Historically, there have always been two top tennis games, Virtua Tennis and Top Spin. It’s also always been the case that Top Spin focused on being a tennis sim, while Virtua Tennis is more arcade and fun orientated. Virtua Tennis 4 is no different from its roots. While it’s a tennis game to its core, this is a very fun edition with up to date players, smooth graphics and decent sound and atmosphere. This edition also has the added bonus of being Move enabled, meaning you can use the PlaySation Move controller as a racket. Although, if you don’t fancy that, you can just play using the standard controller as normal.
So, first things first, the Move control aspect of this game is done well and the PS Eye camera recognises the movements (more or less). Oddly though, you can only use the Move control in the Exhibition mode. This I found very strange, as many game’s advertise their Move features, but here you can’t use it in any of the real modes of the game (wireless controller it is I guess). The modes on offer include mini-games, a world tour, arcade mode and online play.
The world tour is a long career mode, sort of, but SEGA have turned this in to a board game which I thought was a bold move from past games. Here, the player takes part in 4 different tours across different regions of the globe. The board game is good, but you don’t really have as much freedom as you would like because the game forces you to go where it thinks you should. You earn experience points along the way which unlock clothing (some fancy dress to), increase your attributes and, most importantly, you can increase your player’s ratings which gives you access to harder tours. The main way I found to increase your stats and ratings was to use the mini-games, which also provide a way to practise the game and to have fun. SEGA have cleverly added insanely weird games to keep you entertained and they are mostly very fun. I especially enjoyed the ‘pass the time-bomb’ game. It’s also a good way to play with the different difficulty settings as there are 5 in total that give you more points the higher you go. Other mini-games include the Wind match, where you have to get the highest possible rally on a very blustery court. I commend SEGA for putting these in as these have been a constant in the franchise and always add an extra element of excitement. Finally, in the arcade mode, you have a four match tournament that is also quite fun for people just wanting a quick few games.
All the normal tennis shots are here and you’re able to execute them very easily with simple button presses. One new gameplay device SEGA have put in is the Super Shot ability. This usually takes a couple of games to build up the gauge and, once ready, your player will perform a slick, slow motion shot which is pretty much impossible to return. I personally love how this looks as the camera angle changes, the screen goes all slow mo and bam, there it is. The players all look and play as they do in real life, you can see Roger’s elegance and Rafa’s power in the way they go about making you look silly. Also, the AI has improved greatly over previous editions, with computer controlled players now clever in their shot choice. The courts all look stunning and the different surfaces (grass, clay and hard court) play differently with the ball slowing and skidding as it should. The sweat that comes down the face of the players is also a nice touch. Music-wise, there are the normal sounds as you expect and the music is ok. I wish I could just stop the grunting of the girls.
Virtua Tennis 4 also has the addition of online play. There is something very fulfilling and satisfying about beating real players in the virtual world. It is very fun and a great edition to the franchise it must be said. Playing with friends is also a nice bonus as it’s quite nice to boast the next day, even though in real life they have beaten you at actual tennis. The mini-games and the online mode add to the longevity of this game, although I do wish there were more online options included.
Overall, Virtua Tennis 4 is obviously an arcade tennis gameat its core, with the online option, arcade mode, mini-games and tons of collectibles helping to flesh out the structure and longevity of the game.SEGA have given us a good successor to Virtua Tennis 3, but I do have to wonder why they did what they did with the Move controls? It seems silly to me to build this up as a Move game when the implementation of the Move controls is severely limited. Once you grab the wireless controller, however, it’s the same old tennis gameyou loved to play before with some nice extras. Yes its Virtua Tennis, but slightly better than we know.
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