Grand Slam Tennis 2

Does Electronic Arts serve up an ace or double fault?

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EA Games Grand Slam Tennis 2

Pros

  • Great graphics
  • Excellent commentary
  • Slick presentation
  • Interesting variety of past and present players

Cons

  • Not quite that different from other tennis games
  • Selection of players not to everyone's tastes

Bottom Line

Grand Slam Tennis 2 is the latest and greatest tennis game on the market, and there is much enjoyment to be found in it. As long as you expect an evolution instead of a revolution, Grand Slam Tennis 2 will satisfy.

Would you buy this?

While not as prolific in the video game space as other sports genres such as soccer and basketball, tennis has always held a small niche for gamers. I've personally had an on-and-off relationship with tennis games in the past, having gotten my first taste with Super Tennis on the Sega Master System. At the time, I found it to be a slightly limited experience that obviously could not replicate the raw intensity and deeply strategic nature of the sport. For that reason, I more or less overlooked tennis games in the subsequent 16 and 32 bit generations.

My interest in tennis games was rekindled when I played the original Virtua Tennis on the Sega Dreamcast. The detailed polygon graphics for the time and tight controls added a new dimension to the gameplay. I had a lot of fun with that game and it effectively became the yardstick to which I measure tennis games, including subsequent sequels in the Virtua Tennis franchise. However, I ended up avoiding any further Virtua Tennis games, as I found them too similar to the first game and not much of an evolutionary leap.

In pictures: Tennis Grand Slam 2 launch event

I was excited to play Virtua Tennis 3 when it came out on the current consoles, and it provided enough new content and innovation to rekindle my interest. The additional processing power of the consoles meant that that the graphics and controls were even better than before, leading to a more immersive experience. I played Top Spin 3 as well, and while it was a good game, I found few points of differentiation with Virtua Tennis 3. Both were good and enjoyable games, but ultimately they did not seem to be such a great leap from the original Virtua Tennis.

I provide this background as I found myself faced with the same feeling when playing Grand Slam Tennis 2. The short answer is that it is a really good tennis game, if not the best one available on the current consoles. The long answer is not quite as straightforward. The things I liked about Grand Slam Tennis 2 are more or less the same things that people like with all major EA Sports releases, which is the slick presentation, the advanced graphics, the abundant commentary, and the licensing of famous athletes.

In those areas, Grand Slam Tennis 2 excels, as the graphics are on par with other EA Sports releases. The commentary by famous commentators is well recorded and adds to the feeling of immersion. While the well designed menu system deserves a special mention, the real highlight of the game is the inclusion of renowned tennis players from the present and past. Federer and Djokovic are in there, as well as tennis legends Sampras and McEnroe. Even local Wimbledon winner, Pat Cash, gets a nod in the game, complete with his trademark black-and-white bandana.

I had the chance to play Grand Slam Tennis 2 on both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, though this late in the console cycle, I predictably found the games to be identical in content and presentation. While I did not have the opportunity to compare the graphics of both consoles side-by-side, I can confidently say that EA has done a good job in ensuring that the gaming experience is the same for either console. The only differentiator is PlayStation Move support for the PlayStation 3 edition of the game. As with Top Spin 3, which had Move support implemented, I found the decreased accuracy from just using the Move controller to limit the enjoyment of the game. However, using the Move together with a navigation controller adds further control to the player and overcomes this.

The only drawbacks that I could find with the game was that it is not much of an evolution over the earlier Virtua Tennis 3 and Top Spin 3, which makes me wonder if developers are starting to hit a wall with what they can achieve in this generation. The graphics, while detailed, are still let down by the zombie appearance of the players. Games such as Uncharted and Infamous have consistently shown how human movement and facial expressions can be accurately conveyed in games, both in-game and in cut scenes that make use of the game engine. While a lot of the players in Grand Slam Tennis 2 retain their real life counterpart's signature moves, such as Edberg and his unique serving style, the emotionless facial expressions stick out like a sore thumb. This is not an issue just with Grand Slam Tennis 2, but with most tennis games since the original Virtua Tennis.

Overall, Grand Slam Tennis 2 is a great package that captures the thrills and spills of the game. It will be interesting to see how EA will try to improve the formula if and when it starts work on a sequel.

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