade fun.
Likenesses are good, and certainly an improvement on the original Wii version, but player action and specific behaviours are less impressive. Individualism in sports games is a difficult prospect, especially in FIFA or larger team sports, but tennis’ smaller player pool should have provided the opportunity to concentrate more on recreating idiosyncracies in playing styles. There are flashes of excellence, when the game captures the player’s essence, but they are unfortunately few and far between the largely generic animations.
Thankfully, there hasn’t been any skimping on the licensing costs, and players can choose from their favourite modern players, whether Djokovic or Nadal and classics of the games from cover star John McEnroe to Bjorn Borg and beyond. And most importantly of all is the inclusion of Wimbledon, a glaring omission from tennis gaming up until now, and one of Grand Slam’s biggest bargaining chips.
It isn’t just EA’s commitment to the right names, the right faces and the right venues that lend Grand Slam 2 its realistic gloss and its professionalism – the graphics are very, very good, and are almost enough to convince that what you’re watching is live tennis on TV. Admittedly without masses of scrutiny anyway. And it would have to be a very bad day for the world’s greatest tennis stars…
But, character animations are great, movements realistic and fluid and the overall effect is an impressive one. The only hang-up I have at this stage is the same as I did with F1 2012 last year: precision does not always mean fun, and when sporting franchises get too deeply into the simulation world there can be a major drop off in how purely entertaining the gameplay is. Impressive yes, but not fundamentally enthralling. It doesn’t tend to happen with the bigger spectator sports like football, hockey and American football, but more solitary sports like tennis and golf need something beyond realism to make them really spark.
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Grand Slam Tennis
Video Games (Electronic Arts)