definitive tennis series returns to centre court on the PlayStation 3,
Wii and XBox 360 which adds a few new twists to the gameplay. For me,
the Top Spin series reminds me of EA Sport's FIFA series because just
about all releases are quite competent and generally better the
previous instalments which is true of Top Spin 4.
For the initiated,
Top Spin was first released in 2003 on the XBox which raised the
bar for tennis games in the console world. Supporting the most realistic
tennis gaming mechanics at the time with some spectacular graphics,
gamers finally had a sturdy tennis game and now, almost 8 years later,
Top Spin 4 is available that supports the innovative controls of the
PlayStation Move plus 3D!
The first thing that I wanted to do with Top Spin 4 was test the new
controller configuration for the PlayStation 3, the PlayStation Move.
Sure, EA had Grand Slam Tennis on the Nintendo Wii but something was
missing and the accuracy was a little to be desired at times. Even
though the game is reminiscent of a Nintendo Wii game with the Move
controllers, the accuracy is quite impressive as you use your body to
hit these tennis shots. To control your character, you move the analog
stick and the combination works, without too much kerfuffle. It is far
better than the Wii, however you cannot beat the accuracy of the
DualShock controller but for what it's worth, it does a decent job.
With that said, the Move controller is not a
mandatory accessory required to play Top Spin 4 and without it, the game
is quite sturdy on the standard DualShock controller as each of the
d-pad buttons are assigned to a particular tennis shot like lob or top
spin with the analog sticks used for control. The controls definitely
feel more fluid as opposed to Top Spin 3 and it just feels tighter and
more responsive, especially using the analog stick to serve. All in all,
the control system is easily the best in the franchise.
With a variety of game modes from exhibition matches, multiplayer and
our favourite, the career mode, Top Spin 4 boasts some great
replay value. Career mode is definitely the heart of the game which
contains a basic RPG levelling element with 20 levels available. It's
fun making your way up the international tennis ranks as you take on
greats such as Federer, Roddick, Williams, Nedal and lots more like
classics such as Andrew Agassi or Boris Becker. The character generator in Top Spin
4 is quite innovative and easy to use which does allow you to create
your own players but like most generators, tweaking and a healthy amount
of time is required to make that perfect avatar.
As you make your way up the ranks to international tennis star, you need
to complete in a variety of events in order to gain experience points.
Apart from competing in a variety of events like exhibitions and
tournaments (e.g. Australian Open, US Open & Sonic Ericsson Masters), your character can even attend promotional events that is
kind of amusing at the start and a little lame at that.
Although these generally don't add
anything to your tennis ability, it does assist in boosting your fans
and XP that is required to move up the ranks. Nonetheless, it does
create a sense of RPG to the layer of gaming. Training allows you to
fine tune your tennis abilities and the title does give you in-game
challenges like completing certain shots or styles during your matches.
do progress, you can hire new coaches that once again goes towards
improving your playing career. Apart from playing people online just for
the fun it, the game supports a rather in-depth World Tour mode that
allows you to compete against other players for top seed. Best of all,
experience earned online goes towards your character off-line which definitely
smooths the transition from offline to online.
Graphically, Top Spin 4 is a good looking game on the PS3 with many of
the real tennis players who grace this game looking like their
real-world counterparts so when you see Nedal or Williams, they actually
look like they should. The animation is quite smooth and the players
interact well with both the court and the ball. Another highlight are
the backgrounds that mimic the various tennis stadiums from around the
The crowd also gets into the spirit of the
game as well and at times, it's like watching tennis on TV at how
realistic it looks. The game makes use of 3D and if you have a TV which
supports this feature, especially with the PlayStation Move controller,
it really transcends this game from standard console title to virtual
tennis experience. Music is rocking and sound effects, including
commentary are on the professional side.
In the end, Top Spin 4 is a very sturdy tennis game on the PS3 and like
the FIFA series from EA, the developers are always trying to better and fine
tune the game which they have succeeded in this current instalment.
Although you cannot beat the accuracy of a DualShock controller, the
implementation of the PlayStation Move to this franchise does take it into the
Wii territory but betters this concept considerably. The PlayStation Move
aspect is definitely the way to go with a second person and it does give
you a relative slight workout as you move around your living room,
slogging that virtual ball. Add in a decent career mode and great online
connectivity and Top Spin 4 is a winner on many levels.