With the Australian Open just finishing, and now Davis Cup heating up, the release of Grand Slam Tennis 2 will undoubtedly be a popular one. What Grand Slam Tennis 2 brings to the table that no other game does is…*drum roll*… Wimbledon. I never really thought much about it when playing other tennis games, but not being able to play through Wimbledon means you’re not getting the full experience of the sport. So now that I can say I’ve actually played and won all four grand slams in a tennis video game career mode, does that add enough appeal to place the title as the top tennis simulator?
For those who are new to tennis games, the commentary from Pat Cash and John McEnroe — although very repetitious — is quite interesting and useful to develop an idea of what tactics to use. There are also quick tutorial lessons that will help you with the overall game play. As I eluded to in my initial impressions piece, the “total racket control” joystick technique was not as impressive it was intended to be. I felt like it made the game a lot harder to play, but not in a challenging way. It just felt annoying, and I found myself reverting back to the standard button controls pretty quickly. The actual gameplay itself was more arcadey than other recent tennis releases. While not as realistic as say Top Spin 4, this arcade style of play is still enjoyable and is probably better for those who don’t play tennis in real life or in many video games.
A major difference in Grand Slam Tennis 2’s career mode over other games on the market is that you can select the length of each match. This is a particularly good feature considering each grand slam has 7 rounds that you have to slog through. When creating a player, the standard facial alterations are simple enough to follow; this is great, considering how other games seem to make this process either non-existent or over complicated.
So much effort has gone into making each slam as true to life as possible. From the uniforms of the ball kids and the lines umpires, or even the fact that all players must wear white at Wimbledon, this game has paid attention to detail. I for one am very appreciative that the effort has been made.
Head to head play on Xbox Live is, for the most part, quite fun. GST2‘s arcade style of play means that there is less opportunity for cheap (some say cheating) tactics to get points, (those who have played online Top Spin 4 will be familiar with the annoying no pace serve out wide) making the games more competitive. Everyone’s skill level is different and it is very easy to be discouraged if you get wiped off the court. However, for every time you get annihilated there will be a time that you do the same thing to someone else.
If you do have had a really good match and you both decide you would like to play again, you can rematch straight away. Unfortunately most players seemed to only ask for a rematch if they slaughtered you instead of if it was actually a competitive match. The lag in the online games was sporadic and pretty annoying. It didn’t happen all too often, but sometimes the ball would be bouncing past your opponent, or bouncing twice on the court — that would lead you to think that the point is over. Then, all of a sudden, the ball would be coming straight back at you. Some matches were worse than others and it really just took all the fun away from that match.
The main focus in the game, as the name suggests, is becoming a grand slam champion. There are other smaller tournaments, but I would often bypass these in career mode to do more training and build up stats. For any readers who are struggling to get points in head to head matches, here are some tips and tricks for you. A tactic that you should be able to employ after a bit of time in the “practice court” section is to play as Pete Sampras and try and volley and play drop shot volleys as much as possible. Coming to the net will allow you to create angles that you can’t get at the baseline.
My favourite part about this entire game was the opportunity to re-enact (and in some cases re-write) the classic grand slam matches of the past 30 years. I remember watching some of these matches live on TV or seeing them on tennis documentaries, and there were some that I hadn’t heard of before. For tennis fans this is truly fascinating and amazing stuff. Each match comes with a blurb explaining why the match was such a thrilling moment in tennis history. After I played the first match I abandoned the career and online play to go through and finish all of the classic matches. I would recommend this game over others just for this feature.
For those achievement/trophy junkies amongst us, the game has some pretty easily attainable achievements that you will mostly get through Career Mode. Some of the achievements are a bit specific, eg “Beat McEnroe at the US Open”, but they happen eventually.
Overall, Grand Slam Tennis 2 is a great game. I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: I take my tennis games very seriously. I can honestly say I have never liked anything in a tennis game more than the ESPN Classic Matches that GST2 offers. That along with the career mode and online play makes this game totally worth it for people who are huge tennis fans or those looking for a bit of exposure to the sport.