Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament 2 PlayStation 2
by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by Namco
Released - Out Now
Price : £39.99
It can't have been an easy winter for PlayStation 2 owning tennis fans. Whilst Xbox gamers had the superb Top Spin to enjoy there was no new tennis game of real quality for gamers to enjoy on their PlayStation 2. At that time the top tennis games on the PlayStation 2 were Slam Tennis and Virtua Tennis 2 and whilst both were great games it's always nice to see a newer title that takes it that bit further. In fact in many respects Slam Tennis, Virtua Tennis 2 and Top Spin were all arcade in nature and didn't offer a realistic take on the sport although they are all highly enjoyable. Well we now have the first big tennis game of 2004 in Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament 2, so let's see how it compares to the tennis games that are already available.
We said in closing for our review of Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament that 'The lack of career mode and a create your own player option are the only things that bring the mark down.' It's great to see that Namco obviously thought the same thing too as these two features are both included this time around. The game includes an Arcade mode (where the objective is to win the required number of successive tournaments), Exhibition mode, Tutorial, Pro Tour mode (which is the aforementioned career mode), Challenge mode (which offers Virtual Tennis style challenges) and Spectator mode just in case you want to watch the AI battle it out.
The Pro Tour mode is where most will want to play though and it's definitely the main focus of the game. In fact you even get the official names of the tournaments such as the US Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon, which further enhances the appeal of the game. You get to create your own player (male or female) and choose your own style of play as well as customise your players appearance, whether they are right or left handed, their serve style, general play style and their stance. In fact you can't really fault the player creation at all. The Pro Tour mode offers training and of course lots of competitions. Unlike other tennis games where you have to play whole matches (although they usually consist of shortened sets with the first to 3 games usually taking the set) Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament 2 does things a little differently. You're dropped in at specific turning points during the game. For instance you might begin play leading 5-4 in the first set and needing to win the next game to take the set. Sometimes you're charged with breaking your opponents serve or hitting a certain percentage of 'nice' shots. To some this will seem great as it allows you to fly through matches (as you're not playing most of it) but others will feel like the action is out of their hands and might not be too happy. Should you complete the set goals you will gain experience points that will help improve your players level.
What you'll notice with Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament 2 is that the game play is far more realistic than many tennis games out there. There are no fancy gauges or magic shots in Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament 2 and it's all about technique, timing and positioning. This initially comes as a bit of a shock and if you head straight for the game without entering the tutorial the chances are you'll come unstuck. In fact taking the tutorial is highly recommended as it teaches you to appreciate Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament 2. You'll get to learn the importance of 'nice' shots, which are shots that are ideally timed as opposed to too fast or too slow. Serves are also another area that you'll need to master. There are no gauges (although the ball takes on a glow when the ideal contact time occurs) to help you time them correctly and you have full control of where to aim the shot, which again can take time to master.
Graphically Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament 2 has to be one of the best looking tennis games on the console. The courts all look good, the crowds animate (although they still have the cardboard cutout flatness to them) but best of all the player models are only inferior to those found in Top Spin. All of the professional players (speaking of which there are a fair amount of professionals included in the game such as Hewitt, Ferrero, Serena Williams and Anna Kournikova) have been faithfully represented and the players seem to animate quite nicely too.
Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament 2 like every other sports game out there doesn't really cause any problems for deaf gamers although that's not to say that there aren't any omissions. The umpire's comments are not subtitled and voices that are heard during the course of a match, on the games intro or training are not subtitled either. The omissions aren't important though, they simply add to the ambience, so it's not a problem. All instructions and training messages are shown in text and all in-game objectives you receive in Pro Tour mode are shown in text too. When you've picked a player to play as in the arcade or exhibition mode you'll receive a Playbook (which can be accessed from the tips section in the Trophy Room and which basically consists of a few hints from the Pro's), which is also in text.
Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament 2 is arguably one of the best games to appear on the PlayStation 2. It's not as immediately accessible as other tennis games on the console because it's more of a simulation than an arcade experience. Timing and positioning is all important and it can take a while to adjust to this. The tutorials are helpful though and playing through them allows for a greater appreciation of the game. It would have been nice to see an online mode but I suppose that can wait for Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament 3. Tennis fans will be impressed that the official tournaments have been included and it certainly makes a change from the generic titles that usually adorn the competitions in tennis games. Is it the best tennis game on the PlayStation 2? Well it really depends on what you're looking for. If you want a tennis game that's a bit more realistic than those already out there then the answer could well be yes.
Game Rating: 8.8/10
Namco have worked hard on Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament 2 and it's fair to say that the game is a big improvement on the previous version. If you're looking for a tennis game that's a bit more realistic than usual, then Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament 2 should definitely be on your wish list.
Some omissions, such as the umpire decisions but there aren't any real problems for deaf gamers as all the important information is shown in text.