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Matchpoint Tennis Champions Preview: Serving aces?

There's a lot to look forward to... and some stuff to be worried about.

It’s not only a good time to be a tennis-loving, video game-playing fan, but one located in Australia and proud to support local developers. Hot off the heels of the Melbourne-based AO Tennis franchise by Big Ant comes yet another locally-made tennis game: Melbourne-based Torus Games’ Matchpoint Tennis Championships.

Established in 1984 and with a long pedigree of family-friendly children’s games ranging from Game Boy and Game Gear all the way to the PS4 and Xbox One, you may be wondering if Torus will be able to get a photorealistic tennis game right. The answer is… maybe?

Matchpoint isn’t breaking new ground in terms of gameplay; nor is it falling short of what’s expected from a tennis video game. The demo experience on offer allowed me to first construct my own tennis professional to then play through a career mode or exhibition matches. Online matches also allowed for exhibition or ranked play between two players; in terms of doubles, the mode was nowhere to be seen, nor has it seemingly been addressed by Torus (though a quick peek at its Steam page shows players are very keen for the mode).

Controls are straightforward; you’re able to first use your left joystick to move your player left and right along the baseline or up and back into and from the net. Each of a controller’s face buttons corresponds to a different type of shot, while a trigger will add extra flavour to your repetoire. The same is of course true when it comes to serving, with the left joystick used to aim where you’d like to place the ball.

Finally, a power meter will charge as you depress a button for a shot or serve, with max power obviously delivering the best shot yout player can muster. With these controls in mind, winning is merely a matter of using the best shots at the best times and working to get your opponent out of position. Matchpoint offers up training as a separate mode or as a stat-building exercise within career, so you can always jump in for a practice.

I opted to play against AI in offline career mode and found myself stomping the opposition quite quickly with cross-court shots aimed right on the baseline. AI seems to inconsistent; my opponent was making insane shots to begin with before seemingly dumbing down and missing extremely easy shots the next. Playing it safe, I went into a twenty-shot rally before my opponent literally just stopped moving as if he couldn’t be bothered continuing. While controls and physics seem spot-on, there’s a lot of work to be done on this front.

Something I did appreciate is that Matchpoint seems to assess your opponent as you play, offering up insights on weaknesses — bad on backhand, bad on cross-court, bad at the net — that you can potentially exploit throughout the rest of the game.

Customisation of your own character isn’t robust, but I dare say visuals aren’t Matchpoint‘s strongest suit. A quick look at Nick Kyrgios in the character select screen, as an example, shows a less-realistic looking character model than the one found in AO Tennis, and even less realistic when actually in-game. That detriment may be front and centre on some players minds, but once you’re out and actually playing I quickly put all of that out of mind.

Matchpoint does offer a close-up camera placement if you’d rather emulate a television broadcast than a top-down look at the game; while it takes a bit of getting used to as it’s harder to aim your shots, it proves to be a nice little change of pace.

There’s a decent mix of good and bad gleaned from what I’ve played, but I’m confident in saying that Torus Games has a decent core to work from. My partner — an actual tennis player — seemed to agree, shrugging off visuals and taking over my PC for an hour or two because he was enjoying gameplay. With a little more than a month to go, I trust the Bayswater-based team is able to polish some of the rough edges and produce a sports game that tennis fans want to jump into and, more importantly, keep wanting to play.

Matchpoint Tennis Championships is planned for a 8 July 2022 release on Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, PS4, PS5 and Switch here in Australia. If you’d rather check out the game for yourself rather than taking my word for things, you actually can — a demo is available now on Windows PC via Steam.

Matchpoint Tennis Championships

7 July 2022
PC PS4 PS5 Switch Xbox One Xbox Series S & X
 


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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for the past ten years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.