Virtua Tennis 4

  • Release: June 30, 2011
  • Developer: SEGA
  • Publisher: SEGA
  • Genre: Sports

Follow The Bouncing Ball

We saved chickens and fought off the wind in Virtua Tennis 4 but for some reason everything else seems to be a blur of mediocrity.
Author: Scott Rodgers
Published: June 10, 2011
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Iíve never claimed to be a tennis aficionado. Sure, I may catch some Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal matches while flipping through channels, and yes, I was watching the Isner and Mahut duel but I never go out of my way to see the sport. Iíll pay attention to the highlights on SportsCenter but really, I canít name much beyond the elite players and the major tournaments. One of my professors was a huge tennis fan, he would wake up at odd hours in the morning just to see every match as it was happening. We could always tell when he came in if it was a long night/morning, because usually he was gassed and let us out early. This made me appreciate the sport, even if the number of tennis players I could name spanned just to my number of fingers.

My only real experience in the true tennis genre was when I played Virtua Tennis on the Dreamcast. Liike any kid I played a ton of Mario Tennis on the N64, but I donít think Waluigi is winning the French Open any time soon. So really, this review is coming from someone who is a major tennis novice. Yes, I know that VT is viewed as the arcade style game while 2Kís Top Spin series is closer to a simulation. Though I canít speak for that series, thankfully, I can say Virtua Tennis 4 is a game that keeps things simple and accessible, otherwise I would have probably been completely in the dark.

There are plenty of real tennis players in the game, including Federer, Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick on the menís side and Caroline Wozniacki, Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic, and Venus Williams (her sister, Serena, is available in Top Spin 4). Iím sure for fans of the sport that the rosters, especially the unlockable legends, will seem lacking. There are 24 total characters including the legends and two secret bosses, and for me that was more than enough. Granted, there were some glaring omissions that even I noticed (Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, and Steffi Graf to name three) but Iím sure that was more to do with licensing and the competition between them and 2K than anything else.

The controls are easy to pick up. Each of the face buttons does a different shot (triangle is for lobs, x for top spin, and square for slices) and ultimately when your characterís bar fills up you can do a super shot with circle. This is where the arcadey feel of the title comes out but it definitely isnít a gamebreaker or anything (super shots arenít automatic points). The difficulty has great progression, with the the lowest still providing a challenge but preparing you for moving up. The different styles truly require planning and effort, because while I was cruising as Nadal in arcade mode I hit a small road block with Djokovic and ultimately the bosses. I also got a glimpse of just how difficult it can be for Federer to deal with Nadal, as it took multiple retries for me to finally best him.

Graphically, the game is above average. All of the courts mirror their real life counterparts, the players look like themselves, and the crowds are decent looking, too. The biggest issue I found is when it came to sweat. Yes, sweat of all things; donít judge me. For some reason, particularly on Nadal, the sweat looked less like perspiration and more like giant veins bulging out of his head. Itís nothing that youíll notice until the game cuts away from the action, but itís such an odd thing and it was actually pointed out to me so then I couldnít ďunseeĒ it. The grunts and moans are toned down from the real thing, which is a welcome bonus, especially on the ladies side. Everyone sounds like they should (though one of the voices for created characters on the mens side sounds quite strange) but thankfully itís nothing too overpowering. Really, everything on the presentation is quite good, itís just that damn sweat that drives me up a wall.

Even though most will know and play the series for its arcade mode (after all, this series did have its own arcade cabinets back in the day), there has been a lot of work put into the single player campaign. Here you take your created character and attempt to go from unknown to the best player on the planet. It plays a bit like a board game though, because you are required to have movement tickets, which come in one, two, three, and four step varieties. Throughout you can take part in tournaments, matches, and skill mini-games which improve your player. The most important thing of all, at least initially, is resting. You can rest by purchasing a ticket for it or landing on a resting spot. The reason this is important is that your stamina goes down with each activity and you could find yourself in a situation with only one movement ticket, which will land you on a tournament, with a player who is gassed. I had this happen early on, in fact, and learned that after each match in the tournament you take a stamina hit. Needless to say, my guy had dead legs by the end.
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