Virtua Tennis 3

Virtually Awesome

Who knew the absence of a single mode could kill our Virtua Tennis 3 buzz?
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: April 15, 2007
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It's a little crazy to think that the first Virtua Tennis game only hit seven years ago. It was, like many games on the Dreamcast, an absolutely brilliant marriage of then-next-gen graphics and animation coupled with the brightest of SEGA's arcade talent turned loose on a home console. It was, in a word, addiction given digital form. Perfect controls, awesome mini-games, and it was one of the most awesome multiplayer experiences to ever grace a console.

And then Tennis 2K2 hit and did it again -- better even, though it's hard to improve on near perfection.

So why, then, am I so freakin' bummed about the third game in the series? Well, in a lot of ways it's just simply a case of having nowhere to go but down, but to be honest, most of the same elements that made the Dreamcast games so good are here, they just... well, they just aren't as tight. I'd love to blame it on the fact that the game was developed by AM-2 on the PS3 rather than the whole AM-3/Hitmaker team, but honestly a lot of it boils down to one thing: the lack of online play.

Get used to me bitching about this for the rest of the review, as it's something that's just absolutely inexcusable in a game like this on a console like the PlayStation 3 -- especially when it's online with the 360. Yes, I know that the two games were designed by two different teams, and I can appreciate that SEGA wanted to use their own internal team for the PS3, but in a game that was all about plying the time spent with the single-player stuff and the advances we've taken in online multiplayer, it just makes the game feel like half of what it could be.

We got office tourneys going, but we also have offices on either side of the country, and the sheer allure of cross-country smack talking would have not only pushed the single-player aspect above what I was willing to stomach just out of sheer lack of reason for progression, but would have extended the whole game for another couple weeks beyond the original arrival date.

Okay, so incessant gripes aside, this is Virtua Tennis. SEGA, for all the retardation with the whole online thing, at least nailed the idea of bringing the series into HD without killing the goods; the controls in the game are dead-on and take into account momentum and the core skills of the player perhaps better than either game before it. The character creation system seems stuck in the same rut as many CC modes for games; you're able to use some basic shaping tools, but to be honest you probably won't be making the virtua you unless you follow some pretty basic face shapes.

Digital doppelganger chosen, the game more or less shadows the past two games; you're plopped into the World Tour on the bottom rung and have to work your way up. Rather than guiding you along with the series' trademark mini-games, an actual Tennis Academy is included, though it's hardly of much more help than the mini-games because there's usually little more than a general "hay dood, hit the ball!" message on the loading screen.

As a result, you end up learning by trial and error, which isn't the worst possible way to learn it all because, hey, the game itself is fun, but a proper tutorial would have helped catch newcomers up to speed more quickly. There's nothing worse than absolutely spanking newbies in the office because it's rarely fun for those that win unless they're complete dicks and the loser ends up being so turned off that it takes, say, a delicious Quiznos sub to get them to play again. And given that the only multiplayer you can get with the PS3 version is offline... (HA! Didn't think I'd manage to work in another no-online reference in there didja?)

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