I first had my experience playing tennis games on console systems and I believed that was the best place to keep them, but after playing VT4 on my PC I have changed my mind. First, I have to report that I recently upgraded my system and use an Xbox controller which is auto-detected by the game and runs perfectly with it even using vibration.
This is a games for Windows game, so you log into your account and if you have a Xbox Live account it also sync’s with that. The game will detect your system settings and select what will work best before you launch the game.
The first think I liked about VT4 was the visuals. The look and feel of the menus to the courts and players are very well done. Also, for those use to a console experience, the game flows just like it would on a 360 or PS3 easily moving from screen to screen and match to match.
Virtua Tennis is more of an arcade style of tennis and while the mechanics are there it is meant more for the novice or new comer to tennis games. This does not mean you cannot up the difficulty setting for a challenge, but the great thing is anyone can pick up this game and enjoy it.
The game has several modes including Practice, Exhibition, Arcade and World Tour. In arcade you can select from a number of tennis pros like Federer, Nadal, Williams, and Sharapova and compete in a best of three series match. Sadly, there is a lack of classic greats like Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, and Steffi Graf, also only Venus Williams is in the game not her sister.
In the World Tour mode you can create your own tennis pro and work your way around the world competing in tournaments and improving your skills. The World Mode has a Game of Life board game feel where you need move cards and star currency to go to certain places. Unfortunately, there are some issues I have with this style including missing out on some tournaments because I did not have the right move card or enough star currency.
You can improve your skills in the World Tour by engaging in a series of mini games. These games are designed to not only improve your gameplay skills, but give you a break from the series matches. Some of the mini games include protecting baby chickens from a volley of tennis balls, playing with large fans blowing across the court and smashing clay signs. These may sound silly, but they are quite fun and Sega added a party mode just so you could enjoy them.
There are also silly aspects to the World Mode including dressing up your character in various outfits. You can really create some strange combinations. Being a tennis pro is also about managing your celebrity so there are guest appearances you need to appear at to raise your star level which unlocks other match options. Finally there are rest areas because every pro needs a day off and if you do not rest you will be hurt and suffer in days lose and performance.
The gameplay is fun and not to frustrating to learn. Perhaps tennis game professionals would want a little more, but I as the novice tennis game player enjoyed the mix of easy to learn, harder to master.
When you play as a pro that pro has all his or her signature moves and is designed to play as the real star plays. Now while I do not know tennis enough to confirm how accurate this is, I did see difference between the characters and this allows you to find a play style that you feel comfortable with and enjoy.
On the PC the visuals are stunning including support for 3D. The players look like their real life counterparts and the animation and environment design is extremely well done; there is even virtual sweat on the players if you are into that thing. On the sound side the music track is airy and upbeat and you can clearly hear all the grunts and yells from the players and roar of the crowd. IF there is a con here it is that sometimes when running down a ball there can be the ever so slight bit of slowdown, but I have only noticed this once or twice in several games.
Controls work well with the Xbox 360 controller. You have your shot selection on your main four buttons including a power shot that is activated during match play. As you go back an fourth you fill up a bar at the top of the screen, once the bar is full you hit the power shot button unleashing a powerful return that usually gets you the point. Since it takes time for this to occur it is not over powered and is a nice arcade touch to the game. However, fans to tennis simulators might feel the controls and gameplay could be more in depth.
The main points to the controls is having your character in the right place to return the ball and hitting the button at the right time. It may take new comers a bit to figure out exactly how long or when to hit the button for the perfect shot, but overall it is a simple fun system.
Overall, Virtua Tennis four has improved greatly with graphics and gameplay. The fun factor and mini games are a nice touch while the World Tour mode could be a little more open and easy to navigate. There is also a multiplayer feature which allows matches online which is great for console fans used to live play.
[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APzgaSLrNT8[/youtube]
In the end I rate this as a buy even if you are not a tennis fan. The gameplay is fun enough for all and the visual are beautiful, a great all-around game.