The Dreamcast may have failed for SEGA but it did introduce a number of popular franchises to other platforms which are still going today. Virtua Tennis was
one such franchise. It took the sport of tennis, a highly technical game, and turned it into one of the most pick up and play game experiences you will ever
come across. SEGA basically skipped a generation from this franchise and while the PSP games have come and gone with success, a new VT has been craved for a
long time. It's finally here on the next generation consoles and while it borrows heavily from other games, it still remains a stand out title on both the
PS3 and 360.
For those who haven't played Virtua Tennis before, the series is all about pick up and play game play. It's so simplistic in execution that those who haven't
played before will instantly be beating theAI
players on the lower levels. It is an easy game to learn but one that takes a long time to master. SEGA have added a few new features for the next generation
but overall it remains the same as its previous counterparts. Whether this is a good or bad thing is up to you.
The main game mode of Virtua Tennis heavily reflects that of a competing title, Top Spin. You begin at rank 300 and through improving your skills and
beating players, your ranking increases and the tournaments available to your character rise in number. However the difficulty level significantly increases
as well. This is one of our gripes with the game - to raise rank you beat players which is fair enough, but to raise skills you need to practice. Our problem
with this is that the mini games don't really change all that much so it becomes quite repetitive. As well as this you need to factor in rest weeks otherwise
your player becomes too fatigued. The difference between rank 300 and 200 in difficulty is staggering and really shows how hard the game can be even after it
pads you into the game rather than throwing you into the deep end.
Another crazy thing about the career mode is that no matter what rank you are, you are always playing the professionals. So rank 300, you are playing stars
like Hantuchova or Federer. While this allows you to get to the pros straight away, it doesn't seem all that realistic and there is no reward for gaining
ranks in terms of gaining access to play as other players.
As well as the career mode you can play a range of
exhibition matches, both doubles and singles, although you can also play doubles in the career and choose a seasoned pro to play with. The pros include
Federer, Davenport, Hingis, Hantuchova and Hewiit just to name a few. The licensing finishes here however and while there is a London tournament and a French
tournament etc which try to replicate the grand slams, it's still a shame that neither the ATP or WTA were licensed.
The action is fast and furious in the doubles and singles as the players have been built up with their maximum stats. If you find yourself tiring of the
career mode, then the exhibitions will reinvigorate the freshness of this title. It certainly did for us. It's just a shame that it is only exhibition where
this happens as reaching this level with you player in the career mode takes around six to eight hours of gameplay.
As touched upon, the training sections of the game are repetitive and after the first few times they become very monotonous. Basically they task you with
either avoiding balls, hitting targets, and hitting and exploding robots to name a few. this improves either your volley, movement, forehand and so on. They
only exist in the career mode but they still are annoying especially as you continue to have to do them throughout the entire career of the player.
Another ridiculous 'feature' of the PS3 version is a complete lack of online play. While the 360 enjoys Xbox Live online play, the PS3 is devoid of online
play. They try to offset this with SIXAXIS motion control but for anyone who has played Wii tennis, they will realize that this is an
abomination of a control style and really should have been left out as with most SIXAXIS controls so far.
The game itself plays extremely well however. It's fast and the players pull off the most ridiculous shots which keeps in line with the rest of the
franchise. Players dive across the court, run at the speed of light to get drop shots and basically belt the ball at each other as hard as they can without
hassle. There is also no distinguishing between the male and female players and it is easy to play one vs. the other. The physics of the game are exaggerated
so if you're looking for a realistic tennis experience you won't find that in this title.
Visually the game is a little disappointing. While the next generation models and graphics come through we did expect a little more. Perhaps we were
expecting a little too much, but it's only a slight improvement on the previous generation tennis games such as Top Spin, even considering the fact
that VT3 is one of few that support 1080p HD. One area they have really hit the mark though is the player characters. You can tell which player is which just
by looking at them and they do animate much like their real life counterparts, it's just the surrounding court and crowd which could have used a makeover.
Virtua Tennis 3 really is a 'take it or leave it' game. It's the best tennis game available in the next generation, but then again it's the only recent one
aside from Wii Tennis. Even with the frustrations aside, such as those in the career mode, SEGA has shown that Virtua Tennis is still the king, it's just a
shame the PS3 version is without online play.