Virtua Tennis, since its very first incarnation, has managed to bottle the irresistibly entertaining lightning captured within what is – for all intents and purposes – Pong on Steroids.
So 12 years after its not-too-shabby debut, what else is there to bring to the table?
Well with new technology comes a whole host of shiny add-ons designed to tempt you into parting with your cash above and beyond the consistently enjoyable, eternally reliable tennis mechanic.
Yip, Virtua Tennis 4 comes with 3D TV compatibility and motion controller support – so with a boldly stated ‘Better With Kinect’ strapline plastered across the front of the box (and Playstation Move functionality for the PS3 fans), it certainly has a lot to live up to.
As all good British Tennis fans are preternaturally braced for disappointment anyway, we’ll deliver the bad news first.
The Kinect mode is, well, a massive misserve.
If you’re expecting to run around your living room firing lobs and smashshots with carefree, sofa-tripping abandon, you’re in for a shock. Your character’s spacial movement is controlled by the computer, meaning you’re left with little to do but swing your arm back and forth. Which is fine, if there was a certain level of complexity or controller nuance. Yet the Kinect’s impressive, intricate body-speccing tech is woefully wonky here.
Still, imagine the Motion Controls as SEGA’s Tim Henman; heavily hyped and endlessly promoted, but all but forgettable in the grander scheme.
The mechanics, physics and graphics are as excellent and devilishly addictive as ever, with the generic Arcade Mode and Multiplayer offering the perfect blend between arcadey accessibility (the newly added Super Shot – which slow-mo’s everything as the camera swivels around your player – is superbly silly but endlessly entertaining) and that of a sim’s authenticity.
SEGA’s predictably quirky sensibility is back in force with the game’s most effective addition, the World Tour mode, which acts as a Career Mode that allows you to build your player’s stats through EXP points and improve their career by travelling along a series of board game-like squares across a world map.
Your successes afford you ‘tickets’ that you can use to travel around the map, while numerous mini-games (everything from fan signings to fancy dress matches) offer a unique spin on the genre’s most undeveloped of modes.
So while it’s not quite the Ace that fans had been hoping for, Virtua Tennis 4 still proves the franchise is still in with a decent shot for the genre crown, serving up a refreshing and engaging experience its competitors will struggle to (game, set and) match.
Virtua Tennis 4 is on General Release now, and available on Xbox 360, PS3 and Nintendo Wii.