Virtua Tennis 4

Virtua Tennis 4 will leave those who have grown with the series slapping their hand to their forehead for the sheer lack of ambition shown on the part of SEGA.

By fishdalf, Posted 25 Jul 2011

Despite its name, Virtua Tennis 4 is now the fifth console entry into the series and since its conception back in 1999 it hasn’t changed all that much. Sure there are now a few more characters, courts and some truly bizarre mini-games, but the general feel and overly-vibrant colour scheme remains the same, and its here that both the success and the failure of this latest offering lies.

We’ll begin with World Tour mode, which is the main single player portion of the game, and this time around has been transformed into a board game of sorts, were you collect tickets that allow you to move a certain amount of spaces. With these you can land on certain practise matches, tournaments and mini-games that help boost your star ranking and skill levels. However, if you don’t have the right ticket to land on your desired space you are forced to bypass it completely and move on, as you can never turn back. There simply aren’t enough words to describe just how tedious of a process this is, and detracts from any real progress you make.

When you do finally get into a practise match or tournament, after navigating the farcical map, it’s over before it ever really begins as they simply aren’t long enough to extract any real enjoyment out of. Surely it wouldn’t have been too hard a task to stick in some full-on tournaments that take a fair amount of time to play through, as oppose to these tennis snapshots. Sadly this has been the trend of the series for far too long and is definitely in need of a full revamp. That’s not to say the mini-games or other such quirky additions should be removed, because at the end of the day this is an arcade game and its these thing’s that set the title apart from titles such as Top Spin, but it should closer reflect that of a real-life tennis career.

Virtua Tennis 4, Review

World Tour mode aside, the game plays a pretty solid match of tennis. It’s still easily accessible to beginners and offers a high enough ceiling that seasoned players can gain advantages where necessary. It wouldn’t do any harm to loosen the shackles a little though, as many points tend to play out the same way, and instead of focusing on varied shots, it’s more a case of getting into the right position early and trying to hold the shot button for as long as possible in an attempt to generate the most power possible.

Throwing in an in-depth tutorial mode would also work wonders as at times some shots are tame and others are ferocious without any real indication on screen as to why, regardless of the amount of time the shot button is held, positioning of the player and height of the ball. It almost leads me to think that these are just scripted events that are triggered every so often to keep things varied and end some points early, which takes away some sense of a hard-earned point.

Other gameplay gripes include the serve, which could do with some tweaking. Aces are something of a rarity and hardly ever a result of good play; they’re usually achieved when the opposing player has completely switched off. While this may not seem like a big issue; it means many points end up in a rally, as returning isn’t all that difficult a task, and it takes away almost any advantage of it being your serve. In fact, at times it feels easier to be the player returning the serve. There is also no let-for-serve, which means you get two serves and that’s it, which is a little silly. Fans also hoping for Hawk-Eye will be sorely disappointed, it is nowhere to be seen and considering it is now very much a part of the modern game; neglecting it feels a little lazy.

Virtua Tennis 4, Review

Another tradition of the Virtua Tennis series is a suspect professional player line-up. While the worlds top ranked players such as Nadal, Djokovic, Federer and Murray are all featured, so is Tommy Haas, who is currently 585th in the world. They obviously wanted a selection of players with diverse playing styles, but surely they could have found someone a little higher up the rankings that is classed as a ‘tactical’ player than the German, who has now featured in every game to date. It’s the same for the women, with Venus Williams featured, but her sister Serena not making the cut. Laura Robson also feels out of place and has clearly only been put in to appease British fans. Speaking of which, Andy Murray is clearly overrated, whereas the ever improving Djokovic feels a little weak.

The playable legends aren’t all that great either and when you consider the great players of days past the selection could have been a little better. Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker are obviously welcome additions, but Patrick Rafter and Jim Courier not so much. Top Spin managed to not only obtain the rights to Becker but also Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras, who would have worked a treat. Of course you can create your own legends through the eight available creation slots, but each one has to progress through the taxing World Tour mode in order to play at a competitive level.

PlayStation Move is a welcome addition to the series and is executed pretty well. When the ball comes towards you the dynamic camera zooms right in and allows you to see the racquet in front of you, and from here you can choose your desired height and angle, before unleashing a shot back at your opponent. The camera then zooms out again, allowing you to prepare for a return. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once mastered you’ll find yourself hitting the ball at various angles to create the desired spin that will best win you the point.

To move your player closer to the net you simply step forwards and backwards, which feels pretty good, but oddly left and right movements are done automatically for you. Perhaps it’s an issue of safety rather than failing to implement a system that worked, but enabling the option in the settings menu wouldn’t have gone amiss. Move is also only available in one mode, which kind of feels a little half-arsed given the length of time they’ve had to make use of the technology.

Virtua Tennis 4, Review

The graphics have definitely improved since Virtua Tennis 2009, with the courts looking more detailed than ever before. You will also notice some pretty realistic sweat dripping from players during cut-scenes, but it’s done a little excessively and at times there’s that much water covering their face that they appear wax-like.

The audio works a treat, with each thud and grunt sounding terrific. The crowd could have been worked in a little better though, with a few varied “oo’s” and “ah’s” during some particularly long rallies or after you pull off a great passing shot.

All-in-all Virtua Tennis 4 will leave those who have grown with the series slapping their hand to their forehead for the sheer lack of ambition shown on the part of SEGA. However, it does play a very solid game of tennis, specifically the multiplayer portions, and with a mini-revamp, a little nurturing and the inclusion of some more players we’ve actually heard of, the series can be truly great again, but for now Top Spin 4 wins game, set and match.

Craig Bryan, NoobFeed
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  • Murray likes this review

    Posted Jul 25, 2011

  • I was honestly a little disappointed to see the rating. But it seemed fair. Still going to play it though.

    Posted Jul 26, 2011
  • Don't get too hung up on the rating, the review as a whole tells everything you need to know. A solid multiplayer, that changes little from previous editions? This is still for you despite a 51.
    Posted Jul 27, 2011

  • @fishdalf : Got my copy today :D I'll find out the reason for such poor rating over next few days.

    Posted Aug 05, 2011


General Information

Platform(s): PC, Xbox 360, PS3, WII, Vita
Publisher(s): SEGA
Developer(s): SEGA-AM3
Genres: Sports
Themes: Tennis
Release Date: 2011-04-29

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